Greg Louganis Is (Still) Showing Us How To Be Resilient

This year’s Rose Parade Grand Marshal is helping us usher in a new year filled with hope for a more inclusive future

Rose Parade grand marshals Greg Louganis, Janet Evans, and Allyson Felix.

It might be easy to assume a four-time Olympic gold medalist diver has never struggled much in life. With that kind of unmatched talent, doesn’t fame and fortune—and presumably happiness (and a Wheaties box)—follow?

Greg Louganis, arguably the greatest diver of all time, knows all too well that’s not quite how the story goes. Despite his success as an athlete, he’s been open about his chronic battle with depression and the emotional toll of coming out as an HIV-positive gay man in the 1990s.

But he’s managed to rise above every challenge he’s faced—whether it’s been a physical injury or a learning disability—by refusing to stop moving. At 56, he’s still showing us how to be resilient long after retiring from competitive diving. He’s the first openly gay co-Grand Marshal at this year’s 128th Rose Parade in Pasadena, California, and, as is turns out, is the perfect person to help us usher in a new year filled with hope for a more inclusive future.

“We’re all evolving,” said Louganis. “Life is always in motion. It isn’t a snapshot here or there.”

He said when reporters ask him to choose a defining moment from his life, he simply replies, “pick one.”

“They’re all defining moments,” he said. But a particularly challenging moment came in 1981, when Louganis sustained an injury to his shoulder and was told by doctors he would never dive again.

“I just poured myself into theater,” he said.

“It gave me the confidence to know I had somewhere else to express myself. Otherwise, I would have been really lost.”

Louganis credits his participation in live theater—then and now—with helping him to maintain a sense of identity outside of the world of competitive diving, but it’s also provided an opportunity for him to overcome his struggles with dyslexia.

The key, he found, was in redefining the language and approach to what had been a debilitating learning disability since childhood. Working with The Lab School in Washington, D.C., Louganis said his mind was opened up to the notion that dyslexia and other “LDs” like it actually represent mere differences in how a person learns—and not disabilities.

When a teacher told him that physically he was a genius, it blew his mind.

“I had never thought of it that way,” he said. “But that kinesthetic awareness, that mastery, there’s genius in that.”

Ironically, experts say it’s the same mechanism that creates dyslexia and learning differences like it that creates the kind of genius that has informed much of the progress and innovation we’ve seen from the likes of Richard Branson, Thomas Edison, Bill Gates, Albert Einstein, Walt Disney, and Steve Jobs, as well as stunning physical feats from athletes like Louganis and Michael Phelps.

Genius is actively being redefined by these dreamers and makers, who are able to see the world in a different way that acknowledges shapes and ignores time, and can call upon an ability to “disorient” whenever needed, says Dr. Angela Gonzales, an Irvine, California-based physician who specializes in learning differences.

“These visual, spatial learners have the ability to see the world in pictures,” she says.

And that’s exactly how Louganis once figured out how to memorize 94 pages of dialogue for a one-man show in New York in which he played 14 different characters.

“The director kept yelling at me to get off-book,” he said. “So, throughout the rehearsal process, I would read the script into a recorder and then imagine the stories happening while I was saying the words. I would rerecord and relisten every three days. That’s how I got off-book. That’s how I learned the play.”

Through his imaginary work, he said, he came to know his characters as different colors, something in their personality or cadence of speech represented a unique color by which Louganis could be triggered to remember the dialogue, rather than the words themselves.

When he froze on stage on the second night of the live performance, he turned to the audiences and said, “I’m sorry. I’m lost.” But he thought of the colors, and says “it brought me back in,” allowing him to finish the scene.

Louganis is never quite finished, especially when it comes to finding his way back from a challenge. The Rose Parade’s theme of “Echoes of Success” is most appropriate for a man whose career has spanned several decades and crossed barriers between athletics, advocacy and the arts.

After becoming the first male diver to win double gold medals in springboard and platform in the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, and again in the 1988 Seoul Olympics, his 1995 autobiography, Breaking the Surface, spent five weeks at number one on The New York Times bestseller list. He has won a total of five Olympic medals, five World Championship titles and 47 national titles—more than any person in U.S. history.

Last year’s HBO documentary, Back on Board, about Louganis’ life was nominated for an Emmy award. And last April, he was finally honored with a coveted place on a Wheaties box after decades of being snubbed, despite his indisputable diving record. He continues to act, and he regularly speaks out on LGBTQ rights and HIV awareness.

On a more personal level, Louganis finds solace in knowing none of us have to be frozen in time as long as we keep moving. Still, his advice for anyone struggling to find their way at this very moment? “It’s cliché because it’s used so often, but it does get better.”

via Honor Africans / Twitter

The problem with American Sign Language (ASL) is that over 500,000 people in the U.S. use it, but the country has over 330 million people.

So for those with hearing loss, the chances of coming into contact with someone who uses the language are rare. Especially outside of the deaf community.

Keep Reading Show less

Looking back, the year 1995 seems like such an innocent time. America was in the midst of its longest streak of peace and prosperity. September 11, 2001 was six years away, and the internet didn't seem like much more than a passing fad.

Twenty-four years ago, 18 million U.S. homes had modem-equipped computers, 7 million more than the year before. Most logged in through America Online where they got their email or communicated with random strangers in chat rooms.

According to a Pew Research study that year, only 32% of those who go online say they would miss it "a lot" if no longer available.

Imagine what those poll numbers would look like if the question was asked today.

RELATED: Bill and Melinda Gates had a surprising answer when asked about a 70 percent tax on the wealthiest Americans

"Few see online activities as essential to them, and no single online feature, with the exception of E-Mail, is used with any regularity," the Pew article said. "Consumers have yet to begin purchasing goods and services online, and there is little indication that online news features are changing traditional news consumption patterns."

"Late Night" host David Letterman had Microsoft founder and, at that time the richest man in the world, on his show for an interview in '95 to discuss the "the big new thing."

During the interview Letterman chided Gates about the usefulness of the new technology, comparing it to radio and tape recorders.

Gates seems excited by the internet because it will soon allow people to listen to a baseball game on their computer. To which Letterman smugly replies, "Does radio ring a bell?" to laughter from the crowd.

But Gates presses Letterman saying that the new technology allows you to listen to the game "whenever you want," to which Letterman responds, "Do tape recorders ring a bell?"

Gates then tells Letterman he can keep up with the latest in his favorite hobbies such as cigar smoking or race cars through the internet. Letterman shuts him down saying that he reads about his interests in magazines.

RELATED: Bill Gates has five books he thinks you should read this summer.

The discussion ends with the two laughing over meeting like-minded people in "troubled loner chat room on the internet."

The clip brings to mind a 1994 segment on "The Today Show" where host Bryant Gumbel and Katie Couric have a similar discussion.

"What is internet anyway?" an exasperated Gumball asks. "What do you write to it like mail?"

"It's a computer billboard but it's nationwide and it's several universities all joined together and it's getting bigger and bigger all the time," a producer explains from off-stage.

Photo by Li-An Lim on Unsplash

The future generations will have to live on this Earth for years to come, and, not surprisingly, they're very concerned about the fate of our planet. We've seen a rise in youth activists, such as Greta Thunberg, who are raising awareness for climate change. A recent survey indicates that those efforts are working, as more and more Americans (especially young Americans) feel concerned about climate change.

A new CBS News poll found that 70% of Americans between 18 and 29 feel climate change is a crisis or a serious problem, while 58% of Americans over the age of 65 share those beliefs. Additionally, younger generations are more likely to feel like it's their personal responsibility to address climate change, as well as think that transitioning to 100% renewable energy is viable. Overall, 25% of Americans feel that climate change is a "crisis," and 35% feel it is a "serious problem." 10% of Americans said they think climate change is a minor problem, and 16% of Americans feel it is not a problem that worries them.

The poll found that concern for the environment isn't a partisan issue – or at least when it comes to younger generations. Two-thirds of Republicans under the age of 45 feel that addressing climate change is their duty, sentiments shared by only 38% of Republicans over the age of 45.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet