Long before J.R. Martinez won legions of fans as the 2011 winner of Dancing With the Stars, he was inspiring audiences of all kinds with his remarkable story. His message of resilience and optimism will resonate with ALA attendees given the current challenges facing libraries and librarians, and has already inspired a wide variety of organizations including veterans groups and schools. Martinez will help end the conference on a high note.
Martinez credits the following experience for the life he is living today, and will talk about how he found strategies for positive outcomes in tough times. “I do believe everything happens for a reason and I’m extremely grateful for that day because it led me into this life,” he says. While serving in Iraq in 2003, the Humvee he was driving hit a land mine leaving him trapped inside the burning vehicle. Suffering smoke inhalation and severe burns to over 40% of his body, he spent the next 34 months in recovery, undergoing 33 different surgeries, including skin grafts and cosmetic surgery. He resolved to use his experience to help others, visiting with patients in the hospital, sharing his story and listening to theirs. Martinez started to get noticed by the national media as a speaker.
Martinez’s new book Full of Heart: My story of Survival, Strength, and Spirit will be published in November 2012. In addition to his ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars” win, he was named Grand Marshal of the 2012 Tournament of Roses Parade, joined the cast of ABC’s All My Children in 2008 as combat veteran, Brot Monroe, appeared on the cover of People Magazine, in the Sexiest Man Alive issue, and was one of their 25 Most Intriguing People of 2011.
Martinez’s appearance is sponsored by Hyperion Books.