Hannah Thompson cannot walk or talk, but she sure has a lot to say, and she participates in more
campus activities than the average student.
Thompson was born with cerebral palsy
(CP), a group of motor conditions that
cause physical disability in human development. There is no cure for the disorder,
only hope that those living with CP
can lead ordinary, healthy lives. Since
being accepted into Elmhurst College
and getting involved on campus, she has
experienced first-hand the joy of living
independently and overcoming extraordinary obstacles.
How has your ability to communicate
changed over time?
I have always possessed a distinct way of
communicating nonverbally. During childhood, I used an alphabet board. Later on,
when DynaVox was first introduced to
me, it didn’t seem like my voice until I had
Bill Gove Scholarship
HOMETOWN: Glenview, Ill.
SCHOOL: Elmhurst College, Elmhurst, Ill.
STATUS: Undergraduate, Junior Year
AREA OF STUDY: Communication & Intercultural Studies
complex thoughts to share and it became
What is particularly challenging about
using a computer to speak for you?
I love being sarcastic and, unless you
really know me, you might not under-
stand my jokes.
When did you realize that you wanted to
become a motivational speaker?
When I was a child, I loved acting and I
went to a summer camp where I could
embraced my abilities as a performer.
After that, I joined my high school
speech team and fell in love with the art
of rhetoric. I also attended a leadership
conference that helped plant the idea
of making a career out of challenging
people to do the impossible.
What topics do you enjoy speaking
I love encouraging high school students with disabilities to go to college,
and talking to doctors about patients
with special needs. I have spoken for
Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, Illinois
American Academy of Pediatrics, and a
few middle schools and high schools.
Who are your role models and mentors?
Dr. Deatra Sullivan Morgan, my adviser
and a brilliant professor at Elmhurst
College, also has a physical disability.
She believes in me and encourages me
to do anything I want. My mother and
father mean the world to me, because
without them believing in me, I would
not be where I am physically, mentally,
emotionally or spiritually. And I know it
sounds cliché, but I want to be like Oprah.
When I become that successful, I want to
be as grateful as she is.
Why are so many people ignorant
There are not many people with disabilities out there, and most of them prefer to
stay home and be less independent than
they could be. This is due to poor attitudes
that they themselves have or their parents
have, which is incredibly frustrating to me.
If they choose to get involved, people will
have to get educated. I just get out there
and happen to educate people while I live
life, which is an incredible blessing.
Have you met many people who also
have Cerebral Palsy?
I know multiple people from school and
Camp Courage who have cerebral palsy,
but I have yet to meet anyone as cog-
nitively and physically independent as
I am, which I do not consider a victory
or anything of the sort. I would give up
everything I have for other people with
disabilities to be as independent as I am.
What are your goals for the future?
Working for NSA would be amazing, and,
of course, I want to continue public speaking. I also plan to attend graduate school