Farewell Speech

I didn’t always want to change the world. As a child, I spent a lot of time struggling against my disability, trying to force my body to fit a mold it wasn’t meant for. In high school, as I explored the social venues and found my place in the adolescent hierarchy, others praised me for my perseverance and pushing the boundaries of what “people like me” could do. I was just having fun. Just trying to have the best high school experience I could. Looking back now, I know what I did was so much more than participate in the social scene of the teenage wasteland. I changed the perception of what people with disabilities could do and become. And in changing this perception, I changed lives.

My year as Ms. Wheelchair Tennessee 2012 has given me the opportunity to touch and change even more lives. From the children I have read to and played with, to the politicians I have met, each event I attended allowed me to reach out to others. The greatest moments came when I could speak out about who people with disabilities are: proud, capable individuals, seeking nothing more or less than to be given an equal playing field. I may not have achieved everything I wanted to, but I’m not alone in this movement. Millions of people with disabilities came before me, and fought for the rights that allow me to continue achieving long after I relinquish my crown.

To the Ms. Wheelchair Tennessee 2013, I would like to say congratulations! Do not doubt your ability and power to impact the world. The title will give you innumerable doors of opportunity, but it is the person behind the title that must choose to turn the knob. To the other contestants, I hope you will continue changing lives. The Disability Rights Movement that began decades ago lives on in all of us, with or without a sparkly crown and fancy title. Thank you to all who have supported me in my year’s endeavors. I have been blessed with more than any woman could ever ask for. I could not have achieved an ounce of what I have without the help and guidance I received from all of you. I will cherish each memory I have made over the last year, knowing that although my time as Ms. Wheelchair Tennessee is up, new opportunities await. Thank you and goodbye!

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