“Stand Strong for Others” Charity Fundraiser
Adversity Builds Character:
An Inspirational True Life Story of Disability, Addiction, and Acceptance
An Inspirational True Life Story of Disability, Addiction, and Acceptance
by Tom Ufert
Tom Ufert is celebrating 21 years of “conquering adversity”. On September 28, 1992, Tom was in a car accident which nearly claimed his life and left him a paraplegic. But this was only the start of his battle to conquer adversity. Read about his journey in his memoir, Adversity Builds Character.
On 28 September, 2013, Tom announced: “25% of all my books sales will be donated to the world’s largest international charity assisting disabled children from 25 October through 25 December 2013. As part of my Stand Strong for Others campaign, this fundraising effort is closely associated with the United Nations and my efforts will be dedicated to helping with its U.S. division. After this two month campaign is completed, the initial donation is made, then I will be able to partner with the United Nations for a massive year-long effort for 2014.“
So please help out a great cause and a great man by buying your copy of Adversity Builds Character. On the Roll Again, Tom’s collection of inspirational quotes, is also available.
From an early age, author Tom Ufert can remember his grandmother proclaiming that adversity builds character. At the time, he didn’t completely understand what it meant – or know that he would actually live it. In Adversity Builds Character, Tom shares the events that altered and shaped his life and shows how, with God’s help, he was able to survive, thrive, and inspire others.
In this memoir, he narrates his life story and tells about the adversity he has faced – his mother’s early divorces; the breakdown of his relationship with his sister; his adoption by family friends; his mother’s illness and murder; his contact with a predatory pedophile; his questioning of his own sexuality, bisexuality, and eventual acceptance of being gay; alcoholism and sexual addiction; diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis and HIV; and paralysis from a car accident.
Revealing, honest, painful, and tender, Adversity Builds Character communicates the power of the human spirit to overcome the trials of modern life. It shows how Tom’s suffering paved the way for a deep appreciation for life and God’s role in the world.
Over the last several years many friends and acquaintances have suggested that I should write a book. Though I have considered my experiences to be merely the regular trials and tribulations of everyday life, many people insisted that my outlook and positive attitude could truly help and inspire others dealing with rough times. It is my sincerest hope that this book might indeed help in some small way.
My views and opinions are the result of experiences and encounters that I have been blessed with through my short life. I have said many times that if it were within my power to change a single moment in my life, I would not do so. Every single micro-second of my life has made me the man I am today, and of that I am proud. Like all human beings there are things I have said or done that I am not proud of. However, in hindsight they have made me who I am today. Without them my life would be incomplete. Sharon Duhon Smith, my high school senior English teacher, had a poster that still lives with me today: “We only fail when we fail to try!” There are no failures or mistakes in life unless we fail to learn from them. I can only hope that the lessons I have learned may be of help to others: the intended beneficiaries of my thoughts
It must be noted here that everything I have written is from my own interpretation; others that may have been present or privy to additional facts might see things differently. That is okay, this is my story not theirs. I only pray that my version is close to the actual truth and that it doesn’t harm anyone in the process. I believe there are always at least three sides to every story: yours, mine, and the truth: sometimes two of these are the same. Regardless of personal opinions, my sole intention in writing Adversity Builds Character is to help other people as others have helped me. By the grace of God, I hope that I succeed.
You have already read my dedication but now I must also make a few acknowledgements. I owe the title, among other things, to Joy Campbell (my Godmother/Grandmother). She stressed for many years that “adversity builds character,” and she was so right. I would not be half the person I am today were it not for the adversities I have endured. Therein also lays my deepest gratitude to God Himself; without knowing suffering in life, how could I possibly appreciate the magnificent awe and wonder of all creation or of my fellow man. That, I believe, is the true lesson of Christ’s life.
In addition I owe endless gratitude to my “adopted” parents Chuck and Karen Campbell. My original subtitle, A SECOND CHANCE, partly reflected the awesome gift they bestowed by offering me a “second chance” at life. I have learned however, life itself is full of “second chances” if one is gifted with the insight to recognize them. My life story is full of them! Before Chuck and Karen took me into their home my path was certainly clouded and troublesome. Not only did they provide a good stable home of love and structure, but they nurtured an appreciation for education and some of the finer things life has to offer — a gift I can never repay. They are the type of people who do not require recognition for their efforts; rather the satisfaction of achievement alone will suffice. My love for them can never be surpassed, though time, circumstance, and geography may separate us.
There are an endless number of truly magnificent people I have had the great honor of knowing and sharing but brief moments in time with. There are far too many for me to name here, but I will make every effort throughout my tale to give them the love and credit they so rightly deserve. Over time I have decided to alter some names and details of events for the dignity and discretion of those still living. For those individuals they will surely recognize my recollections and know in their hearts the truth of what I write; I can only hope and pray they fully understand “the method to my madness.” Regardless, to each of them I say, thank God for being in my life!
Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice then prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked Him. And he was a Samaritan.
Then Jesus asked, “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?”
Then He said to him, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.”
Luke 17: 13-19
I wanted to write this book for a number of reasons, but none could compare with the unquenchable need to shout to all creation the praises of God; not just for being alive but perhaps more importantly for being more human. In that one defining phrase I discovered what I think we all strive to comprehend — only in being more human do we “get it!” When we accept who we are, for all our faults and graces, only then do we begin to understand our true nature and therein our relationship to each other, all creation, and God Himself. How can we possibly be close to God and our fellow men if we are trying so hard to conquer both?
I remember as a small boy, don’t ask me when or where, but that the “old” people were talking over coffee. Children were supposed to be outside playing or inside sitting quietly (no small task for a brat such as yours truly). It was just such a setting and one of those rare occasions when I was tame enough to be regarded as a human child, that I must have heard ABC for the first time. If my memory serves correctly, the subject involved the unfortunate fate of a family friend troubled by ill health. I distinctly remember Grandma Campbell saying “Adversity Builds Character” and implying that some good would inevitably come from the hardship. Unfamiliar with the word adversity, and I guess wanting to obtain some of the room’s captivated attention for myself; I asked what the word meant. Past experience should have foretold the obvious reply; “Thomas if you don’t know what a word means, go look it up in the dictionary.” For some reason, of all the similar childhood experiences I had, this one has stood out. It wasn’t until some twenty years later that I penned “Adversity Builds Character” into my title.
For me “ABC” is a multifaceted concept and one that I hope can help other people deal with the struggles of everyday life. The ideas are so powerful and yet so simplistic that like sub-atomic particles, they can be lost from sight all too easily. From the moment of conception the body begins to die and the spirit begins to whither. Yet preoccupation with that fact is one of the most driving impulses in the human psyche. We spend our whole lives trying to put off the undeniable and inevitable conclusion of our existence as we know it. Yet knowing our life clock is ticking doesn’t seem to empower us to utilize that which we have. Adversity Builds Character was written with three major ideas in mind; first, life is a bed of roses, but not without thorns. Second, no matter how bad your life is, just take a look around and you’ll find someone who has it worse. Finally, like the poem “Footsteps in the Sand” God is always with you and He never gives you more than you can really handle. For me all of this comes full circle in Robert Frost’s poem “The Road Less Taken,”
Somewhere ages and ages hence I shall be telling this,
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
I am NOT perfect!!! Nor does this book seek to diminish the reader’s own trials and tribulations. Rather it was written to help espouse the mental breakthrough that while unique in every detail, we are commonly linked to each other and therein lay the key to our future. Only when a man can set aside his own selfish, almost animalistic desires for self-preservation in the wake of another’s needs, does he find that divine essence in humanity and himself. For only then can we see that forgiveness is divine and since we are all sinners, a purely human condition, we come closest to God when we accept our true humanity for all that it is.
I sought, in writing this book, to use my life experiences, good and bad, to help others. So often through my life people have said how tough I’ve had it. Yet upon reflection it’s been a wonderful life and if I could go back to change any millisecond of it, I would not! Everything that has happened has made me the man I am today, and of that fact, I am proud. Life is as life is — either accept it or change it! I only need to reflect upon the poor souls who have suffered through Rwanda, Yugoslavia, Krakow, the Sudan, 9/11, Katrina, Fukoshima, the Sandusky scandal, etc… to fully appreciate how blessed I am. I have food in my gut, a roof over my head, clothes on my back, a little money to get by on, friends who care about me, and those who love me – REALLY, WHAT ELSE MATTERS? It gives one pause when we want to whine and complain about how bad our lives are!
By Brae Wyckoff
As an author myself and a radio host who has interviewed many authors, including Tom Ufert, I was thoroughly impressed with the character and resolve of Mr. Ufert.
Adversity Builds Character will take you into the mind and life of Tom Ufert. Through most of the book I noticed my mouth agape in shock, in horror, but mostly with an overwhelming sense of love for Tom and what he has endured.
I look at what he went through and I’m in complete awe of his amazing attitude, maturity, and insight into life itself.
You won’t be disappointed with his personal story and how he has overcome tragedy throughout his career. Nothing is impossible for Tom Ufert and you will understand why when you read his book, Adversity Builds Character: An Inspirational True Life Story of Disability, Addiction, and Acceptance.
Nick Wale Interviews the Author
Tom, I wanted to ask you, how do your disabilities define your daily routine? How do you manage to get so much done?
So much done? (Laughs) That’s a laugh! I don’t feel I get enough done. When I was at the height of my college/political/arts career, I was the editor in chief of my college newspaper, chapter president/state province rep for my fraternity, attended fifteen hours of classes, worked about thirty-five hours a week, was chairman of my College Republican chapter, on the alumni boards for my HS and college, was speakers chairman for college student government, was the youngest member of my state GOP central committee, consulted for political campaigns, raised money for the local summer music festival, and had an active social life. This seems dull in comparison to that!
Your disabilities have caused you to slow down? You seem to get more done now than most people who are fully-bodied.
My disabilities definitely have forced me to slow down and many times inflict fatigue on my body. I guess having a pretty set routine has made getting anything done a practical reality. 6-8 hours of sleep is a must, and I have to remind myself to eat. Having a supportive partner, relatively strong upper body strength allowing for independent transfers, a determined will to do as much for myself as possible, and a state-funded home health aide to assist with daily household chores are all God sends.
I’m sure they are! Okay, let me jump in with something I wanted to ask you. You were heavily involved in the ’80s “mad men” era of politics, Reagan and super economics. What is the difference between being involved in the politics game and just watching the politics game?
It’s the difference between being inside politics and watching from the side-lines. That’s a huge difference. I have actually run state-wide political youth campaigns for major Senatorial and Gubernatorial candidates where being able to juggle whole legions of volunteers in several locals, going door-to-door soliciting voter support, organizing rallies and candidate appearances, attending major conventions, maintaining huge letter writing efforts and dealing personally with media coverage was a daily routine and had no set time schedule. You could be called on at any time of the day or night!
Do you keep yourself involved in current events through TV? Personal contacts?
I have to settle with keeping myself abreast of current events via the media. I can no longer pick up the phone or leap into a car to deal with the immediate crisis of the day. Many times, I no longer feel the “informed expert” of local, national, or international political events. Sure, my gift of reasonable intelligence and past insider experience provide me with a credible understanding of the political process and its veiled realities. However, like any profession, inactivity results in a loss of connections and relevant facts that are often privy only to a select few.
So, for a million dollars, how have your experiences in the political world helped your writing career?
My education provided me with a rather extensive knowledge of reading and writing.
My political experience definitely has made me very much at ease with public speaking, interviews, and the all-important skill of the personal touch that is so valuable in building rapport. This was also the case in approaching my self-publisher, iUniverse, and Barnes and Noble. I’m not intimidated by executive corporate titles or low level functionaries/bureaucrats whose primary responsibility is to protect the corporate structure from relatively unknown entities such as myself. I have no problems looking up the phone number for a corporate HQ, calling in, and working my way thru the bureaucracy until I find the individual empowered to solve my problem. Then, I introduce myself, make my pitch, gain their trust/respect, and ingratiate myself with them to the point where they feel the unquenchable urge to join my cause as a dedicated supporter.
You are quite the trouble-shooter…
Well, I coined the phrase, “Who you know gets you in the door. What you know keeps you there!” My past experiences in dealing with notable personalities, corporate CEOs, the press, managing large reams of information, and being able to multitask or compartmentalize my activities has greatly aided me in understanding how to market and promote my book.
Your genie pops out of the bottle and asks what you desire as a writer. What do you choose, Tom Ufert?
I want to inspire others coping with adversity to the point where they no longer feel helpless. Like me, they too can overcome, rise like a phoenix from the ashes, and become true icons of the human spirit. I want people to scream with all their might that they are never surrendering! In turn, their achievements can be focused outward to help others; and perhaps, over time, an unstoppable movement of noble humanity can reverse the present trends of caustic selfishness and global destruction. I know it sounds naive, but I can’t help striving to march ever onward in my short lifetime down the “road less taken” towards a better world!
You quoted Robert Frost there… What is inspiration to you, Tom?
That’s a tough one. I think for everyone inspiration is comes in different forms and appearances. However, regardless of the form it takes or the mode of delivery (music, literature, spoken word, visual art, shared life experiences, etc…), I think inspiration is anything that drives us to be better than what we are and give more than we ever thought we could. Inspiration is that which lifts us to a higher plane of accomplishment. It doesn’t have to be stupendous or even spectacular. It just has to bring us in touch with who we dare to become!
You have a quote book coming out soon. You obviously want to inspire people to do what they can to live their lives. Who inspired you?
There are many people who inspire me. Winston Churchill, Abraham Lincoln, Ghandi, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Popes John Paul II & Francis I, and Jesus Christ are just a few historical figures that inspire me. But the boy who gets up after being bullied and walks away with his head held high and smiling inspires me most of all.
Thank you for your time, Tom.
Anytime, Nick. You can count on me – just remember – I don’t stand for handicap jokes.
About the Author
Tom Ufert, a 46-year-old quadriplegic afflicted with three different disabilities, is an inspirational voice in our troubled times. He received his bachelor of arts in political science and history as a scholarship recipient from Centenary College of Louisiana. Tom is a former Rotary International graduate Fellow who attended Australian National University in Canberra, ACT, specializing in East Asian political affairs and was a White House Fellow nominee. He is a former Lyndon Baines Johnson Congressional Intern and constituency aid for two former United States members of Congress. His past services for 11 political campaigns on both sides of the aisle were highly valued by former Louisiana Governor Charles “Buddy” Roemer, Henson Moore the former assistant chief of staff to U.S. Vice President George H.W. Bush, and the present U.S. Trade Ambassador, Ron Kirk.
At age 23 he was the youngest artistic Board Chairman in the United States as head of the Shreveport Summer Music Festival. Tom has served as a member of two other 501(c) three charity boards including his beloved fraternity Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia as well as the community advisory board for his former rehabilitation hospital. Over the years he has acquired extensive customer service experience in the food and beverage, hotel, insurance, home security, and pharmaceutical industries. Tom has served as a member of two other 501(c) three charity boards including his beloved fraternity Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia as well as the community advisory board for his former rehabilitation hospital. His professional memberships include Phi Alpha Theta, Sigma Tau Delta, and the Worldwide Who’s Who. In recent years he has worked tirelessly as a volunteer fundraiser for numerous AIDS charities in his community and served briefly as the community affairs liaison for Legacy Founders Cottage. A native of Louisiana, Tom now resides in Texas.
Tom is the author of the his memoir Adversity Builds Character and On the Roll Again, a collection of inspirational quotes.