‘What’s so special about normal?’ Bonnie St. John tells safety pros to aim higher

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Indianapolis – Bonnie St. John was a multi-medalist at the 1984 Winter Paralympics, the height of athletic achievement for people with disabilities. She went on to become a Rhodes Scholar, an economist, an advisor to former President Bill Clinton, an author, a leadership consultant, a mother and an inspirational speaker.

On Tuesday, she stressed to attendees of the Motivational Keynote during the 2017 National Safety Council Congress & Expo not to wait until conditions are perfect to set and achieve goals, and she reflected on her own life as a single amputee. First, however, she said she was motivated by her audience.

“We have a roomful of people here, but we could more than fill the room with people whose lives you’ve saved and injuries you’ve prevented,” St. John said. “If we put all those people in the room, we’d be way over capacity.”

St. John shared several stories from her life, including when her right leg was amputated at age 5 because of a birth defect, and returning to the hospital where the amputation was performed and where she received therapy until she turned 18. St. John went there to help inspire children.

“At the end of my speech, a mom said, ‘Bonnie, will my son lead a normal life?’” she said. “I blurted out, ‘No, aim higher.’ Getting beyond normal was a hard-won piece of wisdom for me. What’s so special about normal?”

She said normal in the safety world is not enough, because humans aren’t naturally safety-conscious.

“Push past normal and aim higher, to think about how can we be more safe,” St. John said. “How can we create a culture where people are more safety-conscious?”

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