I was sitting in Row A, Seat 10. Ice chips were flying — literally — as the skaters performed double Salchows. The decision to pay $60 more than a seat directly behind me was easy … we were there to see David Archuleta and the ticket purchase was supporting cancer survivorship for women. But in the end — as is the case with all things David — I got more than I expected. Much more.
Our seats were located stage right, which was where all the skaters first stepped on the ice to warm up or while waiting for TV staging to occur. Some of the greatest Olympians — including Kristi Yamaguchi, Nancy Kerrigan, Dorothy Hamill, and Scott Hamilton — were warming up just a couple of feet in front of me.
What surprised me most about the whole evening was my reaction to watching Scott Hamilton skate. I was touched by his performance. As Scott started his routine, I remembered his triumphs: winning four U.S. Championships, four World Championships and Olympic Gold. I also thought back to his struggles — a childhood disease that stunted his growth, testicular cancer and, most recently, a benign brain tumour. At age 51, his skating boldly defied all the struggles and celebrated the triumphs. More importantly, through his skating, he invited you to do the same thing.
Scott’s performance was so compelling that I wanted to learn more. I went home and did some research and, in the process, discovered something quite remarkable:
“Scott decided to become a world champion and succeeded despite the resistance of skating judges who believed he was too small to compete at the international level,” said Mimi Elliott.
“You know, I’ve always doubted myself about my talent. I always thought everyone was kinda tone-deaf, and they’re just trying to be nice to me ’cause I’m little.”
“You know, it’s funny … skating has always given me life.”
“Music is such a powerful thing because it allows you to communicate with other people. To do that with so many people makes you feel really good…I always thought I guess that’s why I have music in my life and singing because that’s the only way I know how to communicate to people.”
“At the height of his career, though, Hamilton faced the greatest threat to his dominance when he was diagnosed with testicular cancer that had spread to his abdomen.”
“They scoped my throat and we found out that I had a paralyzed vocal cord. I was like well, what does that mean? I was like well, is that the end of music for me? I don’t know what that means. I was really distraught to hear that. I was feeling really down during that time because I didn’t know what to do….I was like well how long will the voice therapy take, and they were like a year or two years or more than that, we don’t know, before you will see any results. I was feeling so down.”
On making a connection
“I just try to touch people’s hearts in a way through skating, so they’re not just witnessing a performance, they’re feeling a performance and they’re a part of it.”
“…I’ve just been loving music for so long. It’s been-music’s pretty much my life and just the power that’s in music, it can do so much like it can change how I feel and just how everyone I’m singing to feels and how everyone just appreciates the music…”
Drive and commitment
“Scott doesn’t know ‘no,’ ” said Francis Fessler. “If you tell him, ‘You can’t do that,’ he knows he can, and he will; and he pushes it that way with everything that he does.”
“But I’ve never let a losing start discourage me from trying to have a winning finish. It just takes committing to the task and being willing to fall down a lot.”
“As I stand before all of you here today, you’re my witnesses; I’m taking that step forward and improving my speaking skills. It really is a difficult step sometimes because it’s almost like we’re fighting this current of fear that’s pushing us back. As we face those fears more and get over that first little hurdle, we can make those weaknesses become our strengths.
“It’s like if you really have the desire and you feel like, no, I want to do that, sometimes even if it is a hard path to take, even if it has those big hills and climbs and all those scary trees and you can get scratches, and you can get hurt sometimes. But I think that’s what makes us grow. That’s what makes us learn in our lives. So when we get to that end of the path we have all those bruises and cuts and you can see that we had a difficult time getting to where we were; but at the same time, you can say, you know what, this is proof that I went and I took that path, and this is proof that I did all I could and that I was willing to take that path even if it wasn’t the easiest path to take.”
“You get philosophical … There’s always a bigger fish, you know? And it’s hard to feel sorry for yourself when you know other people are going through things much worse than you are. With my brain tumour I’m hoping that I can really find what I can do with this to really help others. Because every day is what you make it, and every day is a gift,”
“Always try to maintain complete tolerance and always make an effort to give people more than they expect.”
“I would just encourage all of you to think each day how can I help someone with their day today. How can I help them feel better today and just reach out to them and just be of service in any way I can. I would just say just try and make that a goal, even if it just a smile or a hello or a call to someone. It won’t just help that person who you reached out to, it will help you. It will help because it’s like there’s something about helping out people that makes you feel so much better. I really think that when you start thinking less about yourself and thinking more about other people you will feel better about yourself. It’s just really interesting how that works.”
Integrity and authenticity
“The high road is always respected. Honesty and integrity are always rewarded.”
“The best thing you can do to set yourself apart is just be yourself. If you’re fake, you know people find out who you are later, it’s like ‘Well that’s not who we thought you were.’ Being yourself is where you feel most comfortable and people get, you know, they feel that connection the best. That’s the best way to go. You always have to be yourself.”
“I hope that people think good things about me in the future and that I left a good name for myself and for my family and posterity…”
“The only disability in life is a bad attitude.”
“Adversity, and perseverance and all these things can shape you. They can give you a value and a self-esteem that is priceless.”
“That’s another one of the things that is so important is to just stay positive about your future. We can look at plenty of things that can make it a scary, hard, bad future; but I could probably think of all the bad things that could happen this week and see how horrible the week could be, but I can take that and flip that around and say wow I’ve so many opportunities to grow and learn this week. I’m sure by the end of the week if I keep that up I will look back and say wow, what a great week I had! I just encourage you all to keep being positive and keep being optimistic about your future. Even if you did have a hard past, a hard life to look back to, you could say wow not all people have gone through what I’ve gone through, and I’ve learned so much from it.
“Who knows, it’s neat to be able to have something that was difficult in your life and then meet someone later on who’s going through a similar thing. It’s like wow! I think I realize why I needed to go through what I went through before because I know I need to help this person right now. It is just really interesting how things work even if you don’t see it right now, it’s amazing how things will work out in the long run as long as you keep your faith and keep looking positive in the future.”
“My faith plays an incredible role in being grounded, being able to let go of all the things that have held me back. With all I’ve faced, I’ve had to let go and move forward. My relationship with God helps me with that.”
“My faith in God was always lifting me to new heights I never could have reached on my own.”
“There is so much that I want to give back to the One who has blessed me with this gift, I feel that there must be a reason why I’m here doing what I’m doing. And I want to make sure that I do what is expected of me before it all ends.”
“I just asked God and said ‘Lord, I keep feeling like I need to go do this and I don’t know why but I just thought I would bring it to you.’ I was, like, why would He care about some kid kneeling down in his room who doesn’t even know what to do with himself in the 10th Grade. But I decided to ask Him. After that I felt so strong and I knew that I had to go audition. I don’t even know why. I was, like, I’m not sure because it’s not like I’m going to get very far in it or anything but I know I just learned something.
“I think what was amazing for me to feel was, like, wow you are small, David, and you are by yourself here in your room, but you do matter and you don’t know what your potential is. You don’t understand fully what someone does. That’s what I kept in mind and that’s what I still keep in mind. It’s like even though I get frustrated with myself sometimes and I feel like oh I can’t do that, I’m not going to be very good, or I won’t be able to get very far from this point, it’s like, David, just remember that even if you feel discouraged remember that someone else always has hope in you.”
On the same page
Yes, at 51 years of age, Scott Hamilton is a testament to reaching one’s potential professionally and personally while maintaining dignity, grace and humour. His life experiences are being channeled toward helping others.
And then there’s David … There is nothing more to say.
He is only 18, yet his music truly speaks for itself. We are his witnesses.
The First Noël