Growing up, Elizabeth Bonker never imagined she’d give a commencement speech as valedictorian at Rollins College.
For much of her life, she never even thought she’d be able to speak — that’s because Elizabeth is autistic and nonverbal. The challenges she faced being unable to communicate like the people around her left her mind in a “silent cage.”
But that cage began to open up when she started learning how to type. Using a keyboard and an AI voice, she found herself better able to communicate and be educated like her hero, Helen Keller.
During her speech, Elizabeth highlights the struggles she has faced, including having a high school principal refer to her as a slur who “can’t be valedictorian.” She also discusses how, despite everything and everyone that challenged her, she continues to choose to celebrate every victory both big and small.
“God gave you a voice,” Elizabeth said. “Use it. And no, the irony of a non-speaking autistic encouraging you to use your voice is not lost on me. Because if you can see the worth in me, then you can see the worth in everyone you meet.”
Watch Elizabeth’s powerful commencement speech in the video below, and don’t forget to share.
Want more good news?
Sign up for Smile, our free daily good news email with over 600,000 happy and optimistic subscribers!
You share, we give! Every time you share an article, we donate to Smile Train to provide life-changing cleft surgeries to children in need.
$13.44 raised today! Learn more here.
Share to Give!
Every time you share an article, we donate to Smile Train to help provide life-changing cleft surgeries to children in need. Spread good news, change lives! Learn more here.
$13.44 raised today!
Want to be happier in just 5 minutes a day? Sign up for Morning Smile and join over 455,000+ people who start each day with good news.