Speaker brings inspiration to student's project

Former White House advisor Sean Stephenson spoke Wednesday at Southern Oregon University as part of the Capstone Project of SOU student Haley Lapkin.

Stephenson is a therapist, motivational speaker, published author and former White House advisor. He has Ontogenisis Imperfecta &

"brittle bone disease" &

which causes disfigurement and creates a dependency upon wheelchairs for those who suffer from the disease.

Stephenson's presentation was organized by Lapkin, who has the same condition. Lapkin believes, despite Stephenson's diminutive size, that he has some big ideas for Ashland with his program Get Off Your Butt and Stand.

"Sean inspired me &

he is probably my mentor," Lapkin said. "I hope that someday I can be half the person that Sean has become, because he has done so much with his life despite the obstacles he has."

While introducing Stephenson, Lapkin explained that when Stephenson was born his parents were told their son wouldn't live more than 24 hours. Now, almost 200 bone fractures later, Stephenson was at SOU to demonstrate what could be accomplished in a life not ruled by doubt.

"Whatever (people) want from their life is possible," Stephenson said. "It depends on the mind-set. That's the only thing we're competing with in life &

our doubts. Everything else is easy to get through."

Stephenson originally started in psychotherapy, then began traveling with his message, as well as authoring several books, as an extension of that work.

"I realized that there are more ways to reach people than one-on-one," he said.

Stephenson's presence was a personal mission for Lapkin. She and Stephenson first met in 1992 at a conference on bone disorders, and forged a bond that has endured. The inspiration Lapkin found through Stephenson was a gift she wanted to share, but found the process demanding.

"I started this project two years ago," she said. "It involved a lot &

making contact and scheduling with Sean, raising $4,000 in donations, creating press releases, contacting news agencies, booking a room, advertising, etc.."

Lapkin said SOU had been helpful and that she couldn't take all the credit. Earlier this year, Lapkin suffered an accident that almost brought her project to a halt, but she refused to give up &

her efforts finally resulting in Wednesday's presentation.

"I hope that Sean can at least change one person's life, and help them see that people at least have the potential to do what they want to do," Lapkin said.

One of the obstacles Lapkin needed to overcome was emphasized by Stephenson. His response to a student invitation was a departure from normal communication channels.

"This is very rare, for me, to come by being asked by a student," explained Stephenson. "I'm usually contacted by a finance board or administrative types. This is a very special experience for me."

At — p.m., following a private lecture, the Rogue River Room began to fill with students, community members, some disabled themselves, and SOU faculty eager to hear Stephenson.

On stage, Stephenson held the crowd with his insight. Antsy, and constantly rolling himself from one end of the stage as though pacing, the profundity of Stephenson's animated message was frequently punctuated by the laughter drew from his easy charm. But, in the end, the message was clear.

"You gotta have a dream," he said. "You have to have something in your life to work towards. Dreams are so valuable. They are what make life worth having."

Lapkin said she has learned from the experience gained while organizing this event, echoed by what she has learned from Stephenson.

"I can achieve anything I put my mind to," said Lapkin. "I learned that if you really put your mind to something, you can do it. Miracles happen!"

For more information on Stephenson, visit the Web site .

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