Dr. Paul Stuart Wichansky

   Sharing the voice and vision of courage and optimism.
Motivational and Keynote Speaker for Schools, Colleges, Companies, and Organizations.

Paul Stuart WichanskyK-12 School Testimonials

As a teacher, I can only hope that at least once during the year I successfully touch their lives as you have touched theirs in just one hour.

middle school teacher

Paul was outstanding! His assembly to the entire high school body was one of the best programs I have ever witnessed. The students were mesmerized, the faculty was totally focused, and I was tearing! Paul's positive attitude, sense of humor, and brilliantly executed video delivered his message(s) home to all in attendance.

My grandchildren are in awe of superheroes such as Batman, Spiderman, and Superman, but Paul is now their real superhero. You know the students are engaged when you can hear a pin drop, when students ask pertinent questions, and when the assembly ends and students and staff gather around to shake the presenter's hand. I cannot sing his praises enough. I know those students left that assembly with the attitude that they can realize any dream if they put their minds to it.

Thank you for an excellent program.

Mary Jane Parke
Administrator for Curriculum
North Arlington Schools

You have inspired me to fulfill my dreams. When I saw your grandmother today, I saw her ghostly outline standing right behind you during the presentation. She was a little bit taller and had short curly hair. She was looking at the audience and then looked at you and smiled, and then she left. She seemed like she was very proud of you and I could tell that she really loved you.

Nikki, 8th grader

My name is Emma, and I attend the high school where you just spoke today. I'm writing to you because I want to thank you - for your honesty, for your courage, and for taking the time out of your busy (and might I say, very accomplished!) life to share your amazing story with us. My apologies in advance if this letter is a bit long, but I do hope you read it, and I hope that from it, you get a sense of just how powerfully your words have impacted me, just a regular sixteen year old girl from New Jersey who never expected this kind of epiphany.

I walked into my school's auditorium today feeling like I have often been feeling lately - gloomy, cynical, and frankly, just plain tired; tired of school, tired of college applications, tired of feeling like I have no control over my life or how it's going to play out. Paul, for the past year or so I've been resenting myself for not working to my full potential throughout high school; for letting my grades drop slightly, and consequently, for limiting my chances at attending my dream universities when I know that if I had only pushed myself, I could have achieved great things.

You see, to talk about chances, to talk about opportunities taken and missed, is a thing that for many people often leads to feelings of regret and sorrow. We have a tendency to lament over the people we did not get to know, the trips we did not take, the songs we did not sing. It's easy to look at the challenges we have faced in life and use them as excuses for not seizing opportunities and taking chances. We use our obstacles to justify our lack of drive, our lack of motivation to be the best we can be. Today, as I sat among the sea of high schoolers listening to your presentation, I realized that that kind of justification is anything but justifiable. In fact, it is totally unacceptable, and every time I have engaged in it, I have done myself, and those around me, a great disservice.

People like you, Paul, are living proof that obstacles do not equal impossibilities. And chances, well, they are what we make of them. Some people, given your disability, would conclude that they were robbed of their chance at a "normal" life. But you took your circumstances and used them to create your own chances; to make your own luck. You saw the chance to inspire others through your many accomplishments, and in your own words, to "turn a frown upside down."

At the beginning of your presentation, you asked all of us students to give you a smile, and I must admit, I found it hard to do (or rather, I found it hard to do genuinely, without faking it). As your speech went on, I found smiles breaking through every so often - when you shared the story of your Mercury-BMW transformation, for example. I smiled, laughed, and even cried...not out of pity, but out of happiness and warm admiration. At the end of your talk, you gave us one final request: you asked us all to smile again. And in that moment, I realized that I didn't have to contort my muscles and feign a smile...because I, for the first time all day, was already smiling.

Your address lasted approximately an hour, and that was all it took for me to gain a new perspective on myself, and my role in this world. For me to sit in my room, or in my desk at school, beating myself up over trivialities, convincing myself that I've ruined my own life, is beyond ridiculous. I'm sixteen, for God's sake! My chances have not come and gone; they have come, yes. And at times, I have chosen to let them pass me by. But this is only the beginning (one might even say the beginning of the beginning!) and I have years upon years left to go. Chances, ultimately, will be there if I want them to be; that is, if I seek them out and recognize them for what they are. If I am dissatisfied with something, I have not only the power, but the responsibility to change it. What good is it to bemoan my shortcomings, instead of praising my own talents, and utilizing those talents to help myself and other people? I am strong, and I am capable, and I can do this. My life is up to me.

From the bottom of my heart, Dr. Paul, thank you. You gave me courage today, you gave me hope, and you made me smile again. Whenever I start to feel down about the world, it is incredibly comforting to know that people like you exist - that you are out there somewhere, taking chances and making dreams come true. I hope you know what a special person you are. There aren't too many Pauls on this planet. People like you are one in a million. But even if we can't all be Paul, we can still all be someone. And that is enough. That is more than enough. In truth, that is everything.

Keep smiling.

Emma, 16 years old

As Dr. Paul says, he removes the "dis" from disabilities and makes everyone realize the abilities they possess. When you delivered your message during the presentation, the morale and attitude of the class increased astronomically as smiles were stretching from ear to ear. Hearing your story during my New Jersey State Police Trooper Youth Week experience, I felt a fire grow inside me. I felt I had the strength of a thousand men. Dr. Paul, you made me truly realize that anything is possible if you put your mind to it.

You are a living example of that ideology. People of all ages are highly encouraged to attend or schedule one of your magnificent presentations.

I'm going to be very fanatic and persistent at my school to have them offer you the opportunity to present. My school has the Poland Spring Arena so it can accommodate all of the students. We've had various speakers at our school, but no one as extraordinary as you. I would like everyone to receive the enlightenment I was privileged to receive this summer [at Trooper Youth Week boot camp]. I will definitely be keeping in touch with regards to that. Thanks!

Max Betten, 12th grader

Hi Dr. Paul! Today you visited my middle school. I am one of the kids who never pay attention during assemblies and would just talk to my friends, but during your assembly, I opened up my ears. Hearing you overcome your challenges and reach your goals made me realize that, if I believe in myself, I would also be able to reach my goals. I was touched by your story of finally learning to walk. Your story taught me that, if I encourage myself and try my hardest, I will be able to do whatever I put my mind to.

Sometimes you need to follow your heart and not your brain. If your mother had listened to the first doctor who said you would never be able to learn to walk, you would not be walking right now. Fortunately, your mother followed her heart, a little voice telling her that, if she didn't give up, one day you would be able to walk. Your family believed in you, which made you succeed so well.

Thank you for sharing your stories with us. You give a lot of people something to believe in.

Rachel, 8th-grader

Hi Dr. Paul! You presented an anti-bullying assembly at my school this week. I wanted to let you know that what you said that day, I will never forget. I loved it sooo much, and it was extremely inspiring. One day, I hope that I will be able to give amazing speeches like you did, to help other students understand the meaning of how bullying is horrible.

I know that I will NEVER EVER tease another person in my entire life. I just wanted to thank you for all that you did that day, because it was the best speech in all of history. I hope you come back again next year to tell that same speech to my sister. She would have LOVED to hear it, because I tried summarizing your entire speech to her, but it's not the same as really listening to you say it. Thanks again, and I hope you spread the word to many other children and change other kids lives.

Christina, 8th grader

Hi Paul, I was at Valley View's "Narratives of Courage" Day when you gave your presentation. You did an excellent job in breaking through the hard wall some people may have towards people with disabilities. Even though some kids were to tough to admit it, everyone was truly touched by your kind and thoughtful words about your experiences.

I'd like to thank you for coming to our school and showing tha if you believe in succeeding, you will succeed. I hope all is well and again, I truly enjoyed listening to your presentation.

Brian, middle school student

Dear Dr. Paul,

My name is Elana and I am in eighth grade. On Wednesday, you spoke at my middle school. You really made me think about things. Before I heard you speak, when I thought of cerebral palsy I thought of someone in a wheel chair who mostly kept quiet. I first walked into the auditorium and saw someone, you, sitting in a chair on the stage. I figured you were some guy who was coming to lecture us about drugs and alcohol. But, Dr. Paul, you are not just some guy. You are an exceptional, inspirational guy. When Mrs. Donnelly said you have cerebral palsy, I was very surprised. I never would have guessed because like I said, I never thought of people with cerebral palsy without a wheelchair, sitting, even standing, on their own. But you proved me wrong. You showed me that was NOT how everyone with cerebral palsy is, that the picture in my mind was a stereotype. You also showed me no dream is unreachable.

The first dream you told us about was when you wanted to learn to walk. You had to wear the leg braces 24 hours a day until finally, your feet were turned the right way. Then you could stand. Then you could take small steps, and now, you're a pro. But it was all small steps toward reaching your dream. You helped teach me no one is going to hand you everything you want on an silver platter. You have to work hard to get there, like practicing your drawing until it got to be where it is today.

Another thing you told us was that you wanted everyone to smile. When you learned to drive, you made that happen on the highway. By telling these stories, you made everyone in your audience smile as well.

Dr. Paul, you also had a great analogy about teasing, about how its like a wall with the nails and everything. I never really thought about it that way. You really had some amazing examples especially about your friend Brian and your eighth grade student council election. I really appreciated those anecdotes.

Your story is really so motivational and I am so grateful that I could hear it. You are so brave and if something doesn't work you, you make it work, like being the soccer goalie or jumping out of a plane and having that guy lift you at the landing. You are so funny and I really enjoyed listening to you. Hopefully, from now on, I will be able to think about things with a new perspective. I will not try to put nails in other peoples walls, even if i can take them out, because you showed me it still leaves a hole. You truly are a role model for kids with and without disabilities.

Thank you so much for this experience. It was so moving. Now, I have a whole new understanding of people with disabilities and of what they are capable. I will hold the memory of your presentation for a very long time.

Elana, 8th grader

I remember and admire your perserverence and the impact you had made on Trooper Hartnett and my peers during boot camp at the New Jersey State Police Academy. In the months following that memorable week, your words of wisdom helped me get through a difficult time in my life which I want to thank you again for. I perservered by staying optimistic and working hard, just as you have.

Jon Randall, 12th grader

I saw your presentation today at Mountain Lakes High School, and I must say that it was very touching! A lot of strong words, and I appreciated it because I, myself, am deaf and legally blind with Usher Syndrome. People would tease me when I was younger, and some of them still do. After hearing the story about the wall where you hammer in a nail every time you hurt someone, I just wanted to cry. It was painful for me because I've been teased a lot my whole life, since 2nd grade.

As I said I was deaf, I wear a hearing device called Cochlear Implants, and when you asked the people in the audience if they wanted hearing aids, I thought "oh please, they think we, deaf students, are stupid so they won't want to get one. I mean c'mon, they're hearing and they don't need one!", but you proved me wrong. You did change their mind! I was extremely impressed. I started mainstream school at grade 7 with my other deaf friends, and once we got there the hearing people looked at us like we were stupid. They would tease and insult us everyday until 9th grade, which was last year.

Last year, they stopped because one of my actual friends, who is hearing, told them that we, deaf students, were actually bright. She told them that we can do anything but hear. Today, you proved us that we can do anything with ANY DISABILITIES. I thank you very much for coming to our school and I hope to see a lot of changes in our school.

high school student, 10th grader

Hi Paul! Today, you came to speak at my school. I was really moved my your presentation and I also really enjoyed it. We've had speakers come to our school before, who usually discuss the problem of drugs, and usually they leave no impact on the students my age and younger, but I really feel like you left an impact on me and my classmates because I heard nothing following your presentation but positive things. So I just wanted to let you know how amazing and inspiring you are.

Thanks again and good luck with everything you do in the future.

Kathryn, high school student

  • Paul brought to our lives today a realization of how very blessed we are, that each one, in our own way, is gifted. I have always believed that when the Lord takes one facility away, He leaves us with others far better. The problem, as I see it, is that so often we are unaware of this reality and we suffer needlessly. Paul reminded me of this today, it is a message I hope will stay with me. It is a message that so many young students I meet day to day do not understand. Paul's drive and determination, and his bond with family, are what I want to be able to instill in my students.

  • Well done - inspirational - positive - passionate.

  • Different type of workshop. Very inspirational!

  • Speaker was full of energy and it was catchy. He was happy to be here and it showed.

  • Terrific! I truly enjoyed listening to Paul. He has an engaging personality and really connects with the audience.

  • Very inspirational and brings a renewed awareness of a variety of issues, disabilities, bullying, prejudice, etc.

  • What a good moving speech - positive presenter! Paul has the ability to help everyone smile. It's easy to do, but not necessarily something that comes easy to all. Making this a goal and not just an occurrence was definitely pointed out, I should work on this a little harder. It is notable that this may be the hardest goal I might ever set for myself.

  • Taking pause to appreciate what someone with a disability can do or, more importantly, to appreciate the positive attitude they can maintain. Shame on me for complaining!

  • He motivated us to look at the big picture to help motivate our students.

    in-service workshop

    high-school teachers
    Cumberland County High School district

    Dear Paul, my name is Caitlin and I'm a sophomore. You came to my school today and really inspired me. I really wanted to thank you for making a difference and trying to lead kids into the right direction. Your story really spoke to me and I admire your desire to show everyone that a dream shouldn't just be a dream you should pursue it.

    I have trouble believing in myself sometimes and tell myself I'm not good enough. You helped shape my attitude today to let me know if I have a dream I can go out and get it. I know we have never personally met, but I can tell you are a very special person. People look at professional athletes and music stars as their heroes, but in reality people like you Paul are the true heroes.

    I read your letter to David Hasselhoff and it was amazing. It really touched my heart and inspired me to be the best I can. Also, it reminded me there is always going to be those days where you go through the period of nightfall but you have to remain strong and think of the future. I can relate myself to the sun too, sometimes its almost as if the moon is covering me because I put myself down and don't shine to my fullest potential. I start lacrosse tryouts this Friday and it is a dream of mine to make varsity. I will just imagine you by my side telling me to shine my brightest and smile of course! Thank you so much for giving me the inspiration and confidence I needed! I wish you the best of luck with your ongoing speeches and I know for a fact you'll be motivating kids like me everyday.

    Thank you with a BIG smile!

    Caitlin, 10th grader

    Hi Dr. Paul!

    I saw your presentation this morning and I just want to start off by saying that is was the most inspirational presentation that I have ever witnessed in my high school career. You are an amazing man to dedicate your time from your schedule to do these presentations. I have witnessed many school sponsored presentations on bullying and all have failed to impress. I can no longer say that.

    One specific thing I really related to is your passion for Billy Joel. I am also a Billy Joel fan and have many songs of his (though not as many as you!), but my favorite band is Aerosmith, and like you with Billy Joel, I have hundreds of their songs. My dream is also to meet them! Through your jokes and experiences you were really able to convey a positive message to me and many others in the audience. I thank you once again for coming to my school. You sure did put a big smile on my face and gave me a great new perspective on life. I hope you achieve everything that you hope to, and good luck finding that special person!

    You definitely did make a positive difference, and I believe that many will now think twice before bullying another person! I will definitely take your advice about focusing on the positives of life and I am sure that you are right and I will be happier because of it.

    Matthew, 9th grader

    Good evening Dr. Paul! Your speech today was amazing! I took it to heart because i was bullied earlier this year and didn't know what to do about it. The wall and nail analogy was great because thats exactly how it feels. Your story was SO inspiring and I'm so happy for you that all of your dreams came true for you! After this morning, I felt like a different person all day because you were so happy this morning and it was contagious! And I thought that I would let you know that I was smiling during your whole presentation! So thanks again!

    Lacey, 11th grader

    Hi Dr. Paul! Thank you so much for taking your time to come speak to me and my classmates today. You really opened my eyes to all the opportunities that could become possible with thinking positive. Thats exactly what I needed to hear. Im a sophomore and I love to play lacrosse more than anything in the world. I really have to start to pick it up if i want to play it in college. I felt a little iffy about the commitment, now I know that's exactly what I want to do and I will pursue my dream no matter what.

    I thank you so much for helping me make up my mind! I've been praying and talking to my parents alot about this to make sure that I was making the right decision. You helped me realize that anything is possible. Thank you again, I really enjoyed your presentation and bravery speaking about your life to so many teens.

    Mariel, 10th grader

    Dear Paul,

    On Monday, you came to my middle school, and I would just like to say thank you! You are such an inspiration to me! As soon as the assembly was over, I immediately thought that I needed to send you an e-mail and tell you how much I enjoyed your company. You showed me that I can do anything that I want to if I set my mind to it! I was smiling the whole time, your bright and cheery mood just made me feel so welcome and comfortable!

    In my opinion, I, and EVERY ONE of my fellow classmates (grades 6-8) believed that yours was the BEST assembly that we have ever had! I think that you enlightened all of us with your amazing stories and your outstanding accomplishments! Your presentation gave hope to all of our students who used to look at things from a bad perspective. Even I am normally cheery, but even with my bad days, you put a whole new viewpoint on that. Now when I am sad, I look at things with a smile!

    When your assembly was over, after you had eaten lunch you came into my reading classroom and you talked to us more about your life. Even though you may have been bullied when you were a child, you can believe that you had the last laugh! You showed every one of those students who bullied you, how you became such an inspiration. I have been thinking about you and your presentation so often, and still after 4 days thinking how amazingly well you did, and how warm I felt after the program was over. I kept thinking and saying "Wow, Paul was so great, wasn't he?"

    I just can not get over how great you made me feel, and all of my peers! Even with cerebral palsy, you showed us how wonderful one person can be and how they can make such a huge impact on so many people's lives. So Paul, I just wanted to say thank you for everything that my school gained when you came to talk to us! It made my day and week!

    Your friend,

    Hi Dr. Wichansky! You were a great inspiration when you came to my school yesterday. I now realize that I must always be happy even in the most unfortunate of times. You are my role model because you spend every waking moment of your life like it is your last. Despite your disability, your accomplishments are super-human.

    When you were speaking about your grandmother and her passing I had a mutual feeling because my grandfather died in September. You inspired me and all of my peers. I am a present 7th grader and in my 2 years here, I have never seen two standing ovations like you received yesterday.

    Thank you, Dr. Paul, for teaching me life's simple joys.

    Andrew, 7th grader

    Your presentation really affected the whole community at my school. I know it affected me as well. You taught me that nothing can get in your way of trying to accomplish a goal you want to achieve. Even with your condition, you still made it possible to start to walk. Everything you had said in that assembly made me realize that anything is possible if you just give it your all and believe in yourself. I just wanted to thank you so much and I hope all goes well for you. You inspired so many students that I hope you keep telling your story to every school you go to. Thanks again!

    Rachel, middle school student

    Dr. Paul, I was so inspired by you speech last week at my middle school. It really taught me a lot. The assembly was touching, and by far, one of the best we've had. I love making people smile. You showed me, that dreams can come true, as long as you never give up on them.

    You are a really great person, and I hope that nothing ever stops you from your dreams. Disabilities shouldn't be slowing anyone down, only making someone work harder and believe. Thank you so much for coming to my school. I am becoming a better person for it. Thank you!

    Nicole, 7th grader

    Dr. Paul, you are an inspiration to me! You came to my school the other day and gave this amazing speech about your life and all of it sounded like fun. First of all, you went skydiving, scuba diving, and met Billy Joel ... wow, that must have been a dream! I also loved watching the video, especially when you were lip-syncing to Billy Joel songs and it looked like YOU were singing. I hope you get to reach your next dream!

    Ariel, 7th grader

    Hi Paul! I wanted to let you know that you deeply inspired me. I loved the way that you told us stories, educated us, made us laugh and SMILE, and everyone had fun with you, of course, including me. If there is one way to live your life to the fullest, you are doing one of the best jobs I've ever seen!

    I hope that you can come back to my school sometime soon, maybe even this year, if possible. I also just wanted you to know that today you said everyone has a role model, and that yours is your grandmother. I am proud to say that you are now one of mine. It would would be an honor for me to grow up and help people the way you do.

    Thank you very much for everything that you have shared during your assembly! From the 1980's television show, Knight Rider, where "one man can make a difference," Paul, I think that you really are that one.

    Emily, 8th grader

    Dear Paul,

    I attended your assembly at your sister's elementary school in Maryland. I found you amazingly inspirational and wanted to thank you for so positively representing children and people with disabilities across the country.

    My son, Jace, is 5 years old and has cerebral palsy. He was born 3 months pre-term and weighed 2 and a half pounds at birth. After 2 months in the NICU, he was able to come home. We found out around 1 year of age that he had cerebral palsy. He is an amazing boy and has been able to walk, run, ride a bike and scooter. Jace is truly a miracle and his dad and I are so proud and thankful for him.

    We have taught him that he can do anything and be anything he wants to be. When I watched your presentation on Friday, I felt that I was seeing my son 30 years from now and found it truly overwhelming. I would have loved to speak with you, I just couldn't without being overcome with emotion.

    I want to thank you again for what you do and congratulate you for being the amazingly strong, inspirational person that you are. One thing that never left my mind as I was listening to you speak was that "your parents must be so proud of you every day" which is the same way I feel for my son.

    I hope you will be able to speak at my son's school in the future. I look forward to meeting you in person this time.

    Louise B., teacher and parent

    Dear Paul Stuart Wichansky,

    Thank you for coming to our school and giving one of your fantastic motivational assemblies! I realize now that you can't let your disabilities get in the way of what you love to do and want to do for the rest of your life. Some of the children at my school look down on me at times and poke fun at the fact that I am somewhat of an academic. However, no matter what they say or how many "nails they put in my wall, Dr. Paul, I get up and try not to let them get to me. I know now from what you said that they are the ones who will end up missing out on a great life and I will achieve my full potential.

    In your assembly, you said, "CAN is just CAN'T without the apostrophe "T"." This saying reminded me about a time when I was in elementary school and was in one of my gym classes. My class was playing flag football. I may be smart and know how to do many things, but I am most certainly not what you would call an athlete. The object was for the team wearing the yellow colored belts (my team) to run across the field in the back of the school and pull off the flags of the red colored belts. At the coach's mention of "football" and "running", I knew I could not reach or even catch up to most of the athletic students in my class. However, I knew I had to do this. I ran as fast as I could when we got outside and started the game. I tried as hard as I could to run up to and reach the opposing players. By the end of the period, I had not pulled any flagged belts. But, I did know that I had tried my best and when you try your best you can achieve more than you ever thought possible. I had not caught anyone but I had pushed myself to my full potential.

    Your assembly has motivated me, and I'm sure many of my friends, to follow through with my dreams and to know that anything is possible. I hope you continue on your journey to make everyone around you inspired, motivated, and smile brightly throughout everything they do. I know for a fact that you made everyone in my school smile. You are a great speaker and I hope you pass on that "touch of smiles" that you gave my school today!

    With great gratitude,
    Matthew Sarto

    Hey Dr. Paul! You have hosted a great presentation for my students at Trooper Youth Week [at the New Jersey State Police Academy]! Every time and I do mean EVERY TIME you come and speak to the students itís such a positive experience for them (and me too). It's amazing to hear your story and the realization hits home that they can do so much by believing in themselves and following their dreams.

    I honestly wish you could talk to the kids earlier in the week because some drop out even before they make it to your motivational lecture. I'm sure that if they had heard you speak prior, this might not be the case. There was nothing but positive things said by all the Trooper Youth after you left and I for one am looking forward to seeing you this week coming up! Take care!

    Adam Dewechter
    Trooper Youth Instructor

    Dear Dr. Paul Stuart Wichansky,

    I just wanted to thank you so much for coming to my Massachussetts high school and presenting to us such a wonderful, inspirational speech. It touched my heart dearly, and I know I can do anything as long as I believe in myself. You are so precious, and you should be extremely proud of yourself, because I sure am proud of you.

    Today at my school, you made over one thousand people smile, including myself, and I almost cried. Please keep going and inspire others. you're an angel sent from heaven. I know you've impacted so many people's lives just by doing the things you do. God bless you, I'll keep you in my prayers, always.

    Rosa, high school student

    Hey Paul! To tell you the truth, I was at the Elks Leadership Conference in New Brunswick earlier this year for peer leadership, and I listened to your touching assembly twice there. So seeing you on stage at my high school was what my friends and I really wanted. All I kept hearing after you left last week was, "He is something special! He really like motivated me ..." and that was so amazing!

    Thank you so much for coming to my school and sharing your love and story with us! Stay healthy and keep on accomplishing all your dreams. By the way, tell Billy Joel I said hello!

    Becky Salman, 11th grader

    Hey Paul, whats up? I think your assembly at my school yesterday was excellent. I know that it touched a lot of hearts and it touched mine too! I was really inspired and I felt that you are right. Life is a dream that you should live like it is the best thing you have ever gotten.

    Dean Hoshia, 9th grader

    Hello, Paul!

    I don't know if you remember me, you walked into my freshman health class. I was the girl who kept her head down. I remember knowing what you were going to talk about, I remember knowing exactly how you feel. I remember how great it felt, when a boy who used to be one of my closest friends when my cerebral palsy was at the worst, talking to you. Even though he's one of the biggest class clowns. I knew he knew what you meant, and I knew he still cared.

    I remember glancing at you afraid, so afraid because I wanted to tell you, but I didn't know how. So then I came up to you at the end of class and then I told you, "Paul, I also have cerebral palsy." And then you smiled and said, "But it doesn't need to have you." Those words will be in my memory forever because I never thought of it that way. I remember how surprised I was to see you at Cook College during our Agricultural State Convention. I remember how nice it was to actually see you again. I remember seeing you at the basketball game at the Elementary School, where my brother was playing. I wasn't sure if it was you, but then I realized it was when I saw the bright shirt.

    I'm doing a report on Heroes for my Sophomore English class. I went to your web site because you are one of my heroes. I want you to know that. Thank you for coming to my class. Thank you for coming to my high school. Thank you for going down to the elementary school and talking to them. You were in all my siblings classes, and some of my friends. Thank you for opening their eyes, and for opening mine. I wish you all the best, and hope you come back again, because there are new people and everyone needs to know what it's like.

    Maybe someday I'll have the courage to speak as you do, and tell them about me.

    Maybe someday.

    Danielle, 9th grader

    [UPDATE: Four years after Danielle sent Paul the email message above, she was nominated the High School Student of the Year for the entire state of New Jersey!]

    I can't even express how inspiring you were to me. For the past few months, I have been going through some tough times at home and with friends. Recently, I haven't even been smiling much, but since your motivational assembly, I can't stop grinning and laughing. I believe in myself so much more, and I know it's because of your speech.

    Normally, school motivational speakers are not helpful at all and are just a "waste of class time." However, I really wish I could have seen both of your assemblies because seeing it once touched me so much.

    Never stop reaching for your dreams, Paul. You are an inspiration to us all and my idol for your perseverance.

    Sarah, 10th grader

    Paul, you have inspired me so much from your presentation at the Skills USA Leadership Conference on Wednesday. I wish that I could have talked and gotten a picture with you! You are an amazing guy and I wish I can hear from you soon.

    I will speak with my principal to see if he will allow me to have a guest speaker talk to our school. I think you will certainly influence others from my school!

    Christia, high-school student
    Skills USA Leadership Conference

    I was touched by the speech that you delivered at our anti-bullying summit today. You made me, and many other people, see life in a different way. You also made me look at life in a more positive way. You should know that every time that you give these speeches, you are helping to make millions of children excited about themselves!

    I know that my school is going to fight against bullying, and we make sure that discrimination, teasing, and any other form of bullying does not occur. Also, from the speech that you gave and how it touched my heart very much, in the future I might want to do what you are doing right now. Which is going to different schools and informing chidren about the effects of bullying, and making fun of people just because they are "different." You inspired me.

    Paul, you should be extremely proud of what you accomplished in your life. In addition, I would like to congratulate you on being so brave, and skydiving!! I know that when I get older I would like to do that. My brother, and his girlfriend did, and said that it was awesome!

    In conclusion, I would like to thank you very, very much for inspiring me and our teachers with your closing keynote and charge-to-action at our conference. Keep going towards your dreams, Paul -- and never give up on anything!

    Victoria, student
    anti-bullying summit

    A few weeks ago you spoke at my daughters school in Rochelle Park. That day when my daughter who is in the 7th grade came running out of school, she immediately started telling me about you. She was so inspired by what you had to say, and also HOW you said it. She could not wait to come home and look at your web site. After looking at your web site she came to me and wanted to talk even more about you.

    She also sent me your web site and asked me please to check it out. I have spent the last half hour looking through your site. I can feel your positive attitude shining through. I can now understand why my daughter was so excited to share this positive experience she felt through your assembly. I want to thank you and commend you on touching these children's lives. I'm sure your words will be with my daughter for years to come.

    Dawn Sagun, Parent
    Midland School
    Rochelle Park, N.J.

    >My name is Jessica and I am an 8th grade student from Hillside Avenue School. I am writing to you because I just wanted to thank you for changing the way I think about other people and myself. As we filed into the auditorium, I was thinking that this was just going to be another boring assembly where I could catch up on my sleep. I had heard that we were going to have a motivational speaker, and I just thought that it was going to be someone that was really boring and who would just tell us not to do drugs and respect ourselves. I would soon find out that it would be so much more.

    I was sitting in the second row in the middle section of our auditorium waiting for my principal to introduce our speaker. When the microphone was handed to you, and I heard the first few sentences come out of your mouth, I became interested in what you had to say. Soon, I was at the edge of my seat hanging on every word that you said. You have such a positive outlook on life. Your joy and hope was contagious. When I saw you in the video holding up your painting telling us that we could all do better and there was no such thing as "I can't," I started believing in myself.

    As every minute went by I was becoming more and more self-confident. I saw how determined you are to show people that, no matter how different you are, that everyone is still beautiful. I had tears in my eyes of happiness and sadness. As I reflected on who I was, I saw that I needed to change for the better. I knew that there was room for improving and that it was possible to change. I listened as you told us the struggles you went through, and at such a young age. When you told us the story of when you fell in a store and your family wouldn't help you up, I got the message that we can't always rely on someone else to help us all the time. I knew that it was time for me to start becoming a better person.

    I had goosebumps because I noticed that you were the most amazing person that I have ever met. I admire your dedication of wanting to reach as many people as you can and share your stories, and remind us that we are all equal and that no matter what, nobody is perfect. When you said that everyone has a disability, I started thinking about all of the negative traits I had. Then I stopped and changed my thinking. I started thinking about all my possitive qualities. The ones that I can be proud of. I then realized that I can change many of my negative traits, because I don't want people to know me by my negative characteristics, but I want people to remember me by how positive I became.

    Each day, I am becoming happier and happier. I try to change a little bit every day. Later that Friday night, everyone went to the rec center where we all talked about how we wanted to be like you. We soon were sitting in a circle saying what we wanted to change about ourselves. I never thought that my life would change in 45 minutes. I saw you again as you were talking to our health class. You were funny and inspirational. I can still picture your smile as you saw the joy and understanding on all of our faces.

    I left 7th period health with tears in my eyes, and a smile that went from ear to ear from the joy that you shed on all of us. I went to our school basketball game after school and all I had on my mind was the assembly from first period and the time you spent with our health classes.

    So I would just like to say thank you from the bottom of my heart. I will pray for you everyday. God bless you and all that you do with your life, talent, and knowledge. I hope that everyday you find joy and happiness in everything you do. Thanks again for changing my life and lives of many people around me. I now know that I can achieve anything that my heart really desires.

    Paul, you truly are my role model.


    Hello, Paul! Thank you for speaking to us at Candlewood Middle School yesterday. When we left our classes, we thought that your assembly would just be a free period or two.

    The honest truth is everyone started laughing when you began to talk. About 2 minutes into your speech when you mentioned your disability, the jokes stopped and everyone felt really bad about what they said and what you went through. When we heard how you overcame it, we all felt a feeling I cannot even explain. It was a mix of happiness (of how you overcame cerebral palsy), remorse (of what you went through), and something else I can't really think of right now. It felt weird.

    The entire day, me and my friends looked out all the windows to try to get a sneak peek at your 'BMW'. We all couldn't believe what you went through and where you are today. When we thought about this and how still you try so hard to make people smile, we couldn't help but smile ourselves. It was the least we could do. You probably didn't see these smiles so this represents all the smiles at Candlewood. Turn your head to the left and they are smiling:

    :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :)

    Of course, there were more smiles ... but my fingers are getting tired. You really made an impact on us today. Thank you!

    Scott Sommer, 8th grader

    I have learned many positive things from your assembly at our school. For example, we should not think that other people are different just because they are disabled. That way, we also should treat them only as we ourselves want to be treated.

    Thank you for coming to our school, and for teaching us a wonderful lesson that we will all remember for the rest of our lives.

    Priyanka, 7th grader

    I have never heard my son Austin and his friends rave about a school assembly as much as they did about Paul Wichansky. They were so in awe of what he has done, his stories, and everything about him. Austin was so pumped by him that he proceeded to give me story by story with lots of details (that was a real first)! My fifth-grade daughter found him very interesting also.

    Paul sounds like a man with a message we would all benefit from hearing!

    a parent in Chappaqua, N.Y.

    Dear Paul,

    Thank you for your presentation. It made me feel happy. My name is Michelle and I go to P.S.#24 in Jersey City. I feel the same way that people should not tease others. If the people they were teasing started to tease others, neither would feel so good. But you wouldn't do that to them. You have a heart of gold. You want students to feel good about themselves -- because yes, we are this nation's own future!

    Many people should want to be around you. You are a great person and you have a good personality and a sense of humor. Many people should be begging you to be your friend. If so, I would want to be the first in line!

    Here is a quote: "ohm - sha - ma - la - ma - ra ma -- ding ding." It means, "Follow your bliss." Follow your dream of being a meteorologist, Paul. And please make sure to come back to P.S.#24.

    Michelle, 8th grader

    I learned a lot from your assembly when you visited my school today. When you were talking to us, you made all of us smile! You may have a disability, but it certainly does not seem like it at all. You have more talents than a regular person. Seing you try to do your best has really inspired me to do the same!

    I'm sure your grandmother would be happy for you right now. You can make thousands of people happy and smile. Just keep doing what you do and good luck! I hope to see you again.

    Gerard, 8th grader

    You came to my school today, Washington Township High School. As you have probably heard, this past Friday one of the students, Ian, at my school had passed away. I've never cried so much in my life. Seeing how loved he was by everyone and having his life taken away at the young age of 17 really brought my spirits to an absolute low. It made me so incredibly sad to know that someone my age, someone with such a kind heart, and someone I know could instantly die like that.

    I wanted to thank you for your visit to our school. It was the first time I really smiled since the tragedy. Death is hard enough to cope with, let alone a fellow student and friend. You made me laugh and feel good inside. I had to let you know this because when you spoke you actually brought a tear to my eye, a tear of joy. I now know that life will move on and to take it as it comes. I find that I have been smiling a lot today, not because I'm suppressing my feelings towards the loss, but because I noticed that when I smiled, someone else smiled right back. Before I knew it, I looked around and saw so many people smiling.

    I heard them talking about the good times they used to have with Ian. Sure, at the same time they were crying, but the smiles were there and I knew everything was going to be okay. You showed me that whether you knew it or not.

    Thank you, Paul -- for more than you know.

    Dana, high-school student

    Paul, your program encouraged me to try for the dream that I thought I had given up on. You put hope back in my life. Thank you.

    Patti, 12th grader

    I strongly agree, now, that we cause our own problems and that no matter what life throws our way, if we have a good attitude we can overcome it. And I see things this way because of you. I don't have any type of disability, but I've hit quite of few bumps along the road and it's because of you that I see I can get over them and live my life fully. On Friday a very close friend of mine passed away and everyone was greatly affected, but your speech made everyone smile, including myself, even if it was only for that hour of time we spent together.

    I just wanted to thank you for opening my eyes to life and for making me smile during such a depressing time.

    Angelina, high-school student

    After that speech you delivered today at our high school to the 9th and 10th grades, I was one of the students that came up to speak to you when your presentation was over. I'm not sure if you remember me, but I was the girl that began to cry when you were talking to me. I had a sudden urge to hug you, and I did (and I'm sorry if it took you aback) and then I walked away. I apologize for leaving that way, since I really did want to speak with you more. But I became embarrassed when I began to cry, and I didn't want you to see me like that.

    I wanted you to know that you touched me in a way that no one has ever done before. You delivered your speech so well, and the example you used about the wall with the nails really hit home with me. What you said is very true: when someone is teased, it's like driving a nail through their heart. No matter how much someone can apologize, the hole from that person will always be there.

    Paul, you are an angel sent to inspire people and open as many eyes as you possibly can. I look up to you, respect you, and admire you. Thank you for everything you did for me today. I will never forget you.

    Jamie, 10th grader

    I go to Onteora District Schools in New York, and today you came to my school for two assemblies. It was truly a pleasure to hear all about your life and experiences!

    Hearing about you just wants to make me cry. I know you are happy. But I have realized that I am frequently unhappy. It's just you're so good at seeing the silver lining on all the difficulties you have faced. After your program, I am feeling much better about myself!

    You were very funny today. And I wanted to say YOU made me SMILE. So .... take one nail out of that wall!

    Alex Tabatznik, 8th grader

    You came to my school today for two presentations. I wanted to tell you how much that presentation inspired me, and to congratulate you on keeping that positive attitude! You make people want to smile and be around you, and showed me how I can do the same.

    The motivational programs that you do for students are amazing! You don't have to do these programs, but you enjoy it, that is what I wish most people are like. Unfortunately they are hard to find, but you truly are an angel! With a life that could have been horrible, you turned around and made wonderful, for you and also for many other students.

    I admire how you don't let anything in the way of your dreams. My congratulations on making your dreams come true. I wanted to share these feelings with you and let you know how much I admire you.

    Melanie, 8th grader

    Hello Paul! I really liked that you came to my school to tell us about your life. As a soccer player like you, I probably could not see myself standing in front of that goal even if I didn't have the disability you have. It takes a great person to stand up in front of that net and let the soccer balls come back and forth at you.

    You have really influenced me to try different things. I used to be scared to talk to a disabled person, but when you came to my school, that perspective changed. In fact, I was never comfortable talking to a disabled person in front of my friends, but your assembly has shown me the light and thanks you! My friends and I are so glad you came to my school and good luck with the rest of your life!

    Sydney, 7th grader

    Hi Paul! I am 12 years old and attend Franklin Avenue Middle School where you presented your assembly today. I was so inspired by what you said I had tears of joy in my eyes. I also understod what you were talking about how hard it was to at first but then you found the joy in everything. The way that I understand is that my grandmother works at a place called Willing Hands and it is a place where people who have severe cases of problems, kind-of, like what you have, and sometimes I go there to help them.

    All the words you said inspired me to help people and be a better person than I am today. You were right about people not helping one another and not standing up for each other.

    Basically all the things that you said should, and will be, an inspiration to everyone. Thank you so much for coming to our school today!

    Megan Williamson

    Dear Paul, You visited our school today and gave an unforgettable assembly! I dont know if you noticed but I left the library in tears, because your video and words were just so happy and inspirational. Your visit was the main topic at lunch and my friends and I were truly inspired to do something nice. I just want to thank you for making my day a good one and really bringing in the true concept of life all together beautifully.

    It was amazing how when I first saw you I noticed that you had disability, and leaving the auditorium, it was like your disability had disappeared!

    Thanks again Paul!
    Jackie Falzarano

    Hi, Paul! I go to Palmyra-Macedon High School near Rochester, and you came and talked to us today! In the past, when we have had motivational speakers come all the time in middle school, people always have said that the programs were so stupid and boring. Not this time! You were awesome and everybody loved you!

    Paul, I just wanted to say thank you. You are such a great person, I know you said you loved to make people smile and be happy, it was hard not to when you were there. I really enjoyed listening to your stories. You live like you don't even have cerebral palsy -- you are an artist, sky diver, scuba diver, athlete, and all the other things. Even for a person without cerebral palsy, all those things are awesome, but with the disability, it's truly amazing!

    I love how you just believe you can do something and do it. Thanks again Paul, you really have made me more confident in myself.

    Heather Moore, 9th grader

    I wanted to thank you for taking the time this summer to motivate me and my friends in central Illinois. Since we both have cerebral palsy, you have changed my attitude and my heart so much for the better! Your presentation and discussion have positively changed me, with the emphasis that cerebral palsy is not a disease at all, but simply a disability. Over the years, I have tried to persuade my own family that the cerebral palsy that is a part of me is actually not a disease at all. My family had this misconception that was only reinforced by other people staring at me, thinking I have a disease, and generally they would make me feel different.

    I want to show my friends, and especially my family, how much you have positively changed my life and my spirit by presenting a unique program by a fellow person with cerebral palsy! I hope that you will consider placing this testimonial on your web page so that people can see that I have communicated to you in a good enough way that you actually listened. That would help me because that will change my spirit and show that you care.

    Thank you for coming down here from New Jersey to tell us about yourself and others with this challenge. You may not have changed others lives, but you have truly made an impact upon me so that I will not let others put me down about my cerebral palsy. I think that we have a bond and I believe that I may be the only person you changed this much -- not saying you didn't change others -- but you worked hard on me. Now I know that I can get my own apartment and become more independent in life!

    You are my best friend Paul from Robby. You have put a big light in my heart to show me that my cerebral palsy is not going to get in my way for anything that comes my way! Thank you again!

    Robby Stephens
    Developmental Services Center
    Champaign-Urbana, Illinois

    You are a fabulous painter! I loved the painting you did of the Porsche, it was indeed beautiful. If I set my mind to it, I could possibly do a painting like that. It was splendid! I also hope you can visit our school again and give another fabulous speech, teaching more children about the wonderful gift of life and how much you should cherish what you have. I know you have definitely taught me about it. You are one in a million, Paul! You showed me the important things in life and how to make someone feel good about themselves.

    Shannon, 7th grader

    The little time I have spent with you and the little I know about you has inspired me to no end. The stories you tell are funny, exciting, and so very inspirational. Knowing what you have overcome truly touches my heart. Knowing the state you were first in, and comparing to the state you are in now, I am touched deeply. You have showed me that with the right amount of determination and with a smile on your face you can accomplish anything. You are an amazing person, and I am so pleased I have met you. You have taught me so much in the little time you were at my school.

    In the summer, I am going to be participating in a pageant scholarship program to compete for money for college and other recognition such as academic and community service awards. I walked into my room after school and saw the papers for it, but my heart in a way sank because I am not good at talking in front of people. For the pageant, I have to make a small speech on stage in front of a lot of people. Right when the thoughts of "I can't" came into my head, I thought immediately of you encouraging me to "Rip that T out of the word, "can't," and make it, "Yes, I can!" Now I am excited about the program this summer and have lost quite a bit of fear just by remembering what you said to me.

    It happened about 20 minutes after that too, I began to work on my Silver Award for Girl Scouts. I want to send around a hundred care packages and letters of support out to the soldiers in Iraq. I asked myself if I am really capable of doing this. It's going to be difficult, but then your face came into my mind with your wonderful smile saying once again, "Rip that T out of the word, "can't" and say, "Yes, I can!" I now know I am going to finish my Silver Award and that I CAN. Already, in the past four hours, you have had such an impact on my life. You are truly an amazing and gifted person, Paul!

    You ended your program by saying you don't care if we forget you, just don't forget the message, that the message is more important then the messenger. I now think i can argue that, without you being the messenger, I can promise you the message would not have been the same.

    I will never forget you.

    Tasha, 8th grader

    Your presentation at my school this week was awesome! Paul, you are not like most other speakers who come to schools and talk about motivation and self-esteem. If you hear these subjects from parents or teachers, it sounds boring. After your presentation, it made me think a lot more.

    It stuck in my head a lot longer after I was talked to by a person who has been through so much (including meeting Elton John and Billy Joel) and still keeping a positive attitude on life. I knew after you talked to us how much you cared about people and making them happy. It seems like you never let your disability get you down. You've lived out most of your dreams and it showed me that I can live out mine too. It also showed me that there always is a good side to bad events.

    You also used great analogies like when you make fun of someone it sticks a hole in their heart. I also liked it when you said about the sun always setting but rising again in that dream called life. All of the things you talked about made me think. Paul, you are an inspiration to me and a great role model. Thank you for speaking at my school!

    Michael, 8th grader

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