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Richard enlist in the army after be rejected by his idol when he goes to college. During combat, he loses his hearing to a bomb blast, and has to deal with this newfound disability on his return to civilian life. When he tries to help his friends, vets like himself and others with disabilities, to get work in an environment that treats them with pity at best and disdain as a matter of course, he realizes that he can make a difference.
PROFANITY: 12 F-words, 11 S-words, 1 GD, a number of others. SEX/NUDITY: Heard but unseen sex. VIOLENCE: None. DRUGS/ALCOHOL: Frequent alcohol and tobacco. ACTION: None. COMEDY: Some suggestive verbal humor.
Richard's childhood was not the most idyllic. His dad died young and his mom was too
distracted by her own delusional siren song to even notice that he was there. Through it
all, the young man perseveres, discovering in school that he has the gift of gab, a
riveting presentation of stories that are hard to resist.
His ticket out of Podunk, or in this case, Portland, he decides, will be his skill as an
orator. After some training in the school of hard knocks, the world of employment as a
chef in a strip club, Richard finally makes his way toward the big time — a shot at a
scholarship on a renowned college debate team.
But then, when the audition doesn't go so well, Richard takes another detour, a tour of
duty in Vietnam where, again, he perseveres. When his life as a good soldier is cut
short, and he returns to the Oregon college town with a genuine disability, Richard
discovers that in a weird way, the detour was a necessary one.
Because through all his tribulations, Richard sees that power to communicate is still
very strong in him. He has lost his hearing, so he learns to read lips. He goes back to
school and shows Dr. Padrow, the academic who rejected him, that he did have
something to say. By developing a close relationship with the outrageously intelligent
Art, a brilliant man with cerebral palsy who has some difficulty attending classes in the
days before accessibility, Richard becomes acutely aware of the challenges facing
people with disabilities.
He takes Art to a restaurant to celebrate a birthday, only to be met with the disdain of
the eatery's staff, who refuse to serve them because of what they declare is Art's
His own sense of outrage at the ignorance and insensitivity of the outside world
galvanizes Richard to embark on what is to become his life's mission. His hearing
disorder can be fixed with a sophisticated new hearing aid. His facile way with words
and his endearing personality prove once again to be a ticket to gainful employment.
But some of his fellow disabled veterans, he finds, are not so lucky, and the process by
which he begins to solve their problems and to change peoples' perceptions toward the
disabled community proves to be Richard's route to a far greater destiny – one of public
service as a champion of the rights of the disabled and ultimately one of the primary
activists behind the Americans with Disabilities Act.
By facing his own demons and finding out who he is, Richard finds his "music within,”
and discovers what Dr. Padrow had meant all along. In discovering his music, Richard
has helped improve the lives of disabled people across the world, including his own.