Braden brings out the UNITY in Community

Braden brings out the UNITY in Community

Danielle Sons

Angela Braden is blind.

During her talk Thursday, Nov. 8 in the Dakota Room of The Union, Braden discussed the trials she has faced since losing her sight and how her perspective has changed because of it.  

At the age of 10, while playing, learning and doing everything an otherwise “normal” child would do, Braden found out she had glaucoma, a diagnosis that would go on to drastically change her life.

Doctors told Braden she had already lost her optic vision completely. She underwent fourteen eye surgeries in an attempt to restore her vision but eventually saw the sun for the last time during her high school graduation.

Tough days were ahead as Braden tried coming to terms with her blindness.

“As I was sitting in my room, literally in the dark, I thought how the world was moving on without me,” she said.

Braden said her eyes opened. Not the ones attached to her head, but the ones in her heart. She decided to overcome her loss of sight, and not let that define what she could do as a person.

“I made a choice to get out of the grave I had dug myself into and start living the life that I knew I was intended to live,” Braden said.

Braden asked the audience to go through an exercise that opened more than a few eyes to the implications and unnecessary act of judging someone without ever having spoken to them.

Braden started by listing five different types of people and asked the audience to write down words that came to mind when they heard them.

The five were a person in a wheelchair, a veteran with a disability, an African American teenage male, a middle-aged white man and Hispanic women.

Once Braden had gone through all five people, she had her audience present some of the things they had thought of.

Almost all of the words and phrases people had written were stereotypes.

Braden said stereotypes don’t apply to everyone, and judging others based on an idea in our heads doesn’t form grounds for a healthy community.

“You don’t stumble into unity, you come into it,” she said.

Braden challenged the audience to gain different perspectives, something she said will make a community grow in the long run.

During the Q&A, an audience member asked Braden why she talks to college students all over the country.

“I feel I am charged with sharing my experiences so that today when you leave here, you can employ empathy, and make the world a better place,” she said.

The resounding quote brought an impactful end to Braden’s talk and left the audience with something to think about for the future.