James Durbin….He Has Inspired Us!

By now anyone reading this has already heard or read the story of James Durbin, but I had to write about it, since my disappointment with seeing him voted off American Idol remains.

I was fortunate enough to see his original audition, which is where I first learned of his special needs and unique musical gifts (see below).

During the ensuing week’s I learned that James possessed an electric personality, and a passion for life and music.  Each performance built on the creativity of the previous one, and all of them seemed filled with an emotional reach that allowed him to connect with his audience.  The stereotypical descriptions of the disconnected autistic seem to fade away under the magic of his musical communication.

This is why his end on Idol feels so disappointing.  It was as though for one brief moment in time people around the world were being allowed to “include” someone with special needs in their life – in their living room.  I wanted that to continue as much for James sake as for people around the world.

The Sacramento Bee described Durbin’s bittersweet elimination in these words…

James Durbin once asked America, “Give metal a chance.”  OK, so what happened?

Close to 72 million votes were cast Wednesday and Durbin, 22, from Santa Cruz, was eliminated right before the Top 3 “Hometown Hero” visits where the remaining three contestants are ferried to their hometowns on private jets to be feted with parades, cheerleaders, Minor League first pitches, etc.

For Durbin, who not only represented rockers everywhere and a devoted audience who sang his praises for opening up about having Tourette’s syndrome and high-level autism, it was bittersweet to leave the show at this serious juncture.

While rockers around the world were thankful that James represented their music, everyone in the world should be thankful that he represented people with disabilities.   While James rightly described himself as high functioning, there is little question that his musical ascent opened minds and hearts to the enormous possibilities that lie within all people with disabilities.  Like James they have a voice, a song, and a humanity that will enrich our lives if we let them.

James Durbin will be remembered for some time by those who cherished his spirit in overcoming his disabilities.  His voice and song were made more powerful—for those who understood the disciplined determination he summoned just to compete in this contest.  Someday that full story needs to be told.

It is a story that likely needs to begin with this quote from USA Today’s IdolChatter

Durbin said Idol has helped the “social awkwardness” that comes with his Asperger and Tourette syndrome, but he embraces his condition: “I’m different. I’m a freak. Different is the new normal.”

Different is the new normal.   I love that phrase.  I love this kids life.

The story.

The talent.

The heart.

Who should have won?  Who should have lost?  I don’t think America Idol voting really matters.  James Durbin has already won, because that young man has done what few can do – he has inspired us!

Special Note:

SJ Mercury News Reports Historic Idol Change:

The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk announced an agreement today with “American Idol” that will allow “Durbin Day,” scheduled for Saturday, to proceed even though the 22-year-old Durbin is no longer in the competition.

The event was originally cancelled because “Idol” said Durbin would not be available to travel to Santa Cruz because of commitments to the show. But on Friday, “Idol” agreed for the first time in its history to allow an exception and to sponsor an eliminated competitor for a homecoming concert.

Traditionally, the show only sponsors hometown trips for the top three. Durbin finished fourth in the competition.

About Russ Ewell

Since 1994 I have been devoted to the research and application of innovative technology solutions to education. My passion for these pursuits has been driven by my experience as a parent of children with special needs. During the economic technological growth explosion of the 1990's I was lived and worked in Silicon Valley, and was fortunate enough to find a group of people with similar interests and passions. As a result I was able to launch a non-profit called Hope Technology Group whose mission became advancing the use of technology in education. We eventually launched Hope Technology School, which has used technology to build a fascinating and effective educational program that practices full inclusion. Around the same time, I was fortunate enough to develop and build an awarding winning program called E-Soccer with the help of great friends and excellent coaches. These endeavors have left me with a continuing hunger to learn more about the possibilites of education, technology, and inclusion.

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