DC student Malcolm Hooper inspires with award-winning speech

“Even at your darkest time, you’re destined for something greater.”

This was the message Durham College (DC) student Malcolm Hooper delivered in his speech at the Speaker Slam “Power of Belief” event in May, winning him the competition.

A second-year business student and captain of the Durham Lords men’s rugby team, Hooper’s win earns him a spot in the Grand Slam event for all Speaker Slam winners to be held in November. Yet the significance of his victory seemingly pales in comparison to what Hooper has conquered in his life.

In a capacity room at the Lula Lounge in Toronto, Hooper told of being taken from his biological parents as a child and placed in a foster home, where he was eventually adopted, with a white family in a predominantly white town. Hooper shared how as a mixed-race child he struggled with the juxtaposition between his identity and environment. Then at the age of 16, a falling out with his adoptive parents led to him being kicked out of his home – a moment Hooper refers to as his “darkest time.”

Hooper recalled being atop the roof of his school gym, standing on the edge and thinking about jumping. Luckily, he was eventually able to see positives in his life amidst the struggles.

“I stood up there hoping someone would call the police, not because I wanted to be stopped, but because I wanted someone to care,” Hooper said during the speech. “That was the thought that also made me take a step back towards safety. That I’m not broken. The people who don’t fit in are the people who stand out. The belief that even then at my darkest time that I was going to have a lasting impact on the world and not the pavement beneath me.”

Shortly thereafter, a friend’s family took Hooper in off the street, hoping to help him succeed.

Since then he has done just that.

Through his studies, Hooper is honing his marketing skillset. Although public speaking can be a part of marketing, it wasn’t something he thought he would gravitate towards. However, after receiving a most outstanding marketer award in a competition at the college, he decided to enter a two-minute speed speech competition at DC, which he also won.

Athletically, Hooper has also had plenty of success, captaining the Lords to a 7-1 overall record in their inaugural season in the OCAA, capped off by winning the provincial championship at home.

Over six matches he scored two tries and was named an OCAA East Division All-Star.

Since telling his story, Hooper confesses that the past few weeks have been surreal.

“The video of my speech has had thousands of views and my phone has been constantly going off,” he said. “After I spoke, people came up crying, telling me how it changed their life. My rugby team (Oshawa Vikings senior men’s) played it on the screen at the club and everyone in my life has been super supportive. They have told me it was inspiring to them or thanked me for being vulnerable.”

Hooper has since been approached about telling his story in a book, asked to speak on podcasts and told he should continue to speak professionally. While he appreciates the support and intends to explore all his options in the future, he wants to do it right.

First and foremost, Hooper says he wants to get back to his marketing studies in the fall and the Lords men’s rugby squad.