Jessica Cox speaks to community in honor of Diversity Week

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By: Bryce Greene
For Dixie Sun News

In honor of Diversity Week, the Multicultural and Inclusion Center, Women’s Resource Center, and Disability Resource Center invited Jessica Cox to speak to DSU students, faculty and staff on March 22 in the Dolores Dore Eccles Fine Arts Center. 

Arms are an integral part of how people live. For Cox, who was born without arms, it was never a matter of if she could do what we peers were, but when and how. 

At the age of six, Cox recalls being in preschool with all the other kids learning how to tie their shoes and having to do what she now refers to as her mantra: “thinking outside the shoe.” 

Cox remembers playing on the swings at the playground and imagining herself as wonder woman flying far into the sky and watching everything from above. 

“Creativity requires the courage to let go of uncertainty,” Cox said.

As a second-degree black belt, international keynote speaker and pilot Cox has traveled around the world to speak with students of all ages and nationalities. She gives back to the handicap community and strives to motivate those who she encounters.

Mike Nelson, assistant director of the Multicultural and Inclusion Center, is one of the key people who made it possible for Cox to speak at DSU. Nelson said they found Cox while looking at TED talks and various speakers.

“Last week she was in the Philippines and next week she’s going to be on the east coast; we were fortunate,” said Nelson.

Cox flew her first airplane in 2005, and was the first licensed pilot without arms as of Oct. 10, 2008. Cox also has an unrestricted driver’s license through Arizona, is a certified scuba diver, and completed a bachelor’s degree in psychology through the University of Arizona. 

She explained that these accomplishments were not conquered overnight. They all started as small manageable tasks that she learned to do with her feet, such as texting and getting herself dressed. She has encountered countless unforeseeable challenges with each one, but what remained the same between all of them is that she never gave up.

One of the challenges that she spent a portion of her time speaking about is how she has dealt with the assumptions people make based on her disability.

She recalled being in the sixth grade when she finally made the decision to stop wearing her prosthetic arms. Under clothing they allowed her to be seen as normal by her peers and to go about her school day without getting stared at. However, they were also very heavy, uncomfortable and harder for her to maneuver than her feet.

She described the day she took her prosthetics off and put them in the closet where they still remain to this day.

“I walked to the bus stop feeling lighter, freer, more in control,” Said Cox. “I was finally going to be the person god created me to be.”

Andy Velasco, a sophomore from Los Angeles, attended the event to hear Jessica speak after watching her documentary “Right Footed” for the first day of Diversity Week.

“It was a really good experience that changed my perspective on the handicap community, it shows you there is no excuse to not be able to do something,” said Velasco.

Cox gave countless examples of times that she could have allowed her disability to dictate her life and instead chose not to use it as an excuse but to use it as motivation to show herself and the world that she could do.

In closing, she urged students to answer the question, “What does thinking outside the shoe mean in your own life?”