Pablo Pineda Ferrer is an influencer in the most noble and positive sense of the word: teacher, lecturer, writer, actor … and also the first Down syndrome in Europe with a university degree.
A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of meeting him personally at a Sanofi event about people with special abilities and self-improvement.
He has inspired me to write about the vicious circle between “wasted talent” and “limiting beliefs.” I think it is essential to give more voice to people like him that break barriers and encourage us to face ours with more determination.
How the “is that” or “has never been done like this before” block us and the “must” or “what if we try?” lead us to move towards new horizons. A key issue in this paradoxical world of anguish and at the same time exponential opportunities for those who know how to take advantage of them.
Listening to Pablo Pineda is meeting the best of the human being: illusion, sacrifice, determination, solidarity, humility, tenderness, courage … and all this combined with wise doses of intuition, humor and grace from Malaga.
I take apart 10 of his reflections that inspire to move towards our dreams:
- Self-knowledge: I define myself as a young man from Malaga, idealistic, realistic, talkative, sensitive and easy to cry, cheerful and sociable. And especially as a boy whose Down syndrome has not conditioned me although the beginnings were not easy.
- Personal purpose: I am aware of the responsibility I have for Downs syndrome to be seen differently and to facilitate their social integration. With this illusion I get up and get to work every morning even if one day I am not in good health.
- Self-demand: My parents had revolutionary ideas for the time: they taught me to be as autonomous as possible. My 3 brothers challenged when I was a child and treated me as one more. That helped me gain confidence, not stop growing and overcome my limitations. The natural overprotection of family members is the first major barrier for the disabled.
- Active acceptance: I am proud of who I am and have enjoyed being Down syndrome. I face my reality without drama and try to improve myself to help others and enjoy life.
- Diversity: in an increasingly globalized world we have to bet more on a “genuine diversity” where each person brings different nuances to the whole. All minority groups (including the disabled) play an important role here.
- Solidarity: In addition to my family there were other key people in my evolution and education. I highlight Miguel López Melero (Professor at the Faculty of Education of the University of Malaga). He helped me overcome the obstacles in the 90’s to integrate people like me in the University.
- Resilience: During sophomore, my colleagues in the Institute ignored me because they saw me as “different”. I had a hard time but, at the same time, this episode made me mentally stronger.
- Humility: When I won the ‘Concha de Plata’ award in 2009 it was a great satisfaction … but in the end it is just one more step in my personal struggle to achieve a better world.
- Courage: Today only 6% of disabled people have access to the University. It is an unfair situation that we must resolve.
- Vision: I have contributed more humanity to my brothers. Having a family member with Down makes you more kind and transforms you into a positive one.
Some UN data on this group should move us to action (full report):
- People with special abilities account for about 4 million in Spain and 1000 millions in the world.
- A 25% of Europeans have some type of disability according to the European Union.
- Almost 400 million disabled people are of working age, with unemployment rates exceeding 80% in some countries.
- Only 10% of disabled people have such severe problems that they are disabled for an active working life.
- 90% of children with disabilities do not attend school according to UNESCO.
Why waste all that talent and limit the vital dreams of so many people?
As Pablo Pineda says: “Others can set limits, I can’t. The really important thing in life is to be happy”.
Hopefully his legacy will creates a precedent and in the coming years more people with Down syndrome have greater social relevance. It will be a clear sign that we are on the right path: a necessary and real integration.