Gleeful Evening

By Matt Hawkins
October 31, 2014

Neither bullies nor Down syndrome kept actress Lauren Potter from chasing her big-screen dreams. The affable “Glee” star shared her life story in a humorous, yet pointed, October visit to Bradley.

Potter, better known as Becky Jackson on the popular TV series, is a national advocate for people with intellectual disabilities. She’s a 2015 Special Olympics World Games ambassador and member of the President’s Committee for People With Intellectual Disabilities. Potter also speaks for professional mentorship organization Best Buddies International.

“The producers have given me a wonderful opportunity — a voice to speak about things that are important,” she said. “I had to work hard to overcome obstacles. I’m so lucky to be living a dream.”

Potter encouraged people who endure bullies to turn to close friends for support against the harassment.

“You should stand up for yourself, walk away and ignore bullies. Enough is enough,” Potter said to a round of applause.

Later, to louder cheers, she offered simple advice to her childhood tormentors: “Grow up.”

The actress also addressed the dangers of drug use, citing the 2013 death of former “Glee” actor Cory Monteith as an example.

“He was so sweet and had so much talent. I hope everyone remembers him for that talent,” she said. “How fun would it be if we never have to lose another friend to drugs?”

Potter’s interest in the spotlight began in her early childhood. Joking she could dance before she could walk, Potter remembered dancing in her playpen to music at the age of three. That led to dance lessons and a career that launched with a role in 2007 movie “Mr. Blue Sky.” She was chosen for the “Glee” role two years later.

“I was so happy when I heard the news they had chosen me to be Becky Jackson,” Potter said. “I’m still having a blast and love playing the part. I love being on the show with other cast members and the great crew.”

Many students and community members stayed after the presentation for a meet-and-greet. The night made a positive impact on Joe Waytula ’15, of Chicago.

“She was an awesome, inspiring speaker,” he said. “As a special education major, I like hearing stories of people who overcome disabilities and don’t let that define their lives.”

Activities Council of Bradley University sponsored the event as part of its Disability Awareness Month programming. ACBU critical issues coordinator Satori Elder ’16, an English and psychology major from Park Forest, Illinois, said Potter’s visit humanized important issues.

“People need to be aware about disabilities like Down syndrome, and this was the perfect opportunity to show that disabilities won’t hinder going after what you want,” Elder said. “We want to inspire everyone to broaden their horizons.”