When Victor Reid, a Michigan seventh grader with dyslexia, got a class assignment to write a letter to someone famous, he chose business mogul Richard Branson.
It was an easy decision for Victor. The seventh grader was inspired by Branson’s success. He also knew that Branson had struggled with reading and writing in school. Victor wrote:
“Dear Mr. Richard Branson… It is difficult for me to read and write essay papers… When I am feeling down, my mom reminds me of all the successful people we know who are dyslexic and all of their great accomplishments. Then I know I’m not the only one struggling. When you were having a difficult time learning, what do you think about? What inspires you and pushes you to keep going when you are discouraged?”
To Victor’s surprise, Branson wrote a letter right back.
Thank you for your letter. I am most humbled that you find inspiration in my story. I have struggled with dyslexia, and at times my condition has made me feel the lowest of lows.
It sounds like you’re in a great school, which is catering well to your learning needs — so you’re off to a much better start than me. Just don’t worry if you find things difficult… Remember: School does not define you.”
Branson also encouraged Victor to follow his passions:
“If you focus on what you are passionate about, you will most certainly achieve great things. I did, and in an odd twist of fate, it was my dyslexia that paved the path to my success.
Challenged with a learning difficulty that caused me problems with reading, writing, and spelling, I saw things differently than most people and learned to value simplicity. When I started Virgin, I made sure that it became the cornerstone of the way we did things — and in the process I managed to turn a great disadvantage into my biggest advantage.
Victor, just because you don’t get the grades in school, doesn’t mean you won’t make the grade in life. Keep your head up, a smile on your face, and a positive attitude, and all your dreams — like mine — will come true.
All the very best,
Getting a personal response from Branson was a big confidence booster for Victor. “Richard Branson embraces his dyslexia, he talks about it,” noted Victor’s mom Jenn McMaster in an interview with a local news station.
This isn’t the first time that Branson has reached out to young people with dyslexia.
Last May, Branson shared a video by Isley Hermansen, then a 12-year-old with dyslexia. He also sat down for an interview about dyslexia with Quinn Bradlee, from Understood founding partner, the National Center for Learning Disabilities. Branson seems to have a soft spot for young people with dyslexia.
See Victor’s full letter to Branson, and Branson’s response, on the Virgin website.
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The Understood Team is made up of passionate writers and editors. Many of them have kids who learn and think differently.