Tell your 4-year-old daughter who asks why she has to wear glasses, a hearing aid and an eye patch that they're what make her unique, R. J. Mitte, a star of the hit AMC show "Breaking Bad," said Tuesday at Harper College.
After Mitte, who has mild cerebral palsy, spoke for half an hour, questions from the packed audience of 443 were submitted on cards, and most of the ones read by the assistants were about real life, not the popular TV show that just ended after five seasons.
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That was a good thing because the 21-year-old actor was more eloquent giving those answers than in his prepared remarks.
"When they're older they'll understand," he said. "They will realize that everything that they did, everything they had to overcome, that pushed their back against the wall made them better people."
Mitte advocates for organizations that help people with cerebral palsy and for others that work with actors with disabilities.
The tall, thin young actor is passionate in his work against bullying and urged everyone to get involved, to speak up for their family and friends and what is right.
"When you have a disability you become a target," adding that he suffered a broken hand and other indignities from bullies.
"Bullying is such a big deal. It doesn't affect you short term. Long term it's a bigger wave. You say something and do something and affect someone's life. Even though what you do is very small, the chips actually become cracks."
Despite his youth, bullying on social media was not around when Mitte was a child, and he warned the young crowd how permanent and widespread nasty things put on social networks can be.
But he also pointed out that social media can provide a voice for people with disabilities.
The important things in life are helping others, challenging yourself, overcoming fears and learning from mistakes, he said.
"Cerebral palsy takes many forms. Mine affects my speech and my muscles, fine and gross motor skills. It's like having a giant charley horse through your whole body 24/7. You have to fight to take control of your body. If I can do this, what are you capable of?"