Bruce Jenner motivates students to overcome obstacles


Bruce Jenner spoke about his Olympic career at the Ballroom on Oct. 11. He was the guest speaker for disability awareness month. Photo by Nancy Urchak.

Caitlyn Callahan

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Though Bruce Jenner is now known for his role in reality show “Keeping Up with the Kardashians,” the parents of most Kent State students may know him more as an Olympic gold medalist.

However, he’s got one more defining characteristic — dyslexia.

Jenner spoke Tuesday night at Kent State in honor of disAbility Awareness Month about his dyslexia and how he fought with and overcame it in his life. There weren’t enough seats to accommodate the crowd of students, adults, children and staff who came to hear and see him.

Jenner was diagnosed with dyslexia at an early age. He said his biggest fear was to go to class because he was afraid the teacher would ask him to read in front of the class. He even failed second grade.

“I had terrible self-esteem,” Jenner said. He said he did everything he could to hide his disability from others in the class.

But he said that, early on, he learned about the power of the individual and what we can do with our lives.

“All of a sudden, (in) fifth grade gym class, everything changed around,” Jenner said.

After a timed race in his class, Jenner found he was the fastest kid in the school. After that, he said everything started to work out, including school. A majority of his speech focused on his athleticism as opposed to his dyslexia.

“Sports gave me an arena to play in, to test myself,” Jenner said. He said his self-confidence began to show, and it took him places later in life.

After making it in the top three in the 1972 Olympic trials, Jenner was going to the Olympics for the first time.

“Nobody was more shocked then I was,” Jenner said. “For the first time in my life, I reached into my soul and found something, that one little race changed my life forever.”

By 1974, Jenner was ranked No. 1 in the world in the decathlon.

In the 1976 Summer Olympics, Jenner won the gold medal in the decathlon and beat the world record with 8,616 points, a score that was later re-evaluated to be 8,634.

“That has such a dramatic impact on my life,” Jenner said. “I learned a lot about what I have to do in my life to get ahead.”

Jenner said it took a lot of work to get there. He said he trained six to eight hours a day, every day of the week, 365 days a year.

“We never get anywhere in life unless we do the work,” Jenner said. “I call it finding the champion within.”

Jenner was named World’s Greatest Athlete, Associated Press Male of the Year, Track and Field Male of the Year and was inducted in the Olympic Hall of Fame.

In his speech, Jenner motivated the audience members to raise the bar in their lives and not to let any disability slow them down, and constantly to work on insecure areas.

“The ability to grow is directly related to the amount of insecurity I can take in my life,” he said. “Always believe in your heart and soul the power of you.”

Contact Caitlyn Callahan at [email protected].