Blind man who ran across America: ‘Everything is possible — that’s my book, that’s my message, that’s everything’
GERING — Gering Junior High School had a special treat when motivational speaker Jason Romero spoke to the junior high and freshmen academy students on Thursday, March 8.
Romero used his experience with retinitis pigmentosa, a rare genetic eye disease that eventually causes complete loss of sight, to inspire the kids. Diagnosed at age 14, Romero was told he would never be able to accomplish his dreams of becoming a lawyer.
Ten years after his diagnosis, Romero passed the bar exam, to show he could and was able to fulfill his dreams.
“I’m on a mission to try to help youth understand that absolutely everything and anything is possible,” Romero said. “Everything is possible — that’s my book, that’s my message, that’s everything.”
Romero is also an ultra-runner. He decided that he would be one of the few hundred people to cross the United States, coast to coast, on foot. And he would be the first blind man to accomplish that goal.
Using his hopeful story, Romero told the students about the struggles, thrills, triumphs and near death experiences he had on his journey.
He said it was important for kids to hear this message because kids are confronted with negative things everywhere. They are constantly given reasons to focus on the negative and throw in the towel.
“What I think that America needs is a lot more stories of all the great things that happen,” Romero said. “Frankly, as I went and ran across America, 99.999 percent of my experience was great. There were a few time I about got killed, but it’s so good, it’s so great.”
Romero hopes that sharing his story of hope encourages the students.
“The biggest fear for people in life is to lose their sense of sight,” Romero said. “I know I’m scared of that. I’m terrified of perceiving nothing; I’m terrified of what my life is going to be like. But I get up and share with youth, to be vulnerable and share that with them, I also show them that you can still go on with life. Hopefully, that reminds them as they’re confronted with something difficult in life that they, too, can do it and they’re not alone.”
While Romero does speak to corporations and other groups for a fee, he doesn’t charge to speak at the schools.
“I do my school speaking pro bono to give back to the community,” he said.
One of the main things Romero shared with the kids was his motto of “hold the line.”
A mentor offered this advice to Romero when he first began training to run across America. It refers to running the white line on the side of the high way.
Hold the line and those big semi-trucks will move out of the way as you run.
“That’s one that sticks with everybody,” Romero said. “Hold the line, do the right thing.”
Romero shared his favorite thing about speaking in schools.
“Every time I come in and talk to a school, there is some kid that comes up to give me a hug and says ‘I needed to hear that at this point,’” he said. “And what I know is that, as I talk to however many people, even if I can connect with just one person, that’s what I’m supposed to do.”
Telling his story and being vulnerable is tremendously difficult, Romero said, as it brings back all of the pain and bad memories.
“People don’t understand just being vulnerable is very difficult at times,” he said. “And when I come and talk, it happens all over again and I go through all that same fear and anxiety.
“It’s like taking a scab off every time I tell the story, but it’s worth it because my life is not meant to be just about me, it’s meant to be shared and what could be more important than our youth?”
Romero said that is why he does it.
“I do it because it’s a selfless act of being vulnerable and sharing,” he said.
For more information on Jason Romero, his motivational speaking and writing, visit his website.