Four years ago Blair Charters was invited to give a speech in front of 40 inmates at Bowden Institution about his struggles, and successes, as someone with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder.
Charters, who received an Award of Excellence in Public Awareness on Dec. 5 as part of the Premier’s Council on the Status of Persons with Disabilities Awards, said speaking to inmates was definitely intimidating, and a bit scary.
“I always crack jokes at the beginning of my speech, and I cracked a few jokes at the beginning and nobody laughed. Nobody cracked a smile,” said Charters, 37, of Red Deer.
But before his time was up, Charters’ story, and words of encouragement, sparked many questions from the group.
“The warden said that you’re a very good motivational speaker because this is a very tough crowd, and for them to have that many questions for you is very inspiring.”
Charters said it’s important to let people know that life’s obstacles can be conquered.
“If I can overcome my struggle, they can overcome theirs. Just because I have a disability, it doesn’t mean I let that disability get me down. You can overcome anything.
“Basically you have to take the word can’t out of your head. People told me for years I can’t do things, so I didn’t even try.”
Charters said before his diagnosis at 16, and prior to finding the right school, life in class was difficult and math was horrible.
“I didn’t understand one word (the teacher) said, but there was no way I was going to raise my hand and say no I didn’t get that and be singled out as the dumb one.”
Charters, who works as a supervisor baker at Earl’s, said he used to have a joint bank account with his mother. Then one day he decided to tackle math.
“Now I can manage money very well.”
He said when he was young, he would shoplift for people to try and make friends. Now he regularly gives inspirational speeches to crowds.
Charters has organized a speech night at The Hub, on Feb. 7 at 6:30 p.m., where he will be joined by a couple speakers, including Terri Robson, of Red Deer, who lives with Asperger syndrome. Admission is free.
“Every struggle I have, I do a speech about it. That’s how my speeches come about.”
His most recent speech was inspired by U.S. president-elect Donald Trump, and the negativity he incites.
“I was sick of hearing Donald Trump’s name every five seconds everywhere I went. Donald Trump doesn’t matter in your world. You matter in your world.”
For more information about Charters visit http://blai83.wixsite.com/blairchartersproject.