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Apr 20, 2017

Student Reflects on Disability Awareness Week Keynote

Picture of Ken Rutherford

Carly Schreiner, a student employee in the Accessible Media program at the Office of Disability Services, wrote the following reflection about Ken Rutherford's keynote address:

During JMU Office of Disability Service's annual "Disability Awareness Week", we were lucky enough to have one of our own JMU faculty from the Center for International Stabilization and Recovery (CISR), Ken Rutherford, to come out and share his story of how he became a landmine survivor, as well as a double amputee. However, what made Ken's speech so profound was that his speech actually had hardly anything to do with himself. He spoke only of the gratitude he had in his heart for being alive and well today, and to have such an amazing family and country where all of his specialized medical needs are met. With that, Ken's main point was formed by showing us that most times, those who are victims of landmines outside of our country are not so lucky, and even if you survive, the prognosis for the rest of your life is one of immobility, suffering, and exclusion. 

Monday night was the first time I had ever listened to someone talk that so perfectly combined both the passion of foreign/humanitarian service with disability rights advocacy. The Bosnian War is something that has always interested me; Ethnic cleansing and the targeting of civilians as a war tactic left Sarajevo in complete destruction and ruins only 21 years ago. Ken's recount of his trip with Princess Diana to Sarajevo to aid in the landmine crisis fascinated me; to hear that story through his perspective made me realize we all have it within us to make a tangible difference for the better in someone's life. He reminded us that there is a reason we came out to hear him that night, our passion and our hearts were already there, but that the worth of our feelings towards these humanitarian crises is only measured through our actions. This statement not only re energized me to keep advocating for those who are victims today of civilian violence, but also served as a reminder of why I work at ODS, to help my fellow dukes with varying abilities to have an inclusive and accessible JMU experience. Ken left us with so much wisdom: to never be afraid to speak out in times of injustice towards others, bring light to issues that are often overlooked by the public, and to always be thankful for what you have. Moving forward this week, I hope everyone in attendance left as impassioned and humbled as I was.