Skip to main content

Draper Journal

Bring best self every day, every way, motivational speaker tells CCHS students

Jul 03, 2019 03:59PM ● By Julie Slama

At Corner Canyon High Career Day, motivational speaker Dan Clark told students to bring their best self forward every day. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

This summer, Corner Canyon High School students may have an edge in finding summer employment, thanks not only to a career fair that was offering positions to students in attendance, but also by the motivation of their career day speaker, Dan Clark.

Projected to be the No. 1 draft choice for the NFL after starting his freshman year at the University of Utah as a wide receiver and sophomore year as a defensive end, Clark never lived up to that plan. After cracking his seventh vertebra in his neck during a drill, he told students he was told there was a chance he would never fully recover.

“I visited 16 doctors around the country and not many gave me a chance. I couldn’t lift my right arm, my eye was drooping. I met my all-time low as I knew my football career came to an abrupt end,” he said.

However, it was being asked to speak to Morgan High School’s football team that turned the self-proclaimed “suicidal recluse” into today’s well-known and well-traveled motivational speaker and author.

“I got to the Morgan High School and met Jan Smith, their coach, who has MS. I realized I wasn’t so bad off and learned I had a powerful message to deliver,” he said.

Since then, Clark has made a full recovery and has been going nonstop, recently returning to the Salt Lake area after speaking with the Make-a-Wish Foundation in San Diego and was scheduled to fly out to Iraq to speak with US troops. 

Clark has met presidents, singers, comedians, sports stars, actors and civic leaders. He has spoken at schools, conventions, charities and even at the US World Congress. He also has spoken to four-star generals and NATO leaders and was part of Nancy Reagan’s Just Say No campaign and the start of Red Ribbon Week to ensure drug-free schools.

His stop at Corner Canyon was to give students a powerful message, intermixed with stories, on Career Day.

“When employers see your application on their desk, why should they choose you instead of someone else?” he asked students. “You need to be the best you that you can be. If you’re a senior at Corner Canyon, you need to excel and be the best senior you can be. Same thing if you’re a freshman. Don’t say you’re only a freshman, but be the best freshman there is here at Corner Canyon. There may only be one job opportunity and not everyone gets a participation trophy. You need to show your passion, your creativity, your imagination, and find a way to shine. Leave the impression, ‘I like you best and I want to see you again.’”

Clark used the example of being at a hotel in Seattle, preparing for a speech, when he got word that his dad died.

“My dad was my hero. He was a special man,” he said. “Well, I knew I had to deliver my speech, so I wiped away my tears and went to the elevator. The bell boy said he lived in Seattle for 15 years, but today it was sunny and commented how beautiful the sunshine was.”

After he told the teenager his dad had just died, the bell boy said he realized something had been bothering him. He told Clark that if there was anything he could do for him, to let him know. Clark thanked him, but he thought nothing more about it.

When he returned to the hotel afterward, there was a homemade fruit basket in his room. Under careful inspection, he saw a note tucked in amongst some items, including a tomato, from the bell boy, telling him he and the cook would stay and be available all night, if Clark needed him. 

“That 18-year-old was there when I needed him. He rose to the occasion, showing his integrity and putting service before himself. He gave his best self to me,” he said.

In another example, he told of a little boy with Make-a-Wish, who wanted to be a fire chief. The local fire chief and station already had established a relationship with the boy, but upon learning the youngster had exhausted all his life lines, the fire chief told the hospital, he’d be right there — and to open the window. Moments later, the chief climbed a ladder and entered the little boy’s room to deliver his own firefighter’s helmet.

“It’s all about giving your best self to others. Start living now. What are you going to choose today to bring your best self forward?” he asked students.

Freshman Kiki Howard said his stories were powerful.

“I think it’s really cool that he never gave up and wanted to recover and that the firefighter wanted to make that little boy feel so special,” she said. “It shows how people can make a difference.”

Junior Talia Larsen also found his speech empowering and was touched by the fire chief story.

“I loved this story because it was just so tender,” she said. “Sometimes when I feel down about not being as great as someone else, Dan’s speech reminds me that no one can be better than me, because I’m me and I’m unique in my own ways. I learned how to stay positive more and just have every day be a new lesson. I learned that is very important to stay true to yourself and let yourself be your best self.”