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Speaker reflects on definitions of success, value of self-worth

| Friday, April 5, 2019

Saint Mary’s Student Diversity Board welcomed Gabe Salazar, a motivational youth speaker, podcaster and author, for a panel in Rice Commons on Thursday night. Salazar travels the U.S. speaking at grade schools and universities about different social issues and his life experiences.

As the author of the book “Born on Accident, Living with a Purpose,”  Salazar said he wanted to speak candidly about his life experiences like he had within his book. Besides being a published author, Salazar is also a highly rated podcaster who puts out content to help motivate Latino youth.

Salazar said much of his life has been shaped by experiences he had as a child.

“I was born to a teen mom, abandoned by my father and grew up homeless in a car in Houston, Texas,” he said. “But I became the first of my family to go to college after overcoming obstacles of homelessness, gang influences.”

He said the conversation around ambition and success is often unproductive because of conflicting definitions.

“It’s not about who went through what stuff, it’s about overcoming hard stuff,” Salazar said. “I think every individual needs motivation. It is so important. The problem with motivation and even the word success is that half the room thinks one thing  — something monetary — and the other half thinks the other thing — happiness.”

Motivation was what pushed Salazar through high school and into college, he stated, but figures in his life helped him along the way.

“Mentors will make a difference in your life,” he said. “He wrote me a letter of recommendation for a scholarship and he helped me fill out my FAFSA. I won that scholarship, I got accepted, became the first in my family to go to college and I graduated in 5.5 years.”

Once Salazar finished telling the audience about his life story, he began to speak on issues many young adults are forced to deal with, such as mental health.

“It’s no wonder in America, in 2019, we have the highest rates of depression, anxiety, teen suicide, teen drug use — more than we’ve had in the history of America — where students don’t even love themselves,” he said.

Being kind to oneself and following the Golden Rule — or the Rule of Reciprocity, as he explained it — is something Salazar said he believes in and promotes in all of his talks.

“I believe in treating others with kindness, with dignity, with respect, because I have such a high expectation and value system for myself that when I do good things for other people, I do it because that’s the value I have for myself,” he said.

Speaking on his relationship with his father, he said understanding human emotion is key to unlocking one’s potential.

“When I started understanding that emotion is a choice and the human being is stronger than any emotion — I can choose to hate and I can choose to love,” Salazar said. “When I chose to love, something changed in me. I became a better speaker, a better father, a better husband, a better human being.”

The event ended with Salazar playing a game he had created called “Fact or Opinion.” An audience member volunteered, and he began to ask her fact or opinion questions. This was a game he played with his own daughter when she was younger to help her learn her worth as an individual. Salazar said he first began playing the game with his daughter to teach her self-worth, and now he plays the game with audiences to teach them the Golden Rule.

“Fact or opinion: we are on Saint Mary’s campus; we are in Indiana; the sky is blue; it is raining outside,” he said. “You are incredibly gorgeous. Fact or opinion, you have great significance in this room.”

Salazar continued with this exercise for a few more minutes before he had the volunteer retake her seat. Closing his talk, Salazar said he hopes everyone learned something from the activity.

“As long as you can look in that mirror at the end of the day and be able to say, ‘I just love who I am,’ you’ll have success,” he said.

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