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"Don't Let Anyone Steal Your Dream" Navy Pioneer Carl Brashear Tells DePauw Audience

May 3, 2001

May 3, 2001, Greencastle, Ind. - Master Chief Carl Brashear, legendary in the U.S. Navy as its first African American Master Diver, and the first person in naval history to be restored to full active duty as an amputee, told a Greencastle audience, Video Link [DOWNLOAD VIDEO: "Dream" 232KB] "I'm hoping you will be inspired to set goals and not let anyone steal your dream." Brashear, whose tale of courage and persistence was the subject of the recent film Men of Honor, spoke in Meharry Hall of historic East College on the DePauw University campus this afternoon.

"I would do it all over again, if I could," said Brashear. He recalled enrolling in the U.S. Navy in 1948 and several years later deciding he wanted to be a Navy diver. In the process of realizing that goal, Brashear says he received hate mail, "and sometimes my project would be sabotaged." He remembers that it took "a lot of dedication to succeed and to not give up."

In 1966, he was confronted by his greatest challenge. While attempting to recover a nuclear weapon submerged in waters off the coast of Spain, Brashear was badly injured in an explosion. When he was airlifted to a military hospital six hours later, a doctor pronounced Brashear dead, only to change his mind after hearing faint breathing coming from the diver. Video Link [DOWNLOAD VIDEO: "Survived the Morgue" 632KB] Audio Link[DOWNLOAD AUDIO: "Survived the Morgue" 331KB] "So I can say today that I survived the morgue," quipped Brashear. His injuries were no laughing matter, though. Surgeons had to amputate his left leg below the knee.

Brashear's supervisors told the diver he should retire, that his military career was over. "I could not accept those words because I was driven and determined to meet my goals," he remembers. Instead, Brashear began a grueling, self supervised rehabilitation program, and eventually proved even his greatest cynics wrong. In 1970, he qualified as the first black master diver in the history of the U.S. Navy.

In the fall of 2000, American moviegoers were exposed to the Carl Brashear's inspirational story. The 20th Century Fox picture Men of Honor, stars Cuba Gooding, Jr. as Brashear (the two are pictured at left) and Robert DeNiro. Brashear, who grew up in Kentucky, attended a one room, segregated schoolhouse and had a seventh grade education until continuing his education later in life, was invited to a White House screening of Men of Honor and sat next to President Clinton. "I can say that I have made it from the outhouse to the White House," he told his DePauw audience. Audio Link[DOWNLOAD AUDIO: "More on the Movie" 164KB]

Brashear, who at one point had his audience chant in unison, Video Link [DOWNLOAD VIDEO: "In Unison" 314KB] "I "ain't gonna let no one steal my dream," summed up his life story by saying, Video Link [DOWNLOAD VIDEO: "Shaking it Off" 764KB] "I was able to turn tragedy into triumph, even with the dirt I had on me the dirt of racism, the dirt of prejudice, the dirt of discrimination, the dirt of doubt, the dirt of disbelief. I had it all on me but I had the ability to shake it off and raked it under my shoe until I was able to step over adversity," he said.

In closing, he advised the crowd, especially young people, to set goals, have a good attitude and stay focused. Audio Link[DOWNLOAD AUDIO: "Brashear's Advice" 202KB] "Some people may not like you," he said, "but they can't stop you."

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