Reeve Summit 2022 Keynote Leon Ford Finds Grace by Acknowledging Pain

By Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation

OOn November 11, 2012, during a routine traffic stop Leon Ford an innocent Black man, was shot by the police leaving him paralyzed from the waist down. Every day is now a reminder of the day that the Pittsburgh police officer's prejudices toward Ford, after mistaking him for a wanted gang member, cost him his ability to walk.

Leon Ford

Mistaken Identity Ends in Paralysis

Given that lived experience, Ford's message may surprise many. His keynote address at the 2022 Reeve Summit will be about acknowledging pain, working through traumas, offering grace and moving forward. His own journey embodies those themes in many different ways.

Ford says that acknowledging the pain of his own trauma was a "huge first step" essential to his healing. "I retracted for a long time. I didn't want to participate in anything that was going on in the world."

With counseling—which Ford says was the most courageous act he's ever taken—he came to understand that his own reaction was normal and expected. "When you experience a traumatic event or your life is very different than everyone around you, it's normal to feel left out and to retract. You can't just fake it and say, 'I feel good,' when you feel terrible inside. You can't fake inspiration," he says.

So, how does he maintain hope in the face of personal and societal pain? "I just focus on what I can do, how I can add value to the world, understanding that I can add value to the world just by speaking with somebody. It's the little things, those small conversations that matter."

Leon Ford Headlines Upcoming Reeve Summit 2022

Hear Leon Ford's journey in person at the upcoming Reeve Summit: Where Care, Cure and Community Connect, on October 13-14 in Washington, DC. In addition to the keynote address, the Summit offers a Welcome Reception, exhibits and more.

Reeve Summit 2022

Breakout sessions will focus on understanding neurogenic lower urinary tract dysfunction; preparing, completing and recovering from pregnancy; promoting community engagement in spinal cord injury research; airline travel for wheelchair users; improving access to healthcare by identifying barriers in underserved populations; advocating for education and careers for those living with paralysis; and tools for successful fundraising.

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