Motivational Speaker Challenges Students to Eradicate Bullying, Be the Change the World Needs


Carolyn Brown, Adviser, Online Tritonian

“When I was five years old, my parents were told, ‘Don’t expect him to do much, and he’ll probably live his adult life in a group institution,’” Anthony Ianni told NDA students on Friday.

Evidently the doctors and teachers were wrong about Ianni, who not only graduated high school but also Michigan State University, where he played basketball for legendary coach Tom Izzo.

“I had to work hard at everything,” said Ianni, who was the first athlete with autism to play NCAA Division I  college basketball.  He won two Big Ten Championships and was a member of the 2010 Final Four team.

At the age of 4, he was diagnosed with Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD-NOS), which is on the Autism Spectrum.

Ianni, whose book is available on Amazon, told stories about being bullied as the “tallest kid in school in the sixth grade.”  

Although the temptation is to quit or to strike back at those who bully, Ianni decided, “I’m going out and doing who I am.” 

He challenged NDA students to “let all your talent do the talking for you” and “be the change we all want to see in the world.”

“My goal,” he stressed, “is to eradicate bullying.” 

With humorous comments about Sunday’s game between the Packers and Lions, Ianni concluded his talk with a challenge to NDA students: “Rest of the time you have here you should respect every person at NDA.  You are a part of the NDA Tritons’ family for life.”