Gabe Salazar: An Empowering Speaker.

Chika Ojukwu, Staff Writer

   On Wednesday, January 11th, students at West High gathered as they listened to the # 1 Latino speaker in the nation, Gabe Salazar. Upon being invited to West, he touched the hearts of many, evoking various types of emotion from his audience, from delight to sympathy to utmost sadness.

   A nationally-known, professional youth speaker, Salazar employs many tools in his presentations including tasteful humor, empowering insights, potent skits, and relatable connections in order to inspire and motivate thousands of teens acrossAmerica. Speaking at over 150 events a year, Salazar is well-recognized and respected as being a dynamic speaker. During the assembly, Salazar began with talking about his childhood, telling personal anecdotes that had everyone in the audience laughing. Then, he transitioned into the hardships of his past, specifically about his “wanting to fit in”, gang life, shoplifting, financial struggles, a sister addicted to meth, and a runaway father. When asked about what fueled his desire for public speaking, he answered, “I think it was something that was just always wired in me. Ever since I was little, whenever I wanted to do something, I wanted to do it out loud. Whether it was playing basketball or riding bikes with my friends, I wanted to do it in the best possible way. [My friends and I] always searched for ways to be creative. While biking, we’d think up crazy ideas like, ‘Why don’t we design a crazy ramp or something?’ We generally just always looked for ways to do things differently. So when I got into public speaking, the motives remained the same. I wanted to find ways to communicate my presentations to kids in a creative way I knew they’d understand. That’s why we involved the humor, skits, and incorporated information in a relatable manner. So that’s what I really enjoy doing – just being creative and just shocking kids, because what makes kids excited is when you’re excited. You can’t take people to a place you’ve never been.” Salazar always finds some type of way to connect with the audience in a way they will understand and benefit.

   When asked about his empowering skit Dennis, which featured a physically disabled boy named Dennis and highlighted the theme of friendship and dreams, and from where he received his inspiration from, he replied, “My little sister Gaby, who has Fragile X and a little boy named Scotty Barnett who was one of my students. It was originally written by a group of guys called the Skit Guys, and I was able to adapt it and make it into my own thing. So I really have to give the credit to them for coming up with it. But I try to do it in a very respectful way, and if you don’t hear my story about my sister or hear the story about Scotty, it could be taken very offensively. But that’s the beauty of being able to speak through it and say ‘We’re going to honor them through this.’ The messages of diversity and ‘no-excuses’ in the skit are very powerful and essentially, that’s the true beauty of it.”

   Salazar cites his family as his biggest inspirations stating, “My wife and kids are my biggest motivators.” He changes up the topics he presents at each school he visits stating, “Each school is different. They each go through different things, maybe a school is having problems with bullying or drugs, or a school recently experienced a tragedy such as a death or suicide; therefore, I try to adapt my program to what exactly that school is feeling. To be there and to feel the audience is amazing. The message is almost a living thing.”

   Salazar’s book, Born on Accident, Living with Purpose comes out this year and the most important thing he wants readers to get out of it is that “no one is born on accident, everyone has a purpose, and it’s just a matter of getting out there and finding your purpose.” Salazar’s speeches embody a special message – one of hope, determination, hard work, and courage.