LAWRENCEVILLE, Ga. - Aimee Copeland will be the keynote speaker at Georgia Gwinnett College's 2016 spring commencement ceremony Thursday morning.
Copeland made national headlines four years ago for her brave battle with necrotizing fasciitis - also known as flesh-eating bacteria - following an accident on a zip line in the Little Tallapoosa River. The infection almost killed her, and amputation of her extremities was required to save her life. Copeland refused to let her circumstances put limits on her, and has worked toward completing her education. She plans to launch a practice specializing in wilderness therapy for people with disabilities.
Copeland will share her inspirational insights with more than 470 graduates and an expected audience approaching 5,000.
"You can live your life with courage, dignity and joy," she said. "Compassion leads to healing. A lot of issues in life are petty." She discussed how she confronted her limitations as challenges to overcome. "No matter what you want in life, if you want something bad enough, you will find a way," she said, sharing a story about how, despite no longer having hands, she learned how to tie her long hair into a ponytail.
She also shared encouraging words inspired by one of her nurses, who gave her a hand-made doll she showed the audience. The nurse had written a message on the back of the doll, pointing out that the doll is imperfect. "I learned that this body is just a vehicle," Copeland said. "I am a spiritual being much bigger than this … Nobody is perfect. It's what we do with what we have that counts."