Michael Bortolotto defied the odds when he graduated from high school and went on to become a public speaker.
Bortolotto 48, was born and raised in Campbell River and has cerebral palsy, a condition that effects his large and small muscle co-ordination and, for many years, the clarity of his speech.
“There is some impairment, but in no way has it ever stopped me from doing what I want to do,” says Bortolotto, who shares that message with audiences around the world.
Bortolotto, who is known as the “Positive Rebel,” has spoken to everyone from hockey players to firefighters, but his message is always the same.
“There are no limitations to the mind except for those we accept,” he says. “The main message I want to deliver is to realize that regardless of the problems or challenges someone may be facing, whether it be societal, economic, financial, etcetera, etcetera, I want them to realize within themselves that they can overcome these challenges.”
Bortolotto says it’s all in how a challenge is perceived. He believes the key is to rebel against any negative thoughts that may try to creep into someone’s head and turn them into positives.
It’s something Bortolotto has done his entire life.
Growing up, he was the first student in the Campbell River school system with a disability to be entirely mainstreamed into an all-inclusive academic program. Through his first five years of school, Bortolotto relied on his memory and his mother’s help to write all of his assignments out on paper. From Grade 6 onward, he had an assigned scribe.
Bortolotto graduated from Southgate Secondary School in 1980 and credits a great group of friends for his success.
“There was an element of bullying and teasing and I was labelled as different,” says Bortolotto. “But one of the things that really helped was going to school with a group of boys who really embraced who I was. A lot of people in high school made my life really enjoyable.”
After leaving Campbell River for Nanaimo, where Bortolotto still resides, he attended Malaspina University College (now Vancouver Island University) and used an electric typewriter to complete a diploma in Applied Arts and Sciences in Recreation Administration. He started speaking publicly in 1992, when he made his first speech in Campbell River.
Since then he has competed in numerous speech contests and has either won or placed second in all of them.
He has been a member of the Canadian Association of Professional Speakers and has delivered two keynote speeches at two different chapters of the Canadian Association of Professional Speakers in Canada.
He has spoken at several schools across North America on the subjects of preventing bullying and negative peer pressure. He also teaches students how to succeed in conquering and going beyond adverse challenges and impossible obstacles to turn their dreams into reality.
Bortolotto will return to Campbell River this Friday at 7 p.m. at the Willow Point Hall to share his story.
Tickets are available at the door or in advance by contacting the Centre for Spiritual Living, 250-850-3064 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Adults, $20 and students, $5. Bortolotto will also be the guest speaker at the Centre’s May 21 Sunday Celebration at 10:30 a.m. at the Willow Point Hall.
Visit Bortolotto’s website, positiverebel.