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NAA Takeaways Part 2: A Lesson in Optimism from Michael J. Fox

In my career as a speaker and educator, I’ve been lucky to witness many celebrities speak at the conferences I’ve attended. From former presidents such as Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, to professional athletes like Peyton Manning and Terry Bradshaw – I’ve seen many iconic figures give memorable speeches. But I have to say, I’ve never been as moved by a speaker as I have by Michael J. Fox, the keynote speakers at this year’s NAA Education Conference in Denver.

Fox, who rocketed to fame with the sitcom “Family Ties” and the “Back to the Future” movie franchises was diagnosed with young onset Parkinson’s Disease in 1991. His discussion on Parkinson’s Disease and how it has affected everything from his family life to his professional career was so inspiring.

If it were me, I don’t think I could be as optimistic as he is. If it weren’t for the tremors that keep his body in constant motion, you would never know this was a man with a disease that wreaks havoc on everything he does (his discussion on how difficult it is to shave was particularly funny). And while his illness was the core of his speech, he gave us wonderful glimpses into his family life as well.

His first book, “Lucky Man” (yes, he actually gave it that title…would most of us if we had such an illness?) was a New York Times bestseller. His love for his family is strongly evident and his career has taken a back seat since his diagnosis. One of the greatest takeaways I had from his speech is his desire to spend as much time with his children as possible. Fox said that any time one of his kids says, “Dad! Got a minute?” he gives them that minute and more.

His advice and unwavering optimism has resonated with me since my return from Denver. I have vowed to become more ‘’half full” than “half empty” with my view of life. I am determined to not let something as trivial as a cold sideline me. I want to fill as many of my days with as much family time as possible.

I’d write more, but one of my kids just hollered to me….and of course, I have to go.

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