Deaf Valedictorian Delivers Inspirational Speech

Evan Mercer delivered a high school graduation speech about overcoming deafness.

ByABC News
May 30, 2014, 12:55 PM

May 30, 2014 — -- “Who could ever have imagined someone like me would make it this far?” asked Evan Mercer last week during his high school graduation speech as class valedictorian.

Mercer offered classic advice to his fellow classmates to never give up -- except the words meant much more coming from him. That's because Mercer is deaf, and he told the story of the serious setbacks he faced to graduate first in his class at Harrison High School in Kennesaw, Georgia.

Mercer didn’t start to speak until he was 5, according to his mother, Pam Mercer. Despite her son being at a disadvantage, though, she was determined to not treat him any differently.

“I’ve expected him to do everything every other kid does, and I saw no reason why he couldn’t,” she told ABC News. “And if he struggled the first time, we just tried again.”

Mercer, 18, worked hard throughout school, receiving no special treatment other than sitting at the front of the class and using a special audio system so he could hear the teacher.

All his hard work paid off: He received full tuition to Vanderbilt University.

“Deafness had taught me a lesson to never give up,” he said in the speech. “Not when the experts tell you it cannot be done. Not when you have fallen so far behind that quitting seems the only way out. Not when achieving your dreams seems an absolute impossibility.”

Mercer spoke for about four minutes, after which he received a standing ovation from the class and supportive messages from family, friends and strangers.

“They’ve been sending me messages on Facebook, email, they’ve been talking to me in person telling me how it had an impact on their lives and how they’re really inspired by it,” Mercer told ABC News. “It feels amazing. Seeing that my words actually have an impact on someone and that they want to do more stuff because of my words makes me feel wonderful.”