DEAR READERS: Yesterday's column was filled with the names (submitted by my readers) of individuals who managed to succeed against the odds, persevering in the face of life's adversities to become winners. Today's column is a continuation of that list:
-- Have a thalidomide child born with a dwarfed, twisted body without arms, and you have a Terry Wiles, who, with the aid of mechanical devices, learned to play the electric organ, steer a motorboat and paint.
-- Amputate the cancer-ridden leg of a handsome young Canadian, and you have a Terry Fox, who vowed to run on one leg across the whole of Canada to raise a million dollars for cancer research. (Terry was forced to quit halfway when cancer invaded his lungs, but managed to raise about $20 million.)
-- Let a British fighter pilot who lost both legs in an air crash fly again with the RAF, and you have a Douglas Bader, who, with two artificial limbs, was captured by the Germans three times during World War II -- and escaped three times.
-- Blind him, and you have a Ray Charles, George Shearing, Stevie Wonder, Tom Sullivan, Alec Templeton or Hal Krents.
-- Label him "too stupid to learn," and you have a Thomas Edison.
-- Make him a "hopeless" alcoholic, and you have Bill Wilson, founder of Alcoholics Anonymous.
-- Tell her she's too old to start painting at 80, and you have a Grandma Moses.
-- Afflict him with periods of depression so severe that he cut off his own ear, and you have a Vincent Van Gogh.
-- Your list would not be complete without a smiling Max Cleland, who lost both legs and an arm in Vietnam and formerly headed the Veterans Administration in Washington, D.C. He is now serving as a Democratic U.S. senator from Georgia.
-- Don't forget Patricia Neal, the fine actress who suffered a severe stroke, but rehabilitated herself against overwhelming odds.
-- Blind him at age 44, and you have John Milton, who, 16 years later, wrote "Paradise Lost."
-- Call him dull and hopeless and flunk him in the sixth grade, and you have a Winston Churchill.
-- Punish her with poverty and prejudice, and she may survive to become another Golda Meir.
-- Pit her against sexual discrimination, and you have a Madame Curie.
-- Tell a young boy who loved to sketch and draw that he has no talent, and you have a Walt Disney.
-- Take a crippled child whose only home he ever knew was an orphanage, and you have a James E. West, who became the first chief executive of the Boy Scouts of America.
-- Rate him as "mediocre" in chemistry, and you have a Louis Pasteur.
-- Deny a child the ability to see, hear and speak, and you have a Helen Keller.
-- Make him a second fiddle in an obscure South American orchestra, and you have a Toscanini.
Not all disabilities are visible. And not all who have won against the odds are well-known celebrities.
Every family has its own heroes and heroines for whom there is no medal distinguished enough to reward them for their accomplishments.
It is to you, whose names do not appear here but deserve to, that I dedicate this column.