National Disability Independence Day was recognized July 26 in the United States. The observance commemorates the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act into law in 1990. In this feature, we look back at a story previously published by Notre Dame Alumni Association about Alex Montoya ’96, a sought-after motivational speaker and author, who shares his story of overcoming adversity and living an inspired life.
Alex Montoya ’96 was born without arms or a right leg, but he doesn’t spend a lot of time lamenting what he doesn’t have. Instead, he focuses on what he does have: three prosthetic limbs that help him live a mobile, independent life, and a platform to help others by sharing his story.
“My whole belief and my whole purpose is to show people not to take for granted the life that we have. Most people that I encounter have two arms and two legs, and I honestly think that we get so caught up in our deadlines, responsibilities, issues, and challenges that we sometimes don’t stop to think that not all of us have that: two functioning arms and legs,” Montoya says. “Me being in the position of wearing three prosthetics, I look at people who are in wheelchairs and need help getting out of bed in the morning and think about how good I have it. We need to pause and thank God for the little things, things that we probably don’t give a second thought to every day.”
Montoya was born in Colombia, his disabilities a side effect of the drug thalidomide, which was used to treat nausea in pregnant women before it was found to cause birth defects. He came to the United States at age 4 to receive prosthetics at the Shriners Hospital for Children in San Francisco and Los Angeles, staying with his aunt and uncle. Later, he went on to attend Notre Dame, earn a master’s degree at the University of San Francisco, and work on the corporate side of Major League Baseball for a decade. Today, he is a sought-after motivational speaker and author, and has shared his story nationwide, speaking at the likes of Google, NASA, and Harvard, focusing on overcoming adversity and living an inspired life.
Originally published by Notre Dame Alumni Association at weare.nd.edu on December 10, 2018.