little person, BIG MESSAGE

By The Beacon | March 2, 2011 9:00pm

Reality TV star, Matt Roloff from ‘Little People, Big World,’ kicks off Diversity Dialogues Week

(The Beacon)

By Amanda Blas, Staff Writer --

"Little People, Big World" reality TV star Matt Roloff left such a big impression on UP students this week that many of them quoted him on their Facebook.

"Watch your thoughts, for they become your words. Watch your words, for they become your actions," Roloff said. "Watch your actions, for they become your character. Watch your character, for they become destiny. But what if we were to change the word ‘watch' to ‘craft'?"

Monday night, Roloff spoke at Buckley Center Auditorium to kick off Diversity Dialogues Week. Drawing on his own personal experiences, Roloff shared how he chose to shape his life to embrace his differences, leaving students thinking about how they could shape their destiny when it comes to diversity as well.

Born with diastrophic dysplasia, a rare form of dwarfism that affects cartilage and bone development, Roloff spent most his childhood in and out of hospitals. It was during those days that Roloff first experienced diversity, encountering people with various medical conditions.

"I was submersed in diversity," Roloff said. "At the time, I thought it was a bad thing. But looking back, it was a blessing to be surrounded by people so different."

Though Roloff attributes much of his success to the way he handled his circumstances: he initially did not accept his differences. Born to a couple of high school sweethearts and having what he described as "the perfect specimen of a human" sister, Roloff had a hard time dealing with his condition.

"I was so different that when I was born, the doctors didn't even want to show me to my mom," Roloff said. "They were so freaked out about my short arms and short legs."

But Roloff's family embraced him as he was, which helped him to accept himself and his condition.

"I used to come home crying because people would tease me at school that I'm short," Roloff said. "And one day, my dad said, ‘So what? You are short!' And I thought about it and said, ‘You know what? You're right.'"

Thanks to the support of his family, Roloff began to view his differences as empowering rather than hindering.

"When it comes to diversity, there are two sides to the coin," Roloff said. "You can practice being the victim, or you can practice the other side to be the person who's accepting when people you encounter are different. I decided early on I wasn't going to be a victim."

Having encountered many people who did not accept him because of his appearance, Roloff gave students some useful advice.

"Submerge yourself and practice celebrating diversity," Roloff said. "I would hope all of you at your age take the opportunity not to wait until later in life, but begin practicing now."

Though some students were initially drawn in by Roloff's stardom, they found themselves learning more than what's in store for "Little People, Big World."

"He's so much more than a celebrity on TV," sophomore Hillary Theriault said. "He's a bigger person with a bigger goal. Thanks to him, I learned how diversity is a bigger spectrum."

Other students were moved by Roloff's life experiences.

"It was super cool learning about the experiences he overcame," sophomore Joel Barrett said. "It was a total eye opener. It was a humbling experience that broadened my view, hearing from someone so different from me and how their own differences came to make them understand diversity."

These days, Roloff focuses on his work as a motivational speaker, inspiring audiences with his personal story. However, Roloff is best known for his family's reality TV show "Little People, Big World," which was created to help people understand and accept little people.

"If you can wrap your head around a little person being equal to you, you can wrap your head around all kinds of diversity," Roloff said.

Though "Little People, Big World" has come to an end after being featured on TLC for six seasons, there is talk of the show's return.

"Right before this, we were on the phone with our lawyers," Roloff said. "They were talking about us having a Christmas special."

In 2009, UP was featured in one of the show's fifth season episodes, "School of Hard Knocks," in which Roloff's twin sons, Jeremy and Zach, visit the campus with his wife, Amy. The twins ended up enrolling at Portland Community College, but UP may not be completely out of the picture.

"I noticed you guys have a photography department," Roloff said. "I'll have to let my son Jeremy know to check it out."


Diversity Dialogues Week schedule

Thursday, March 3


Heroism and Disability: A Roundtable Discussion

-2:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.

-St. Mary's Lounge

-Sponsored by: Diversity Dialogues Committee


Doing Christian Theology, Asian Style, Lecture: Eat, Pray, Love by Peter Phan

-7:30 p.m. – 9 p.m.

-Buckley Center Auditorium

-Sponsored by: Theology Department


A Conversation on Nicaraguan History

-8 p.m. – 9 p.m.

-Franz Hall 128

-Sponsored by: Nicaragua Immersion Trip for Moreau Center for Service and Leadership


Black Student Union's Commentary of "Good Hair" By Chris Rock

-6:30 p.m. – 8 p.m.

-Franz Hall 212

-Sponsored by: Black Student Union


Friday, March 4

CPB Coffeehouse, Slam Poetry with Jon Goode

-10 p.m. – 11 p.m.

-Location: St. Mary's Lounge

-Sponsored by: CPB


Noche Caribeá (Caribbean Night)

-5 p.m. – 7 p.m.

-Mehling Hall Ballroom

-Sponsored by: Latin Dance Club

(Bryan Brenize -- The Beacon)

(Bryan Brenize -- The Beacon)

(Bryan Brenize -- The Beacon)