Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Adoption Awareness Month: Proving Them All Wrong By Changing The World

by John Paul Engel

I was born with severe brain damage. The doctors said I would never walk and that I would never lead a normal life. I was also born addicted to drugs. Because of all of these problems the State of Iowa deemed me unadoptable. That ment that I wasn't going to a home with a mother and father, brothers and sisters, I was going to spend the rest of my life in an institution - Glenwood to be exact.

Fortunately, there wasn't room for me in the institution so I came to the Engel home awaiting placment. Norman and Jean Engel had six of their own kids and they ended up taking in over 104 foster children. I was number #4, the one in the worst shape, I cried 24 hours a day, everyday, because I was going thru withdrawl. My start in life is one of the worst imaginable yet my life has become an amazing adventure thanks to the love of this special foster family that eventually got the state to allow them to adopted me.

Norman and Jean taught me to believe in myself and that has made all the difference in my life. They always told me "You Can Do It!" I flunked kindergarden and was put in special education classes yet I went on to graduate Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Iowa where I received the Collegiate Scholar Award, the highest academic honor confered by the University. I worked on the research staff of the Federal Reserve where I prepared briefing materials for Chairman Greenspan and forecasts for the FOMC. My work helped economists at the Federal Reserve make billion dollar decisions. I went on to the University of Chicago Booth School of Business where I earned an International MBA. I have worked in 12 countries for some of the most successful organizations in the world. In 2001, I founded my own business. I would have never had been able to do anything of these things but for the love of my parents Norman and Jean.

Last year I started Project Be The Change. Thru a book and motivational speeches I share my story with students, parents, and teachers. I sought out volunteers from some of the most successful people in the world and together we have put together a book that we make available for free.

The book can be downloaded at Recently Western Iowa Tech Community College and the Department of Education gave me a grant to print 2,000 physical books that we will be making available to 8th graders for free. I also share my story in a speech called "You Can Do It".

A short clip of the speech is available at