Victoria Arlen delivers message of gratitude, perseverance at Northeastern State University's 2022 Larry Adair Lectureship



Source: Northeastern State University

ESPN host and Paralympian gold medalist Victoria Arlen delivered the 2022 Larry Adair Lecture at Northeastern State University this afternoon.

For Arlen, celebrating and empowering people with physical, mental and developmental challenges by highlighting her own health struggles is what her platform is all about.

In 2006, an 11-year-old Arlen lost the ability to speak, eat and move after she suddenly developed Transverse Myelitis and Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis that left her in a vegetative state for four years.

In her speech, Arlen encouraged the audience to follow four steps when faced with challenges beyond their control, even when all hope seems to be lost.

“It’s in those darkest moments that lead to the biggest breakthroughs,'' Arlen said. “And that once again you have an option to cry or try. You have the option to face it, embrace it, defy it and conquer it.”

While in a vegetative state, Arlen recalled at first trying to push the thoughts of her disease out of her mind before making it a point to focus on what she had to be grateful for.

Arlen said that focusing on gratitude is what led to the first breakthrough on her road to recovery. That breakthrough was the ability to blink, which she used to communicate with her family, and slowly she began to recover and gain movement again in her other muscles.

“The cycle of gratitude, perspective change, hope, effort and a lot of faith led me to getting out of that hospital bed and into a wheelchair, where for the first time I was able to move on my own and find independence again,” Arlen said.

Arlen continued to defy the odds throughout her recovery, becoming a gold medal Paralympic swimmer and ESPN host. Through intensive physical therapy and training, she re-learned to stand, take a step, walk, jump, run and even dance as a contestant on Dancing with the Stars.

Her life’s work has been the product of gratitude and determination, and she hopes that the audience will remember some of her advice when facing their own unique challenges.

“I want to encourage you, that you can face those fears,” Arlen said. “You can embrace them and allow yourself the hope, belief and faith that you can not only defy them, but you can conquer them, but it all starts with gratitude.”

About the Larry Adair Lectureship

Friends and family of former Oklahoma Speaker of the House, the Honorable Larry Adair, and the NSU Foundation established the Larry Adair Lectureship Series in 2004 to create an annual forum to engage students in politics, government and public policy.

For more information about the Larry Adair Lectureship, contact the NSU Foundation at 918-444-4200 or visit

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