Former Spartan basketball player Anthony Ianni visited Dix Street Elementary today with a very important message about actions, respect and being the one to make a difference.
Anthony Ianni is now a national speaker, and was a basketball player for Michigan State University. He got to play for Coach Tom Izzo and was a part of two Big Ten Championship teams. So it's hard to believe that he had a very tough road to get where he is today. He shared his story today with Dix Street’s upper elementary students. He was born with autism. “When I was younger I did things and said things that were different,” he told the students. And he was bullied for it. From Kindergarten until he was a freshman in high school he was bullied. Standing tall at 6 foot 9 and having such success, this was a fact that got kids’ attention.
He told several personal stories of how he was bullied and how his friends were bullied. Despite how sick of the treatment he would get, he didn’t fight back with his fists. Instead, he fought back with his actions. Actions that didn’t sink to the bullies’ level. “That wasn’t me,” he said. “Let your actions speak for you,” he urged them to take the higher road.
“I always tell people to be careful what you say and do to people because you never know they might become.” He has personal stories of how one of his bullies in school later asked him for an autograph after an MSU game. And how some high school seniors who bullied his friends their freshmen year ended up working for those friends and asked him for help.
Ianni brought up several big-time celebrities who were bullied as kids including Rihanna, Michael Jordan, Lady Gaga, Michael Phelps and Justin Timberlake. The kids went crazy in disbelief. He explained that Justin Timberlake, now one of the hottest singers and actors today, was bullied because of his singing voice. He urged kids to think about what they’d really be making fun of, “That person might be doing something they love and have a passion for.”
In the end, though, he said it wasn’t him who would change bullying behavior, “It’s all of you. The change starts, and always will start, with each and every one of you. You are the ones who can change a life; you can save a life.”
His final point, was all about respect. “For the rest of the time you are here in the school and in the district, you will respect everyone around you.” He said there was one reason why.
He shared that before he started speaking, he drove by the high school, football stadium, and just looked around, noticing one similarity.
“This is who you are. The Otsego Bulldogs. You get to be a part of something special that nobody else in our state gets to be a part of - the bulldog family. The key word, guys, is family, that’s why you will respect everyone around you. Not just at the school but in the entire school district because you are a part of the same group, you are on the same team, you are a part of the same family for life. That is never going to change. You'll bleed your school colors for life no matter where you go in your life.
“Something like this in your entire life is an honor and privilege to be a part of; something like this isnt given in life, you have to earn that and you earned it so far and the older you get you’ll earn it even more till the day you graduate from that great high school of yours.”
Ianni speaks all over the state and country on the Relentless Tour, He has been doing this for four years. After only a year and a half it went from a statewide tour to a national tour. He traveled to Orlando next week. This speaking tour all started after Lt. Governor Brian Calley heard his story. Calley’s daughter is on the autism spectrum and he asked Ianni to be a keynote speaker for an event. Soon after, this speaking tour began. He hopes it only get bigger and better, “I want to eradicate bullying,” he said.