In my eyes Christopher Reeve was more of a hero in his wheelchair than flying across the sky. Reeve was a famous Hollywood actor who played Superman. Then he had a horrific horse riding accident at 42 years of age. The accident left him paralysed from the neck down. But he refused to be broken in spirit.
Reeve had a tremendous ability to reach out other people with a disability. He was a role model for many people. He spent much of his time after the accident working as a motivational speaker. Reeve's courage and desire to help others spoke volumes. It was certainly far more important to me than any clever lines from a movie script.
Commitment to public speaking
Reeve's commitment to public speaking came at a great personal cost. He often had to lie down for long periods of time when travelling in a small aircraft. His huge frame often needed to be stretched out before he was ready for his next audience.
Many people with a disability would also be able to identify with the total lifestyle changes Reeve had to face. He spent long periods in hospital. But he was deeply inspired by other people with spinal cord injuries he met during rehabilitation. He was also determined to keep doing many of the things he enjoyed before the accident. Favourite activities included sailing and watching his son play sport.
Reeve moved and inspired many people. He would often break into an infectious grin. His "never surrender" attitude was far more important than fighting any enemy planet or saving the world. And Reeve never lost his powers like he did in the Superman movies. Many powerful people such as former American President Bill Clinton hung onto his every word. He was a strong advocate for people with a disability. I think he also did more for stem cell research than anyone else in history.
Reading about Reeve's life, I was impressed by his determination in his earlier years. He was an outstanding young actor. He had an incredible physical presence. He was born into a poor and broken family. Yet he managed to become one of Hollywood's biggest stars. But it was Reeve's determination to walk and talk again after his accident that truly left me gasping. Reeve's leading role to me was as a disability advocate.
Christopher Reeve passed away in 2004. I am sure many people all over the world remember him with great admiration. He is a hero to me. It is not for his heroic acts in film. He is a hero for fighting for a better life for people with a disability.
Do you have a personal hero? Let us know in the comments section below.