COBB COUNTY, Ga. - Evan Mercer was born deaf, but it wasn't discovered until he was four years old. Specialists told his parents he would never read, and speaking was out of the question. Evan defied the prediction in his valedictorian speech at Harrison High School May 22.
"Deafness has taught me to never give up," he said from the stage. "Not when experts tell you it can't be done. Not when you've fallen so far behind, quitting seems the only way out. Not when achieving your dreams seems an absolute impossibility."
Evan told the crowd it took him seven years to say a simple three-word sentence. "Understand and quitting is easy," he said. "It's also permanent."
His speech is full of wisdom out of place in a high school auditorium.
"If you want something, refuse to allow the skeptics to poison it."
"Find your own impossible and bring it to its knees."
"Reject the idea that these are the best years of your life," he said. "My best year is going to be the last year of my life, whenever that may be."
Maybe most amazing is that this isn't a one-time viral video. Evan has been working in the community, defying expectations for years. He won a scholarship with 11Alive's Kids Who Care program for his work building outdoor classrooms and working with young deaf children.
"I want to improve lives," he told 11Alive after the nomination. "I think if I can improve hearing, people who have hearing disabilities, I think it will be a huge improvement in their lives."
That giving back started a long time ago and stretched through graduation night when he gave everyone in that audience a little piece of awe.