On Jan. 10 Servite High School hosted inspirational speaker Dan Clark to speak at an assembly for the faculty and students. He is a primary contributing author to the Chicken Soup For The Soul series and co-author of Chicken Soup For The College Soul.
Mr. Clark captivated the audience with his life experiences; he was a first-round pick in the NFL draft, CEO of a multi-million-dollar company, New York Times bestselling author of 35 books, and a professor at Utah State and Princeton. Mr. Clark, however, did not have all of these opportunities handed to him. Before he entered the NFL, he was severely injured in a tackling drill, resulting in him being paralyzed. It took 16 different doctors before one of them gave him the hope that he would walk again. Through all of this bouncing around from doctor to doctor, he never gave up. “No one hits rock bottom, just rock foundation,” he told the crowd of rapt students. With only a 10 percent chance of returning to his former health, he pushed forward. He made a resolution to be the best version of himself, no matter what happened.
When he spoke about being the best version of himself, he also mentioned the construct of time. The power of time is overwhelming; we only have a limited time to become the best version of ourselves. Tomorrow is not promised. You have to do your best and take every opportunity to become the best version of yourself.
Mr. Clark touched on the Servite Formation themes, the foundation of our formation program. To discuss “Mastery of Self,” he told the audience, “You have to get it together yourself first, before trying to put others together.” It is important that we make sure we have ourselves in check so that we can set an example for others. Addressing the “Necessity of the Other,” he said, “When you’re down it’s important to have someone beside you to help you get back.” The Bible teaches us that we need people by our side to work through problems and keep us intact. When Clark was down in the hospital, he had people by his side to help aid him and support him through his journey. It is important that we do that for others as we’d hope they’d do for us. Directing attention to the theme of “Primacy of Faith,” he noted, “It is important to have faith that the sun will come up tomorrow, as it did yesterday.” Having faith in others is really important, because if we don’t have faith and trust in other people, how are we able to connect, inspire, and enable ourselves to become the best possible version of ourselves, he asked.
At the end of the speech, I was blessed with an opportunity to ask Mr. Clark some additional questions about himself before he left. The first question I asked was what gave him the idea to become a speaker. His response was, “After I got paralyzed someone asked me to speak about my journey and after that, I thought to myself, I should turn this into a career, to help inspire other people to be their best selves.”
The next question was “Who is the woman on your dedication page in your books?” With excitement, he answered “She is my eighth-grade teacher, who got me engaged in literature. When I walked in, I had no care for it. One day, we had to make a story and she told me my ideas were really good and that I should develop it out more to make it into a novel. If it wasn’t for her, I would not have written those novels, so I find it important to thank her in all my writings.” Mr. Clark, a man who has accomplished and overcome so much, still looks back and thanks his teacher. With everything that he said, and everything that he told us, it is that fact which stands out to me. Mr. Clark has inspired me to take a closer look at the people around me and be thankful.