Did you know that Nelson Rockefeller was dyslexic? Rockefeller (1908-1979) was Vice President of the United States under Gerald Ford and also Governor of New York.
He once delivered a special television address called "The Puzzle Children", which was hosted on PBS by Julie Andrews and Bill Bixby.
Here are a few excerpts from his talk, aimed to inspire children who struggled to read like he did.
"I was one of the "puzzle children" myself—a dyslexic, or "reverse reader"—and I still have a hard time reading today. But after coping with this problem for more than 60 years, I have a message of encouragement for children with learning disabilities and their parents.
Based on my own experience, my message to dyslexic children is this:
Don't accept anyone's verdict that you are lazy, stupid, or retarded. You may very well be smarter than most other children your age.
Just remember Woodrow Wilson, Albert Einstein, and Leonardo da Vinci also had tough problems with their reading. You can learn to cope with your problem and turn your so-called disability into a positive advantage.
Dyslexia forced me to develop powers of concentration that have been invaluable throughout my career in business, philanthropy, and public life. No one had ever heard of dyslexia when I discovered as a boy, along about the third grade, that reading was such a difficult chore that I was in the bottom one-third of my class. We had no special teachers or tutors, no special classes or courses, no special methods of teaching—because nobody understood our problem. Along with an estimated three million other children, I just struggled to understand words that seemed to garble before my eyes, numbers that came out backwards, sentences that were hard to grasp. And so I accepted the verdict of the IQ tests that I wasn't as bright as most of the rest of my class.
My best subject was mathematics: I understood concepts well beyond my grade level. But it took only one reversed number in a column of figures to cause havoc.
When I came close to flunking out in the ninth grade—because I didn't work very hard that year—I decided that I had better learn, through self-discipline, to concentrate, which in my opinion is essential for a dyslexic.
I know what a dyslexic child goes through—the frustration of not being able to do what other children do easily, the humiliation of being thought not too bright when such is not the case at all.
My personal discoveries as to what is required to cope with dyslexia could be summarized in these admonitions to the individual dyslexic:
1) Accept the fact that you have a problem—don't just try to hide it. Refuse to feel sorry for yourself.
2) Realize that you don't have an excuse—you have a challenge.
3) Face the challenge.
4) Work harder and learn mental discipline—the capacity for total concentration,
5) Never quit.
If it helps a dyslexic to know I went through the same thing...
But can conduct press conferences today in three languages...
And can read a speech on television (though I may have to rehearse it six times, with my script in large type, and my sentences broken into segments like these, and long words broken into syllables)...
And even won my place as Vice President of the United States!"
Environmental crusader Erin Brokovich launched a famous lawsuit to save a rural town from dangerous chemicals in their drinking water. With limited schooling and beauty pageant appearance, Brokovich defied the odds and won her case. This put her on the map in the legal world and gained her a 2000 movie.
Despite all his success as a senator from Colorado, Michael Bennet failed the second grade.
"I can remember, throughout the early years of elementary school, having problems focusing on my work, and I think they manifested themselves in the form of spelling issues," Bennet said. "The teachers at the school I was going to recognized that I was having trouble with spelling, and I think they knew I needed extra time and some extra attention, and that led to my repeating second grade."
Imagine not learning your letters until the age of nine, not being able to read until the age of twelve, and remaining a slow reader throughout your life. Now imagine that the President of the United States had these characteristics.