By Daniel J. Vance MS, LPCC
Last week, I began telling you about Loretta Claiborne, an African American who was born poor, partially blind, and with an intellectual disability. She didn't walk until age 4. Eventually, she had a Disney movie made about her life. She was an early participant in the Special Olympics and used that experience to branch out and run in more than 25 marathons. She finished in the Top 100 women twice at the Boston Marathon. She is also a motivational speaker.
In addition to the above, 62-year-old Claiborne has a fourth-degree black belt, was inducted into the Women in Sports Hall of Fame, has spoken before Congress, has two honorary doctorates, and has appeared twice on Oprah.
In a telephone interview, she advised people with intellectual disabilities: “Don't let nothing stop you from where you want to go or what you want to do. Just try your best. For example, I'm the best at who I am. People said I was retarded, so I thought I would be the best retarded person I could be. I look at some of those people (who said that) now and wonder what they are doing. Also, I learned how to read in school, but didn't learn that well. I learned more after school when my mom made me read the newspaper. My uncle said he wanted me to learn two things: learning how to read and to know what it means, and also how to count money.”
Claiborne said God came first in her life and she credited him for her strength and joy. She said she didn't go to God only when sad or in need, but also when she was happy.
She often gets frustrated with people dismissing her because of her disability, saying, “A couple years ago, I went to get a credit card and the bank said I didn't qualify. But I had bought a home through them and had paid off the loan. I wanted to know why I didn't qualify. All my bills were paid and I had money to get a credit card. I finally got it, but I (had to be) persistent. That's what you have to be to be included. You have to be strong. I'm not saying you have to be angry or use negative language. You just have to stand on your feet and push. I got that (trait) from my mother.”
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