Liz Murray’s life story is sure to leave anyone awed and inspired. Murray grew up in poverty with parents who were drug addicts◆. Both parents later became HIV◆ positive, and Murray became homeless. In 1996, Murray’s mother passed away, and at this point, Murray decided that she wanted to go to school. At the age of 17, while still living on the streets, she enrolled in high school. Two years later, she was accepted into Harvard and received a scholarship◆. Despite taking several years off to care for her father, Murray graduated from Harvard before going on to become an author and motivational speaker.
Murray addressed much of her past in a TED Talk in San Diego, but she didn’t just share her story. She also talked about Ben Underwood, a young man that had his eyes removed at the age of three because of cancer. Afterward, Ben learned to use echolocation◆ to “see” his environment and easily move about. *As notable as it was that Ben was able to rely on sound waves to establish where things were, Murray found that his ultimate success was less important than the drive that Ben had to develop that amazing ability. As she asks, “What is it inside a person that refuses to say ‘I will label myself as blind’ and find another way?”
As Murray explains, this drive comes down to the “what if” voice. For Ben, it was: what if he could find a new way to see? For herself, she wondered what would happen if she went to school, if she got good grades, and if she applied to college. In asking these questions and acting on them, Murray argues that anyone can find new opportunities for themselves and their future.