Wednesday, June 20, 2012

John W. Quinn (Guest post)

My name is John W. Quinn. I am a Senior Chief Petty Officer, United States Navy (Retired). I joined the Navy in January 1982 and retired in October 2002. During my career I sailed the world on two aircraft carriers, a destroyer, a battleship, even did paperwork and worked out every morning with the Navy SEALs. I trained, molded and led a generation of sailors, many of who are still serving today. It was an honor to serve my country.

Did I mention that I was born with cerebral palsy?

You are probably thinking, “How in the heck did you get into the Navy and serve 20 years? That’s impossible!” It is possible. My recently published memoir titled Someone Like Me – An Unlikely Story of Challenge and Triumph Over Cerebral Palsy details how I was able to accomplish that feat. I kept my CP a secret during my entire military career. My friends didn't know about my disability, the sailors who served with me were unaware, and fortunately my CP went undetected by government officials who could have sent me home for false enlistment. Granted, I'm not in a wheelchair or braces. My CP symptoms are generally mild enough to pass off as injuries, clumsiness, or to hide behind an administrative desk. I got some lucky breaks. Was it difficult to go 20 years with no medical attention, support or care? That's an understatement! So why did I choose to go that route?

I kept my CP hidden for a couple of reasons. First, I didn’t think the Navy would let me enlist. Second, and more important to me, I just wanted the same opportunity as everyone else. I didn't want to be known as “that sailor with CP.” I just wanted to be known as a great sailor – one known for ability, not remembered for his disability.

I am hesitant to use the word disability because it really bothers me. Look at the word again. I am not an English major, but I know that the prefix “dis” means the absence of. So the word disability means the absence of ability. If that’s the case, then yes, I have a disability. I cannot do fractions. In fact, when it comes to anything having to do with math, I struggle mightily.

But there are many areas of my life in which I am very capable. Some big, others small. Everyone has some ability to offer this world. You just have to find it. It might be hidden deep down inside you, just yearning to come out. I encourage you to not let any handicap hold you back, to not listen to the people that tell you it cannot be done. My parents told me that I could do just about anything that I put my mind to and I believe that to be true for anyone, regardless of obstacles faced. If you don’t push yourself to find your ability, who will? Franklin Delano Roosevelt suffered with polio and became President of the United States. Albert Einstein didn’t talk until the age of three and was severely dyslexic. The English author/poet Milton lost his sight at the age of 43 and then wrote the classic tale Paradise Lost. What would the world be like if these people had given up? Can you imagine FDR saying, “I can’t do it, it’s too hard.”

Have you always wanted to paint but thought it was a waste of time? Perhaps you've felt a strong desire to get up on stage in your community theater but were ridiculed when you shared your dream out loud? I have been laughed at. Most people thought it was nuts for a guy with cerebral palsy to even dream of joining the Navy. Mocking turned to cheers 20 years later when I retired as a Senior Chief Petty Officer. When I decided I wanted to write my memoir, some scoffed. “You’ve never written anything before. “What makes you think you can write a book?” Well, Someone Like Me, An Unlikely Story of Challenge and Triumph over Cerebral Palsy has been in the Amazon Top 100 and just turned into an audiobook!

You might not become President of the United States, discover new math theories, or become a Navy Chief Petty Officer. But then again, you might. So I ask you.

What’s your ability?

To find out more about John and order a copy of Someone Like Me – An Unlikely Story of Challenge and Triumph Over Cerebral Palsy, go to

John W. Quinn Motivational Speaker and Author of Someone Like Me Executive Board Member of the Reaching for the Stars Foundation Website - Email - Twitter @johnwquinn


  1. I really enjoyed reading this post because it just goes to show that whoever you are and whatever you may be faced with, you still may have the ability to do something great in this world.

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