Personal · Presuming Competence

Meet Tim Harris

A few years ago, I was sent a link to a video that made me smile.  The video was about a man named Tim Harris.

Tim Harris is a restaurant owner.  He is a college graduate, a dynamic speaker, and an all-around likable dude.  His restaurant serves breakfast, lunch, and hugs.  Lots of hugs.  Tens of thousands of hugs.

He also happens to have Downs’ Syndrome.

Since then, I have used this video in lots of presentations and workshops when I want to illustrate the impact of “presuming competence” in all students, and how limiting our expectations for our students because of a perceived disability in them short-changes them in school and in life.

I kept telling myself that someday I would love to meet Tim Harris in person.

Thanks to OCALICON 2015, I got my chance.  Tim was the Thursday keynote speaker.  I got to the conference a little later than usual that day, because I took the opportunity to drop off my son at school before driving to Columbus, but I got there in time to hear Tim’s whole presentation.  From the back row.

After his enthusiastic, heart-warming address, the crowd was asked if they had any questions for Tim.  I shot up from my seat and walked through the darkened aisleway toward a microphone.  Someone else was first, and I can’t even remember what they asked.  I was second.  I had so many questions in my head from the many times I had watched the video, so many things I would have wanted to know more about his experiences and his motivations.  But, if I could just ask one question, I knew exactly what that question had to be.

“Tim, my name is Michael.  And my question is, ‘Can I have a hug?'”

Tim Harris gave me a hug at OCALICON!Tim answered with his trademark, “Oh yeah!”

I headed straight for the stage and got my hug!  The hug even came with an “I love you, man!”  I don’t know anyone else who can say they have hugged someone who has hugged a US President, and a First Lady.  But I have!

Sometimes, it just takes twenty seconds of insane courage.  I’ll never forget the day I met one of my idols, Tim Harris.

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