Dubai Interview with Mark
Right on the Mark—K A M Dubai 2009
Mark Hunter is the epitome of positivity — and he won’t have it any other way. Such is his cheery disposition that even details of the accident that put him in a wheelchair some 30-odd years ago are hazy for him. So, if you expect him to start his life story with:
“It was a beautiful morning in the winter of 1975, but little did I know my life was to change forever” — you’re greatly mistaken. The man may be a victim of incomplete tetraplegia (partial paralysis), but his spirit is anything but crushed. As he puts it, “all the accident did was change the way I get around”.
Recently crowned 2009 World Champion of Public Speaking, during which he beat thousands of other contestants in a series of speech contests, Mark Hunter is a school principal, life coach, passionate toastmaster and a strong advocate for the rights of the disabled. Dubai is his first visit outside Australia and he was in town recently to address the emirate’s budding toastmasters.
As Hunter wheels into the room, a low buzz ripples quickly through the audience. One suspects the reaction is the same every time he enters a room. The real show began when he took centre stage though. With humorous tales of his own fears and “sneaking up on students, thanks to the absence of the sound of footsteps”, he’d taken the attention off the wheelchair and onto himself in a matter of minutes with perfect ease.
Hunter agrees his ‘set of wheels’ may prove a distraction while delivering speeches but he uses it to advantage. “After people have known me a while, the wheelchair doesn’t exist. It’s never a point of negativity for me — it’s just part of the way I get around. On stage, I dismiss it early. I tell the audience what happened briefly so they don’t spend the rest of the speech wondering how I got to be in a wheelchair. That allows them to let go of it; it gives them permission to see it and then flick it, so that they listen to the rest of the message instead.”
“One of my messages is to maximize who you are because that’s what makes you authentic. During my speeches, I skid around stage about 40 miles an hour, burning rubber,” he says, with a hearty laugh. “I use it because I can. For me to deny the wheelchair is there would be foolish, even unwise.”
Hunter makes the whole deal seem a breeze when it’s probably anything but so. “I could give myself permission to say life’s tough but that wouldn’t do me any good,” he points out. “So, is it easy? I don’t think life is. It’s just different. The measure of you (sic) is your resilience or capacity to bounce back.” As far as that’s concerned, Mark Hunter, for one, is proving he’s right on the mark