Public Speaking

KITCHENER, ON., January 16, 2013 - Writer and illustrator Andre Campbell works in his Kitchener apartment. Campbell’s latest work, ‘Starkeeper’, is about a disabled teen who is trying to change his life. (Adam Gagnon / Special to The Record)

KITCHENER, ON., January 16, 2013 – Writer and illustrator Andre Campbell works in his Kitchener apartment. Campbell’s latest work, ‘Starkeeper’, is about a disabled teen who is trying to change his life. (Adam Gagnon / Special to The Record)

My name is Andre Campbell. I’m a 26 year old writer, speaker, and comic artist who just happens to have a disability called Spastic Cerebral Palsy. Growing up with a physical impairment presents a lot of physical and social challenges. While my physical difficulties are by no means insignificant, what really bothers me is social issues – how people react and how they interact with me.

Throughout my school years I was bullied, rejected, and totally alienated because I was different. I know what it’s like to be alone, and this is why I really want to reach out to as many people as I can to let them know that they’re not alone, and no matter who they are or how different they might feel, things can and will get better! This is one of the reasons I write and illustrate a sci-fi comic series called Starkeeper.

Some of the topics I talk about are; inclusion vs intolerance, belonging vs alienation, awareness vs prejudice, bullying and perseverance, among other things. My talks usually last between 15 to 20 minutes with a following 10 minute Q & A session.

I have a moderate speech impairment but I have other ways of making myself understood. I can use PowerPoint presentations, overhead projections and, most importantly, I encourage people to ask me to repeat myself if they haven’t understood me properly. I am excited to share my message, and I am happy to speak to your class, school, or group. I can be reached at [email protected] I look forward to hearing from you!

Here are some examples of presentations I have made in the past:

Disability is not an Inability – November 7th, 2014 (Inclusion Celebration talk) 

Hi all, my name is Andre Campbell. I am a 25 year old writer, comic artist and speaker with Cerebral Palsy, and before I start, I would like to thank Extend-A-Family for inviting me to share my thoughts about disability, dignity and inclusion. Alright, first off, a person with a different level of ability might have many interests and aspirations, as well as other intriguing tidbits, but oftentimes, a lot of people hone in on one part of the individual; the “disability,” and thus lose sight of their other characteristics. Then terms and phrases like crippled, handicapped, disabled, a person with special needs, and differently abled, etc. are used to describe the variety of medical conditions commonly known as disabilities, but what exactly are disabilities?

If we look at the etymology of the word itself, and specifically its Latin roots we get the following. Dis is a Latin prefix that means “apart,” and ability coming from the Latin word habilitatem or habilitas meaning “aptitude.” So, disability literally means “apart from aptitude,” “apart from talent or skill.” Think about that. Right from the start, people saw those of us with varying levels of ability as inferior, and not able to be contributing members of society.  Over the years, this notion has seeped into society’s subconscious mind, and has become a nigh unconscious filter for how it views us.  Now, one could argue that times have changed – I’m not disputing this at all. Things (namely services, attitudes and accessibility,) have improved even within my lifetime. However, if we help shift society’s focus from disability and inability to ability, concepts like inclusion and dignity will be actualities, because they will become second nature to implement. Also, by promoting this newer belief that a disability isn’t an inability, the inferiority associated with the old belief will start to fall away.

To me, inclusion is simply recognizing and valuing another person’s worth, regardless of their race, gender identity, sexuality, religion or level of ability.  I feel that how Mr. Stewart treated me, epitomizes this idea perfectly. In fact, my former teacher went over and beyond the call of duty, and assisted me with a number of extra-curricular activities, many of which were related to charity. All of this made me feel like I belonged, and that for once, my disability didn’t matter.

I used to subscribe to the idea that having a physical impairment would stop me from achieving my goals, as well as having a happy and successful life.  However, Mr. Stewart, helped me to shift my focus from my “disability” to my ability, simply by making me feel included and valued. I feel that others can make this shift if we promote, and subscribe to the ideas that inclusion doesn’t have to be a big production, and that different levels of abilities are not inabilities. These differences don’t make us inferior or lesser people – each one of us here tonight has talents and skills, and are, or can be contributing members of our communities, as well as society as a whole, regardless.

Thank you!

 Heroes – Friday, August 22nd, 2014 (Kid’s soccer camp talk)

Me: Hey guys I’m Andre.

Computer: …and I am Ryan, Andre’s trusty and hardworking sidekick… “his computer”…and this other fine “human” “…person” “being…” is Andre’s assistant. How are you all doing today?

“Cool, well, Andre is 24 years old, he has a disability called Cerebral Palsy, and he talks differently which is why he takes me out places.”
“I like to think that we’re sorta like Batman and Robin, which brings me to why we’re here,  Andre and I made a comic book about a normal guy named Cal, who has a disability, and eventually discovers that he also has superpowers. We are here today to talk with you about real life superheroes.”
“Can anyone give us an example of a real life hero and/or heroine, and what makes them one?”

Anyone can be a hero or heroine, and Andre and I both agree on this, because it’s not who you are, or having a “special” ability that makes you a hero, it’s what you do…Just imagine I had hands, and was able to put air quotes around the word “special,” alright? “…No, wait, scratch that…” “Don’t imagine me with hands, that’s just silly! Who has ever heard of a computer with hands?!”…
“…Anyway, back to what I was saying, Bruce Wayne didn’t become Batman because he had rich parents, he became Batman to…”
“Does anyone know why Bruce turned himself into the well-known hero?”

Due to the way his parents were killed, Wayne dedicated his life to fighting crime, so no one else would have to lose their mum and dad in the way that he lost his. He wasn’t born with superpowers, or special abilities, but that didn’t stop him from putting away bad guys, and it hasn’t yet.

“Similarly, Peter Quill, (or “Star-Lord” as he likes to be called,) from the Guardians of the Galaxy is “only” human, and doesn’t have special powers. Air quotes around “only.” However, he doesn’t give up, and when life throws him a curve ball, he just rolls with it, and continues on.”

“So, if you were to ask Andre and I for our definition of a hero, we’d say that there are several different types of heroes, and many of them go unnoticed, and don’t wear flashy costumes. They are everyday people like Andre and all you, who stands up for the underdog, and doesn’t give up even through the toughest times.”
Before Andre and I go, we would like to leave you with a quote from one of the best Batman movies ever made.

“A hero can be anyone. Even a man doing something as simple and reassuring as putting a coat around a young boy’s shoulders to let him know that the world hadn’t ended.” – Batman, The Dark Knight Rises. We would also like to offer you the time to ask Andre questions, and if you don’t understand him please don’t be afraid to ask him to repeat himself.

“By everyone! I shall leave you in Andre’s capable hands, “‘cause just between you and I, he feels  a little left out when I do all the talking.”

Me: Thanks Ryan!

Computer: …No problem, buddy. Just trying to keep it real!

Picture This – This is the talk I give once a month at every Inclusion Workshop with Extend-A-Family

Picture this; you are seventeen, and you’re back in high school, sitting in class. You try to arm yourself against the stares and jeers that you know are coming, but are never quite prepared for, as you wait for the bell.

This is a normal occurrence for many teens,  and other young people who feel different, as it was for me. Due to the way that people reacted to my physical disability, I felt really different, alone, and like I didn’t fit in or belong anywhere. However, that changed when I met John Stewart, or Mr. Stewart, as I called him then.

Stewart was my entrepreneurship teacher in 2007, and right from the start, I felt included in his class. He’d call on me to answer questions, and he would take the time to understand my responses. You know, it’s the little, everyday things, which a lot of people overlook, that make the difference.

Inclusion doesn’t have to be a big production– it can be something as small as saying “hi” to someone in the hall, or taking five minutes to get to know a group member the next time you have a group project. To me, inclusion is simply recognizing and valuing another person’s worth, regardless of their race, gender identity, sexuality, religion or level of ability.  I feel that how Mr. Stewart treated me, epitomizes this idea perfectly. In fact, my former teacher went over and beyond the call of duty, and assisted me with a number of extra-curricular activities, many of which were related to charity. All of this made me feel like I belonged, and that for once, my disability didn’t matter.

This brings me to my last point; for me, “disability” is just a word, and I don’t let it define me anymore.  I used to subscribe to the idea that having a physical impairment would stop me from achieving my goals, as well as having a happy and successful life. Dictionary.com defines “disability” as the “lack of adequate power, strength, or physical or mental ability; incapacity,” or “a physical or mental handicap, especially one that prevents a person from living a full, normal life or from holding a gainful job,” whereas the Oxford Dictionary describes a disability as “a physical or mental condition that limits a person’s movements, senses, or activities.”  Although the Oxford has a marginally nicer definition, I would like to offer my own. A disability is not a lack of ability, but an ability to find different ways to do things, e.g. finding a way to draw with your computer, when you can no longer draw by hand.

I have Cerebral Palsy, and that will never change, however, my former teacher Mr. Stewart, has helped me to shift my focus from my “disability” to my ability, simply by making me feel included and valued. I feel that others can make this shift if we promote, and subscribe to the idea that inclusion doesn’t have to be a big production. I truly believe that it is the little,  everyday things that can make the difference in someone’s life.

Reaching for the Stars – Monday, April 7th, 2014

See below for a transcript. (Note: it’s not exact.)

Reaching for the Stars – (Updated on March 7th, 2016)

Hey all, I’m Andre, if you haven’t guessed that already. Before I start, if at any time you don’t understand what I’m saying, please stop me, and I will either repeat myself or say it in another way, okay? Thanks!

So, Starkeeper is about a teenage guy named Cal, who has a disability. He goes to high school, and his schoolmates aren’t very nice to him. Cal faces many challenges, and he wants things to get better, and eventually they do. He is led to discover that he has special abilities as well as an important and grand destiny.

Before Starkeeper was published, a lot of people who I talked to, in the publishing world, said they liked my story, but not my art. Now, I draw a certain way because of my disability, and yes, I have a disability, it’s a little known fact. However, every person that I spoke to about publishing my book said the same thing, “sorry, your art is too different for us. It is not the traditional comic book art.” This hurt, to be perfectly honest, and I felt like they wanted me to change something that I could not change. Have you ever felt like that? I was so sad and mad, but I was bound and determined, I wasn’t going to give up.

And now, here I am, with the second instalment of my Starkeeper series, (this time self-published) on January second of this year. My books are for sale (beside greats like Startrek and Spawn) at Carry-On Comics, which is a comic store in Waterloo, because of my perseverance and my belief that I can achieve whatever I set my mind to. The independence and responsibility of self-publishing has led me to have the drive and motivation to promote my books, how and where I want. Also, I am going to go to events such as Toronto Comic Con and be an exhibitor in Kitchener Comic Con that I absolutely cannot wait for!!!! As if that wasn’t awesome enough, I’ve also been given the opportunity to write a prequel to my series, to be included in an anthology, by a local comic book publisher, called Runciman Press, which I’m extremely grateful for and excited about!

So, the thing that I want to leave with you today is this; always, always, believe in yourself. This is so important, because it doesn’t matter who you are, or how many no’s you get, if you believe in yourself, then you can do anything you want, and if you want to reach for the stars, then by all means,  reach for the stars! Thank you! Have a great

Reaching for the Stars – Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014

The following is a clip from my very first speaking engagement! I wasn’t able to record the whole thing, but I’m hoping to have someone try to get all of Monday’s speech. Now, because the video ends mid sentence, I shall finish it after said video.

“Just keep putting yourself out there, and don’t give up because you will find people who have similar interests as you, and who will accept you for you.”

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