Wed 20 Jul 22
Anne Wafula Strike MBE has received a honorary degree from the University of Essex for her inspirational sporting career and tireless work to promote sporting equality.
The British Paralympic wheelchair racer is also an ambassador for the charities ADD, Action on Disability and Development, and Right to Play plus Commonwealth special envoy as Champion for Equality in Sport.
Anne received her honorary degree at the University of Essex’s summer graduation ceremonies.
Born in Kenya, in 2004 she began her Olympic career by becoming the first wheelchair racer from Sub-Sahara Africa to compete at the Paralympics in Athens. In 2006 Anne became a British citizen and joined Team GB and in 2007 she was officially recognised by the Queen at a Buckingham Palace reception for her work as a disabled athlete and for involvement in charity work for people with disabilities.
In her speech to graduating students Anne paid tribute to her father who she said “is a great encouragement and inspiration in my life” and told those attending: “I am thrilled and delighted to receive this honour from such a wonderful and forward-thinking University. It’s a blessing to be in your midst together with my family.
“To all of you graduating today, I never imagined that I could compete in the Paralympic Games but I did. No matter what your dream is pursue it. Hurdles may come in your way and it might be hard, but you have the world ahead of you and I encourage all of you to go out there and be the best you can be in whatever you choose to do.
“As a disabled woman, a teacher, a Paralympian, a charity worker, and a campaigner for disabled Rights and Inclusion, I believe our lives end and we die when we stay silent about issues that affect society. As you all take your next steps in your careers, remember to be kind, be supportive, and think before you judge. Be the generation that helps and truly recognises everyone is different but at the same time everyone should be treated the same. (Inclusion is an ACT and Diversity is a FACT!)”
Orator Barry Pryer from the School of Sport, Rehabilitation and Exercise Sciences said: “Overcoming adversity, achieving so much, but, crucially, not stopping there – going further, and continuing to fight with passion for equality: we believe these values are truly inspirational.
“Thank you, Anne, for telling your incredible and inspiring story. Thank you for demonstrating your own Essex Spirit, and for inspiring all the graduands here today.
“We are immensely proud to recognise and honour your achievements, and to welcome you to the University of Essex family.”