Leigh Anne Tuohy at RootsTech 2020
Leigh Anne Tuohy is the mother of all-American NFL player Michael Oher. Many recognize Tuohy from the critically-acclaimed movie The Blind Side, which tells the story of how Tuohy (portrayed by Sandra Bullock) and her family came to adopt Oher.
On Thursday, February 27, participants of RootsTech 2020 were privileged to hear Tuohy’s inspirational story and the lessons she has learned from the life events that were depicted in The Blind Side.
Tuohy shared three key messages, which are highlighted below.
Tuohy began her address by sharing the moment she met Michael Oher, which happened one morning when the family was driving to breakfast.
As they were driving, the family passed a young African American man walking down the street. Tuohy’s daughter, Collins, mentioned that he was in one of her classes. Immediately, Tuohy told her husband who was driving the car to “turn around.” Tuohy then got out of the car and offered to drive Oher, who was underdressed for the cold weather, to a wherever he needed to be.
Although Oher was quiet at first, Tuohy wouldn’t take no for an answer. Little did she know that those two words and that simple action would alter her life forever. What started as a simple gesture, resulted in a relationship that eventually led to adoption.
Leanne expressed, “Families don’t have to match, and you don’t have to just love people that look like you.” She encouraged members of the audience to “get out of your comfort zone and turn around.”
Every Person Has a Story
“Every single person in this audience has a story. Our story just happens to be the one that God plucked out and chose to tell,” Tuohy said.
Tuohy encouraged members of the audience to “write your story because stories matter—family matters.” To illustrate the importance of this point, she shared a story about the first time Michael saw a baby picture of himself.
After adopting Michael, Tuohy tracked down childhood photos from a previous foster mother. Even though the photos were folded and faded, when she showed Michael, “he looked at those pictures like they were gold.”
Seeing a snapshot of part of his story meant the world to Michael. Tuohy shared this example to show that the journey and effort to record stories is worth it.
“Your history makes a difference,” she said. “Your heritage matters.”
All People Have Value
Tuohy is a major advocate for treating people equally and giving everyone an equal chance. She said, “I will talk to people every day till I have no voice about how we need to be kinder and value people more correctly.”
Tuohy challenged members of the audience to be more aware of the way they value others around them. She talked about how wherever anyone goes, they judge others and size them up. She even admitted being guilty of this at times.
“[People will say about others] ‘They need a bath, they smell bad, and they have holes in their shoes’—and that’s what they said about Michael,” Tuohy said. “Society deemed him valueless.”
Then Tuohy posed a powerful question: “Can you imagine, if someone as valuable as Michael Oher almost falls through the cracks, who is left behind?”
“All they need is a chance. They need someone that believes in them, that provides structure, hope, love, and an opportunity,” Tuohy said. “It’s not hard: It’s just plugging in and giving of your time.”