Elizabeth Smart to speak at BGSU Nov. 5Written by Sarah Ottney | Editor in Chief | email@example.com
Fourteen-year-old Elizabeth Smart captured the attention of the nation when she was kidnapped from her Utah bedroom in 2002 — and even more so when she was found alive nine months later.
Smart will speak in Bowling Green on Nov. 5 as the inaugural speaker in Bowling Green State University’s Ordinary People, Extraordinary Stories series, hosted by BGSU Libraries and the Library Advocates Board.
“She tells her story with such grace and determination,” said Sara Bushong, dean of University Libraries. “Our hope is that people hear her message of hope and that it can be impactful in their lives in some way.”
The event will take place at the Bowen-Thompson Student Union. Dinner starts at 7 p.m., with Smart’s presentation to follow at 8 p.m. Tickets for the dinner and presentation are $50. After the presentation Smart will sign books, which will be available for sale.
A 45-minute VIP reception with Smart will start at 6 p.m.; the cost of the predinner reception, dinner, presentation, signed book and VIP parking is $250. Smart will share her experience, which she chronicled in her memoir “My Story,” published in October.
Taken from her bedroom on June 5, 2002, as her younger sister slept beside her, Smart was held captive for nine months by her abductor Brian David Mitchell and his wife Wanda Barzee, who controlled her by threatening to kill her and her family if she tried to escape.
In her book, Smart writes that her faith is what sustained her through months of rape and abuse. She was rescued by police March 12, 2003. Mitchell is now serving life in prison while Barzee was sentenced to 15 years.
“I remember so many overwhelming feelings and emotions,” Smart wrote in her book. “Terror that is utterly indescribable, even to this day. Embarrassment and shame so deep, I felt as if my very worth had been tossed upon the ground. Despair. Starving hunger. Fatigue and thirst and a nakedness that bares one to the bones. … All of these memories are a part of me now, the DNA inside me. Indeed, these are the things that have moved and shaped me, sometimes twisting, sometimes wrenching me into the person I am today.”
However, Smart said she took advice from her mother to move on and not let her captors take any more of her life than they already had.
“I decided very early that I only had one life and that I wasn’t going to waste it,” Smart wrote. “As of this writing I am twenty-five years old. I have been alive for 307 months. Nine of those months were pretty terrible. But 298 of those months have been very good. … Looking at it that way, I don’t think I have much to complain about.”
Smart, who later graduated from college, served overseas as a Mormon missionary and got married, now serves as president of the Elizabeth Smart Foundation, which advocates for change and legislation related to child abduction and recovery programs. She also serves as a commentator on missing person and child abduction cases for ABC News.
Smart will also speak to a group of BGSU students earlier that day, Bushong said.
“She was a university student in Utah not that long ago, so I think she’s really excited to talk to students,” Bushong said.
Representatives from Wood County’s SAAFE Center, which advocates for survivors of sexual assault, will be on hand during both events, Bushong said.
“At an event like this, feelings surface that might not be expected,” Bushong said. “As people hear Elizabeth Smart’s story and feel the need to talk to someone during the event or after, they will be available.”
Bushong said the library plans to offer a speaker once a year or every other year. Proceeds will help fund the libraries’ digitization projects.
“There are so many ordinary people out there, but they tell extraordinary stories,” Bushong said. “We’re already thinking of ideas for next year.”
For more information, visit www.bgsu.edu/libraryevent.
Tags: BGSU Libraries, Bowen-Thompson Student Union, Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green State University’s Ordinary People, Elizabeth Smart, Extraordinary Stories, Library Advocates Board, Utah, Wood County’s SAAFE Center