News & Events

West to discuss “redefining possible” during UMPI Distinguished Lecture

The University of Maine at Presque Isle is pleased to announce that Me to We motivational speaker and author Spencer West—who lost his legs at an early age but hasn’t let that stop him from climbing mountains and overcoming other obstacles to make a difference in the world around him—will serve as the next speaker in its 2013-2014 Distinguished Lecturer Series.

West will deliver his talk The Power of We: Overcoming Obstacles to Make a Difference on Thursday, Nov. 14, at 7 p.m. in the Campus Center. West’s talk is free and the public is invited to be a part of this special evening.

Spencer West speaks candidly about the struggles he has overcome since losing his legs at the age of five and the goals that he has accomplished to create positive change in the world, such as climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro to raise money for Free The Children’s sustainable clean water projects in Africa. Despite all odds, West continues to redefine possible. Using humor, honesty and humility, he encourages all to become more socially involved in their communities and in the world, and his thought-provoking message inspires people to find opportunity in every challenge.

In 2008, West recognized his true calling—to motivate and inspire people around the world as a voice for social change—when he went on a Me to We volunteer trip to the Maasai Mara region of Kenya. While there, he helped build a school in a rural community and also met and befriended local young people striving to overcome incredible challenges every day. That led him to become more involved in Me to We, an innovative social enterprise that partners with charity Free The Children, where he now serves as a speaker and an international leadership facilitator in Kenya, India and at the Arizona–Mexico border.

As a facilitator, he leads hundreds of students on Me to We’s international volunteer trips. As a speaker, West’s inspiring words have reached millions of audience members around the world, including corporations, students and educators, faith-based groups and families. At We Day events, which are annual “youth empowerment” events organized by Free the Children, West has captivated tens of thousands with his keynote address, featured nationally on CTV. At these events, he has shared the stage with influential figures His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Dr. Jane Goodall, Rick Hansen, former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, Mia Farrow, Martin Sheen and Nobel Peace Laureate Betty Williams, and musicians such as Jason Mraz, Hedley and Nelly Furtado.

In May 2011, West received the Fervent Global Love of Lives Medal from Taiwan’s Chou Ta-kuan Cultural and Education Foundation. In November 2011, along with his hero, Rick Hansen, West joined the Rick Hansen 25th Anniversary Relay as a Man in Motion Medal Bearer.

In 2011, Kenya experienced its worst drought in 60 years, and the effects are still being felt. In this time of need, West decided to give back in his own unique way—by climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. His extraordinary feat in June 2012 attracted worldwide media attention, including CTV, CBS, the Telegraph, People magazine, the BBC and even TMZ. With the world watching, West successfully reached the summit of Kilimanjaro, raising over $500,000 to help Free The Children bring sustainable clean water projects to communities affected by the drought. His journey can be seen in the documentary Redefine Possible: The Story of Spencer West, which debuted in Fall 2012 at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). West also shares his incredible story with the world in his memoir, Standing Tall: My Journey.

West’s quest continues. In May 2013, he successfully completed an epic 300-km water walk from Edmonton to Calgary to raise money for Free The Children’s Water Initiative, a year-long campaign to provide 100,000 people around the world with permanent sources of clean water. Special guests such as Grammy winner Nelly Furtado; Aislinn Paul and Munro Chambers from the hit TV show, DEGRASSI; “Survivor” winner, philanthropist, motivational speaker and TV personality Ethan Zohn; actor, speaker, author and former U.S. Army soldier J.R. Martinez; Canadian singer Tyler Shaw; and mamas from Free The Children’s international development communities in Kenya were amongst those who came out to walk alongside West to show their support.

Whether from conference stages, stadiums or volunteer camps in the Maasai Mara, West’s words have encouraged millions of young people to become more socially involved in their communities and in the world.

The University’s Distinguished Lecture Series was established in 1999. Each year, the UDLS Committee sponsors four to six speakers who come from Maine and beyond, representing a range of disciplines and viewpoints. While the emphasis tends to be on featuring visiting academics, it is not exclusively so. The speakers typically spend two days at the University meeting with classes and presenting a community lecture.

All are invited to attend Spencer West’s distinguished lecture and a book signing immediately following his talk. For more information about this event, contact the University’s Community and Media Relations Office at 207-768-9452. For more information about Spencer West, visit www.metowe.com/spencer-west.