YouTube sensation motivates campus

One amputee and cancer-survivor-made-YouTube-persona goes beyond what is normally expected of a motivational speaker.
Josh Sundquist spoke at an event hosted by the Sophomore Class Council in the Brower Student Center Food Court on Thursday, March 28. With almost 150,000 YouTube subscribers and over 17,000,000 views on his channel, he has built up his career by speaking on college campuses and reminding students the importance of treating people kindly, regardless of their differences.
Cancer survivor Josh Sundquist (center) brings education through laughter. (Jack Meyers / Nation & World Editor)
Yet, his brand of inspirational speaking is unique: he uses humorous situations to start a discussion about diversity.
“When someone asks me ‘what do you say when someone has a disability?’ I respond with ‘why do you feel the need to say anything at all?’” said Sundquist, a self-proclaimed “one-legged stand-up comedian.”
So, with exaggerated expressions, flailing crutches and a grounded sense of humanity, he regaled the crowd with the story of when his journey first began. At age nine, Sundquist was diagnosed with bone cancer in his left leg.
“I was given a 50 percent chance of living,” Sundquist said.
Laughter ceased and the room fell silent. In the wake of one his lighthearted anecdotes, Sundquist told the audience that before most kids were thinking about their futures, he was forced to make a decision that would change his life forever.
His choice was boiled down to either living without a leg or possibly no life at all.
A few moments later, Sundquist deliberately fell on stage — his crutches flying forward and his face hitting the ground.
“It’s this huge ordeal when the guy with one leg falls,” Sundquist said standing up, explaining that he feels uncomfortable when people go out of their way to help him up. “I know they are just being nice, but sometimes it gets ridiculous.”
What others need to remember, Sundquist suggests, is that people with disabilities want to be treated the same as everyone else.
“Treat them like a normal person,” he said. “Because guess what? That is exactly what they are.”
On the other hand, Sundquist advised that those who are set apart from the rest of society should change the way they look at their disability. For example, he re-branded his limp as a “natural pimp walk.”
“With your attitude you can take a problem in your life and make it something else,” Sundquist said.
Wooing the audience into thoughtfulness, Sundquist reiterated his take on diversity and why an individual’s attitude can change his or her life. When his leg was first amputated, and the chemotherapy was draining him of sufficient energy, he found himself waist-deep in pity.
However, Sundquist has recently found himself in a romantic relationship — the first one in his life. After years of doubting himself and his social abilities, he realized that it was an issue of perception.
“The only thing wrong with me was thinking there was something wrong with me,” Sundquist said.
With that statement, he reminisced on the successful life he currently leads, having left behind a childhood riddled with adversity.
“We all have those moments when we feel like everything is falling apart,” Sundquist said, sauntering toward his audience on his crutches. “The best that you can ask for is the courage to stand and the strength to walk.”