J. R. Martinez’s Message of Strength and Survival
J. R. Martinez at the #ala12 Closing Session.
At the Annual Conference Closing Session on Tuesday, outgoing ALA President Molly Raphael gave a heartfelt summary of her past presidential year. Previous presidents have had to deal with filtering or the USA Patriot Act, she said, but for her the focal points were e-content challenges and school library closings. She introduced all the incoming divisional presidents and incoming ALA President Maureen Sullivan, who presented her with her “first business card showing her as ALA Past President.”
Sullivan introduced motivational keynote speaker J. R. Martinez, who has overcome the severe burn injuries he sustained over 40% of his body in a Humvee incident in Iraq on April 5, 2003, to become the winner of Dancing with the Stars eight years later, as well as an early literacy practitioner and the author of a book, Full of Heart: My Story of Survival, Strength, and Spirit, forthcoming in November.
Martinez said he was not a big reader in school, but he did mention his school librarian, Mrs. Knightwater, who, when he told her there was a book misshelved, instructed him to do his part and put it where it belonged.
“We all have a big boom of some kind in our lives,” Martinez said, “and that makes us all the same. You can’t be afraid of showing your scars.” At first he was depressed and withdrawn about his injury, but soon he decided to use his experience to help others, visiting with patients in the hospital, sharing his story, and listening to theirs.
“There is a reason you take the journey, there’s a reason you take the path,” he said. “Life is jumping in the pool. Jump in the pool and learn to swim.”