Dan Malloy's visit to Westport on Thursday night was not a political one. Instead, the Democratic gubernatorial candidate shared the story of how he overcame significant learning disabilities with a group at the Birchwood Country Club.
"I would not be the person I am today if I hadn't been born with a learning disability," said Malloy, 55. "In other words, you have to play the cards you're dealt."
"An evening With Dan Malloy" was presented by Smart Kids With Learning Disabilities, a Westport-based nonprofit group that helps parents of children with learning disabilities and attention-deficit disorders.
From birth, Malloy said he faced a variety of setbacks both physical and mental.
"Long before anyone knew I had mental issues, I had physical issues, like the inability to hold a pencil," he said.
Beyond the physical disabilities, which he overcame by the eighth grade with therapy, Malloy was diagnosed with severe dyslexia and had problems reading and writing. Until the beginning of his sophomore year at Boston College, Malloy said he listened to books and textbooks on tape.
Despite the challenges, Malloy graduated magna cum laude from Boston College and went on to earn a law degree there.
The former prosecutor and mayor of Stamford gives his family credit for his successes.
"Neither [my mother] nor my father dwelled on the things I wasn't good at: they dwelled on the things I was good at," he said. "They encouraged my strengths, helping me develop different skill sets."
Westport resident Warren Shapiro, whose son Daniel, a freshman at Staples, was diagnosed with a learning disability, said he was inspired by Malloy's story.
"He's an extraordinary guy, he really is," Shapiro said. "In an age where politicians work so hard to polish their image, this guy is sharing the rawest details of his life. I felt very moved and found him very inspiring."
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