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Syracuse University Student Shares Theme of Living Loud, Being Proud of Differences

December 1, 2016
Source: Syracuse University

Justin Bachman, [a member of the class of 2019 at Syracuse University] has never forgotten the day that changed his life and started him on his mission.

Bachman, who has Tourette Syndrome, was disqualified from an eighth-grade cross country meet because of the involuntary noises he makes due to the neurological condition.

“The officials had no idea what Tourette Syndrome was, even though I was trying to explain it and trying to handle the situation as best as I could,” says Bachman, whose teammates also tried to intervene. “The referees refused to understand my differences. It was a situation that I knew I couldnt win, and it was a situation that I never wanted to feel myself in again.”

He also knew he didnt want others to go through the same situation, and so for him the best way to counter what had happened was to start educating others about differences.

“Not only differences that I had but the fact that everybody has something that makes them different,” says Bachman, a broadcast and digital journalism student in the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. “Speaking and sharing about differences was the best way I knew I could do it.”

Out of his revelation came “Living Loud,” a presentation on tolerance and acceptance that he has shared with middle and high school students and college students at 150 schools in 16 states over the past six years.

“Living Loud means being proud of who you are and being able to show it off to everyone around you,” Bachman says.

A member of the Chancellors Workgroup on Diversity and Inclusion, he was recently a featured speaker at a National Disability Employment Awareness Month event in October at the Syracuse Veterans Administration Medical Center.

Among his numerous awards for his presentations, Bachman, of Cleveland, Ohio, received the Presidents Volunteer Service Award from President Barack Obama and the Council on Service and Civic Participation twice while in high school.

“I [am] very thankful that I [have] never been afraid to get up in front of a crowd. I really do live as loud as I possibly can,” Bachman says. “There [is] nothing I hold back, and so getting up on a stage, while not the easiest thing to do simply because a speech is a lot of work with a lot of preparation, it was the best medium for me.”

Bachman shares more of his message to Living Loud and what he hopes people take away from his message. [Note: A series of questions (Q:) and answers (A:) follow next.]

Q: What are the key themes of Living Loud?

A: Living loud, at its heart, is about tolerance and acceptance of everyone else around you, but more importantly of yourself—of being able to see those things that make you different from everyone else. Its not a bad thing but something that makes you who you really are and makes you amazing.

I talk a lot about the situations that I [have] experienced in my life because of being different—things like exclusion, unintentional harm, times when other people have been an upstander, times when I [have] been an upstander and the way intolerance can affect people.

Q: How do you describe an “upstander”?

A: Being an upstander is really the central story of Living Loud. Its the story of the cross country meet, and thats a key point that I want people to take away. At that cross country meet, my teammates were able to stand up and say something to those referees that were giving me a hard time. My teammates knew about my differences. Its never easy to stand up to a person in authority, especially in eighth grade. But it was a day that changed my life forever and it was able to happen because my teammates stood up.

Standing up showed me that I could. I hope that everyone who leaves my presentation leaves knowing they can be an upstander, no matter what they are standing up for, as long as they truly believe in their heart its right.

Q: What do you hope resonates with people after hearing your Living Loud presentation?

A: Too often we see these things that make us different as negative things that make us less. My main goal, if I have accomplished anything, is that people walk away not necessarily with their minds changed — because I know 45 minutes is not going to change an entire mindset — but I want them to at least start thinking about it a different way. My goal is really empowerment.

Justin Bachman wants others to be proud of their differences and spreads a message of tolerance in his Living Loud presentations.

Q: What did it mean to you to be awarded the Presidents Volunteer Service Award?

A: I was very humbled. You dont do it for the recognition, but it is very nice to know that there are people out there who appreciate the good works you do. Its a nice bonus on top.

Q: Why did you decide to come to Syracuse?

A: I want to be a news anchor. I want to be someone in a community who can talk about what is going on and hopefully unite the community together for positive change. I saw Newhouse and broadcast journalism as the best way for me to do that.

Q: How do you Live Loud?

A: I guess its more of a lead by example. I really do not hold back. I [am] a very involved person. I [am] a member of Orange Seeds [an organization that assists first-year students in becoming familiar with campus and encourages them to be active] and a resident advisor in Lawrinson Hall. I love to help people and be able to spread my message by just being who I am — and being proud of it. I hope other people follow my example.

Q: Do you take after your parents? They must be proud.

A: They are the reason I am who I am.

Note: The Southeast ADA Center is a project of the Burton Blatt Institute at Syracuse University.

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