Bring forth what is within

Aimee Mullins

Aimee Mullins (Photo by David Shankbone, on Flickr Creative Commons)

Aimee Mullins is a fashion model, actor and activist who just happens to have prostheses where most people have legs. She was born with no fibula bones. When she was a year old, her legs were amputated below the knees.

But it is not “disability” you see when you watch the TED video below. You see a gorgeous, confident, intelligent, talented woman.

Aimee understands the power of words to define. She begins this talk with dictionary definitions of “disability”, all of which create a pitiful picture. Had Aimee’s parents considered her disabled, she might have become the embodiment of words such as “crippled, helpless, useless, wrecked, stalled”.

Instead, she grew up as a normal child, free to reach into the farthest corners of her talents. Everyone has adversity, she says. It’s what makes us grow. Not having legs was an adversity. She grew.

Near the end of her presentation, Aimee tells of a study from the 1960s in which students were labeled as successes or failures. The intent was to measure the impact of tracking on student performance.

Teachers were told which were A students, which were D students. What they didn’t know was that the labels were reversed. They accepted the labels and set their expectations accordingly. Over the course of the study, students with high expectations met them. Unfortunately, so did those with low expectations.

Aimee grew up with people who had high expectations for her so Aimee believed in herself. That made all the difference.

“All you really need is one person to show you the epiphany of your own power, and you’re off. If you can hand somebody the key to their own power, the human spirit is so receptive…if you can do that and open a door for someone at a crucial moment, you are educating them in the best sense. You’re teaching them to open doors for themselves. In fact, the exact meaning of the word ‘educate’ comes from the root word ‘educe’. It means to bring forth what is within, to bring out potential.” ~ Aimee Mullins


TED started in 1984 as a conference to connect people from the three worlds of technology, entertainment and design. Today’s scope is considerably broader. Watching TED videos is like being invited to hear the best lecturers in the world.

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1 comment for “Bring forth what is within

  1. marianne
    May 21, 2010 at 12:44 pm

    Aimee’s story touched me – and she gives me courage. Thank you

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