‘Beyond where you think you can go’

It was like any other Friday morning.


As David Cooks, a 15-year-old high school sophomore, got ready for school, he had a little pain in his back. But he didn’t think much of it. Exams were that day, and basketball tryouts were coming up.

Later, as he practiced shooting hoops, his performance was off. Something was going on. The pain in his back quickly grew more serious.

“Within a matter of 24 hours, I went from walking to needing a wheelchair to get around as a result of a blood vessel that erupted on my spinal cord,” Cooks explained.

He hasn’t walked again.

But he’s accomplished more in the 40 years since his spinal aneurysm than most people do in a lifetime.

He’s succeeded in the corporate world. He’s an author and a sought-after speaker. He’s taught economics and mentored hundreds of people. All since he became paralyzed.

“Your perspective becomes everything,” Cooks said. “And paralysis can take on many forms – physical, mental, financial – there’s a lot of things that can keep you from moving forward. How you see it, though, will determine how you attack it. If you don’t think you can win – if you don’t think you can beat it – you won’t.”

Cooks had mentors who recognized his strengths. They never let him settle.

“They saw beyond ‘today.’ They saw things in me that I didn’t necessarily see at the time,” Cooks shared. “They always were honest with me. They held me accountable. And they pushed me to go beyond where I was.”

Cooks’ comments came during the latest in a series of discussions on diversity and inclusion at Regions Bank. Clara Green, the bank’s head of Diversity and Inclusion, leads the conversations, which are open to Regions associates and streamed to company offices across several states. After reading Cooks’ book, Getting Undressed – From Paralysis to Purpose, Green invited Cooks to visit Regions and share his experience as the bank recognizes October as National Disability Employment Awareness Month.