As we prepare for Christmas and the New Year, we wanted to reach out to wish you and your families many blessings during this holiday season. It is our hope that your home is filled with joy, your heart is overflowing with love, and your life is lightened by laughter as you share time with loved ones.
For us, 2018 has been full of new adventures, with the occasional ups and downs we all experience in life. Most notably, the past few weeks have been especially sad for us on a personal level.
A Heartfelt Farewell to President George H.W. Bush
First, we grieved the passing of President George H.W. Bush on November 30th. He was a thoughtful, strong and respected leader who also happened to appoint me to the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition. The Council is an advisory committee of volunteer citizens who directly advise the President, as well as the Secretary of Health and Human Services. Through its programs and partnerships with the public, private and non-profit sectors, the council promotes health, physical fitness, activity, and enjoyment for people of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities through participation in physical activity and sports. The 20 council members are appointed by the President. This is a unique council in the sense that it reports directly to the President of the United States. Senator Bob Dole nominated me to the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition because I had been a successful world champion athlete in wheelchair racing events and the pentathlon.
Kevin meets in the Oval Office with President George H. W. Bush, Sen. Pat Roberts and Sen. Bob Dole, in early 1989.
Members of the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition. Chairman Arnold Schwarzenegger stands in center, back row. During George H. W. Bush’s (#41) Administration.
(Left) Kevin first met President George H. W. Bush in the beginning of 1989 after winning the World Games and a bronze medal in the Seoul Games in 1988 (Right) President George H.W. Bush greets Kevin, when he comes to the Oval Office to be sworn in as a member of his Fitness Council.
I’m very thankful to President George H. W. Bush for appointing me the first person with a disability to his President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition during his Presidency. I knew how deep his desire was that all people can take part in the American dream when he signed the ADA into law. He had a lifelong devotion to fitness and sports, going back to his days of playing varsity baseball at Yale University, where he was part of the first two teams to play in the College World Series (1947-1948). He was the starting first baseman and Team Captain. He kept a prized possession from that era, his first baseman’s mitt, in the Oval Office. Throughout his life, President Bush remained active as a sportsman through and through, enjoying outdoor sports ranging from golf to fishing to tennis and even parachuting into his nineties. He often talked of how important it was that all Americans engage in sports and fitness.
With that appointment, I became the first disabled individual to serve on the Council, working alongside many remarkable people, including Arnold Schwarzenegger and others.
Senator Bob Dole nominated me to the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition because of my success as a world-class athlete now using a racing wheelchair following the explosion that left me confined to a wheelchair, completely paralyzed from the chest down.
George H. W. Bush was an incredible leader and the last veteran of World War II to serve as president. He was a consummate public servant and a statesman who helped guide the nation and the world out of a four-decade Cold War that had carried the threat of nuclear annihilation. As a former member of his council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition his ability to combine sports with politics were remarkable as he was known to say, “I know in politics, it helps to be competitive and it helps to learn about sportsmanship and practice sportsmanship.”
His dedication and service to his country was unsurpassed as no president before had arrived with his breadth of experience: decorated Navy pilot, successful oil executive, congressman, United Nations delegate, Republican Party chairman, envoy to Beijing, director of Central Intelligence. He constantly strove to be the best president, husband, father and grandfather whose values and ethics and fighting for Human Rights for all when he signed the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) into law during his Presidency.
The ADA helped usher in a new era of enhanced access for disabled individuals, leading to the widespread acceptance of disabled parking, and accessible building codes that provided for wheelchair ramps, grab bars and other improvements.
Click here to watch a short video clip of Senator Bob Dole introducing President George H.W. Bush, and talks about my appointment to the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition.
President George H.W. Bush also wrote the Foreword to my first book which I’m extremely grateful for! This is rarely, if ever, done by a President of the United States of America. I will be forever grateful for that kind and generous gesture, and for having had the honor of serving on his Presidential Fitness Council. I will always remember our meetings at the White House, memories which I will pass on to my family forever. Because so many of my friends and followers have asked to read President Bush’s foreword, I have included it in its entirety below.
Note About the Foreword
President George H. W. Bush, the forty-first President of the United States of America, agreed to write this Foreword for the Kevin Saunders book, “There’s Always a Way.”
It is rare that a President will write a Foreword for a book by an individual author. However, Kevin’s circumstances were a bit out of the ordinary. He had become appointed by President Bush as the first person with a disability ever to serve on the President’s Council on Physical Fitness & Sports where he served with Chairman, Arnold Schwarzenegger.
One of the more enjoyable experiences that face a president of the United States is meeting the people who come to the Oval Office to be recognized for some achievement. During my administration, one of those people was Kevin Saunders.
I had heard of Kevin long before I actually met him and knew that his story was almost unbelievable. I knew that he had survived a dreadful grain-elevator explosion in Texas, was aware that he had had to overcome incredible physical and personal obstacles, and I knew he had become – through sheer force of his will – the world’s greatest wheelchair athlete and an eloquent spokesman for the rights of the physically challenged.
Kevin and I have met several times since that day in the Oval Office. Each time, I’m more impressed with his perseverance and courage. What fuels my admiration is the knowledge that the most frightening moments of my life – and I was shot down twice in World War II – are not equal to what Kevin experiences on a regular basis.
It is my hope that he Americans with Disabilities Act, which, I am proud to say, was passed during my term as president, will enable others like Kevin Saunders, who daily face the challenges of living in a world designed for able-bodied people, to be more fully integrated into every facet of American life.
There’s Always a Way is the story of how Kevin responded to an almost overwhelming situation, changing himself and his life in the process. I hope you will find it inspiring and uplifting.
My Deepest Thanks to Coach Snyder
A few days later, on December 2, Kansas State University Head Football Coach Bill Snyder announced his retirement, marking the end of a storied coaching career. Coach was a true leader, the architect of “the Greatest Turnaround in College Football History”. In 1989 he took over a losing program and started chalking up wins more and more consistently. In just ten years, K-State was completely transformed, putting up an 11-0 season and reaching #1 ranking in the nation. Hall of Fame Coach Barry Switzer said,” He’s not the coach of the year, he’s not the coach of the decade, he’s the coach of the century.”
Kevin picture with backs during his college football days!
Most importantly, Coach Snyder helped shape generations of young men on and off the field, giving them the tools to be champions no matter what they did after college football.
(Left) – Kevin and his friend Jack Myers at the last season before the new athletic complex was built. (Center) Just one of Coach Snyder’s many quotes that had a positive impact on the lives of all who knew him. (Right) – Kevin with Head Coach Bill Snyder.
Coach impacted my life in a huge way as well. I met him soon after he started at Kansas State University. He asked me to serve as Motivational Coach for the Wildcats, something I have been extremely proud of all these years. Coach Snyder gave me an opportunity to be part of a college football program after my accident, when I thought being involved in college football would never be possible again for someone like me – completely paralyzed from the chest down and confined to a wheelchair. But Coach felt I could contribute to his football program at Kansas State. By inviting me to be a part of the team, he gave me the opportunity to be close to the game I love, and to connect with many great athletes over almost 3 decades. I am grateful for the trust he placed in my abilities, and for giving me something exciting to look forward to with every football season. Coach, you are FAMILY and we love and support you now and always. Thank you for everything Coach!
My son Steven has been along with me on the sidelines since he was only 10 years old in the early days the picture was taken at the University of Nebraska the Cornhuskers. He made it at least one game per year up to the age of 37 in 2018, for 25 years thanks to Coach Snyder caring so very much about FAMILY!
Coach Snyder is and always will be a humble man of great dignity. He’s a fantastic coach, an inspired leader, and a great man who deeply cares about the welfare of others. I feel honored to have such an example in my life.
It’s wonderful to know that Coach Snyder retired as the 20th winningest coach in FBS history and currently ranks second among active FBS coaches in wins. Under Snyder, K-State is the third-winningest program history in the Big 12.
Coach Snyder has had an immeasurable impact on our football program at Kansas State University, the community and the entire state of Kansas, and it has been an honor and a privilege to get to know and work with him as the motivational coach for over 25 years. Coach Snyder and his family always say that they came here, and stayed here, because of the people. He made us a FAMILY so we all support the Wildcats. For example, traveling in record numbers to the games as Coach led the K-State Wildcat to bowls, wins and rankings never achieved before at K-State.
The picture on the (left) is symbolic of Coach’s dedication to FAMILY, creating that sense of belonging for every team member from 1988 until his final retirement on December 2, 2018.
The picture on the (right) wad taken in coach’s early years, when he asked me to serve as Motivational Coach for the Kansas State University football team.
Yes, Doctor Seuss was right! Head Coach Bill Snyder will be remembered as one of the greatest team builders that college football has ever seen.
What he did in turning around the fortunes at Kansas State is unprecedented and his accomplishments are simply incredible. Being around Coach Snyder during those days, what I’ve seen even in tough times he is a task master whose coaching extends well beyond the football field. A great example was from the 2005 season when Coach retired the first time, when he told me out the field after the players went into the locker room. As the stadium lights were just being turned off and Coach and I were talking about the upcoming game against Nebraska I told him “Coach, I hope the players will win this game for you!” To which he replied “Kevin, I hope they’ll do it for themselves and they’ll take what they learned here at Kansas State playing for the Wildcats and apply it to their lives, so they can be successful in life as well.” He was a master when it comes to being an example of how it could be done the right way. Coach’s 16 Wildcat Goals for Success (WGFS) helped lay the basis for his program that embodied every player applying those 16 core values to their lives and everyone involved with Coach during this time helped everyone to realize that the past 30 years have enabled everyone to smile because it happened! Thanks Coach we love you!
Though we’ve been affected by these emotional developments, it’s been a great comfort to be surrounded by so many loving and supportive people. During these difficult and challenging times, it’s important for us to pull together and support one another.
We wish new K-State Head Coach Chris Klieman all the very best in carrying on Coach Snyder’s legacy!
A personal note from Kevin
Today, I challenge each one of you reading this message to evaluate your life and raise your thinking to a higher level. Start each day with a mission—a mission to take one step toward your aspirations. By taking these steps, your life will start to come together, and your aspirations will be fueled by inspiration. Much of my success has come from being associated with other people who wanted to win in life, and to do it the right way. Surround yourself with positive and uplifting people who care about your success, not only in your professional life, but in your personal life as well. Seize the most powerful thing you possess, your aspirations. This is Kevin Saunders saying, “Enjoy the Journey”.