Sports Illustrated calls him one of the most accomplished physically challenged athletes in history. He’s written multiple best-selling books and he’s a member of not one but two Hall of Fames. This March, Roger Crawford will add yet another title to his resume: keynote speaker for the Safety in Action conference.
“[My] message is not about me,” Crawford says. “It’s about the audience. People always say to me, ‘Well, you just come and tell your story.' That’s not enough because everybody in that audience has got some sort of challenge. In fact, many have faced obstacles much greater than mine. My job is to share a message that will help transcend their adversity.”
Crawford’s challenges in life began early. He was born with a congenital disorder called Ectrodactyly. It affects all four of his limbs from the elbows and knees down. Doctors told his parents that he probably wouldn’t be able to walk and that he would have great difficulty taking care of himself as an adult.
“My parents’ attitude from the very beginning was ‘No excuses.’ In fact, I can remember my father telling me over and over again, ‘You don’t live in Pity City. Take your hands out of your pockets. Put a smile on your face. Be proud of who you are.’ They helped me understand at a young age that it was my choice whether I was going to be disabled. It was my choice if I was going to feel sorry for myself.”
Crawford developed a strong interest in sports growing up, especially tennis. He spent hours on end developing his game and soon became the first person with a four-limb physical challenge to compete in a division one sport (tennis) at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.
“My life experience has taught me that challenges come in different forms. Some challenges you can see like mine. But many you can't. So, challenges in life are inevitable but defeat is optional.”
Choosing your mind set is just one of the themes Crawford says he’ll emphasize during his appearance at Safety in Action. You can hear the rest during his keynote address Thursday morning, March 16th, when he speaks at the conference’s welcome ceremony.
“I think one of the reasons I've been fortunate enough to stay fairly busy as a speaker is I do my homework. I take time to attend other conference sessions and listen to other speakers. My objective is to learn as much about the audience I can then incorporate that into my presentation. It allows me to understand their issues, some of the changes they may have experienced. I also want to acknowledge the peak performers in their industry because I want to make other people the hero.”