by: Kari Larsen; Photo by Jessica Snider
Amanda Kloehr wants to be a professional motivational speaker. This is what she told me when we got together to talk, but she demonstrated this desire to me the moment I met her.
Over the summer, I spoke to a group of students at Central Penn College. Their energy was ferocious, and instead of offering what I thought they could use, I wanted to hear what each of them had to say. Amanda Kloehr, in particular, let me know I must hear what she had to say.
From that brief encounter, I learned several important facts about her, including memorizing the URL to her website by heart: amandareconstructed.com. I also knew of her advocacy for awareness of distracted driving. When she was 20, on a trip to see a friend, she ignored the road in favor of some activity she cannot remember. In the seconds it took her to fiddle with her phone, the radio or whatever it may have been, she collided with a tractor-trailer.
“I was lucky,” she said, acknowledging in the same breath how she lost her right eye when that side of her face caved in.
The accident was in 2008.
Four years later, she has had almost 100 speaking engagements about distracted driving. This month she will speak at the National Organization for Youth Safety at their Washington, D.C. summit, as well as a National Highway Safety convention in the spring, held by the governor of Tennessee.
I was amazed to discover this – not because she has spoken to so many people all over the country about her recovery and leveled such a sweeping and positive impact – but because she did not already consider herself to be a professional motivational speaker. I believe she is what she wants to be, and that comes from the power of confidence.
In the wake of her recovery, she tried to embark on a career as a receptionist. The damage to her body reinforced the idea that she deserved the life she had and the job she did not want.
“It’s a big dream, but we’re working on it,” Kloehr said when we spoke in mid-September of her hopes for a future spent talking to crowds about her passion.
“We,” she is proud to acknowledge, includes herself as well as Dr. James Beeghley, IT education specialist, and Steve Hassinger, director of career services. Both are at Central Penn, where she is president of the PR club and where Sarah Douglass, public relations, and communications specialist is helping create a pitch to launch her into national publications and television. I believe that is a miracle of a graduation project, and Kloehr is only a sophomore.
As far ahead as she seems, attending school is a vital part of her realizing her ambition.
She graduated high school in 2006 and was serving in the United States Air Force when her accident occurred. In the wake of her recovery, she tried to embark on a career as a receptionist. The damage to her body reinforced the idea that she deserved the life she had and the job she did not want.
Although she was well traveled, she resigned those destinations – Italy and Germany – as places she would revisit in an imagined, better life. Now she wants to inhabit the world and make connections. This came with education and awareness; to educate and make aware is what Kloehr seeks to do now for those who ignore the threat posed by distracted driving.
Kloehr used to be a perpetual planner, and at the age, she thought she would be married and a mother, she was two years into recovery, writing a living will and a do-not-resuscitate order. Her doctors told her, “We’re going to try to make you look as close as possible to the way you used to be.” This obstacle notwithstanding, she had the courage and belief in herself required to come out of her savagely disfiguring accident and leave a relationship and job to return to school to nurture a dream.
Kloehr used to be a perpetual planner, and at the age, she thought she would be married and a mother, she was two years into recovery.
Being sharp and ebullient – hardwired into Kloehr’s nature – lends to the effect that conquering hardship and sharing her insight comes easily. But even when the level of passion and confidence she sustains is nerve-wracking to keep up, Kloehr understands that her being known means increased safety for others, and that is what she trusts.
Her trust in her mission is paying off. In October, Kloehr got off at Penn Station in New York City and took a taxi directly to CBS 2. While speaking just the day before with the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance in Yonkers, N.Y., about Operation Safe Driver, a police officer in the audience contacted CBS. They reached out to Kloehr directly, and as soon as class was over, she was on her way to the studio to discuss safe driving with an audience of over one million people.
When Kloehr recounted stories to me of gruff teenage boys hugging her and leaving a whole room of AARP instructors in tears, she did not revel in my praise without disclaiming the treatment of these milestones as the point of connecting to people. Thanks to doing right by herself – going to school and making the life for herself that she wants – Kloehr can, in spite of the damage from the accident, inspire others to do the same.
Nothing can keep her from her happiness, and that is what her audience needs to know.