Olympic runner shares stories of empowerment, wisdom

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Olympic gold medalist and Native American Billy Mills told a campus audience that people must overcome false perceptions in order to reach global unity, something that is “very important in a rapidly changing world.”

Mills’ November 12 presentation, about his journey to win the gold medal in the 10,000-meter run in 1964 Olympic Games, was part of Grand Valley’s Native American Heritage celebration. Events continue through November and are sponsored by the Office of Multicultural Affairs.

While a student at the University of Kansas on a track scholarship, Mills said discrimination and false perceptions of his Native American heritage was difficult to overcome. “I always reminded myself, and still do, that it’s the journey, not the destination, that empowers us,” he said.

Mills grew up an orphan on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota--one of the country’s most impoverished areas--and today is working with organizations to help provide resources needed on reservations throughout the country.

Mills said his experiences have shaped who he is today. “It’s important to me to live the virtues and values of my Native American heritage, but it’s also important to see the good in other people and cultures,” he said.