Chris Burke Visit to FSU
Actor Chris Burke from the television show “Life Goes On” visited Fitchburg State University, giving a free speech to students and faculty about his life experiences. He shared information with those who went, of the daily life he lived and what his goals were. He was able to share a “unique perspective of living with a challenging disability,” which happens to be the title of another article written about Chris Burke. He served as a positive role model, conquering obstacles, and making friends, all of course while having fun fulfilling his own dream.
Chris Burke is a known actor, Down Syndrome activist, and anybody and everybody's friend. Burke has Down Syndrome, and as a child his parents were told they should institutionalize him. Instead, his parents raised and supported him at home with the rest of his siblings. He grew up watching TV shows and movies with his family, dreaming of becoming an actor himself. Growing up in the 1970’s, not many schools offered programs that could integrate those with disabilities. Therefore, in 1973 Chris was boarding at the Cardinal Cushing School and Training Center in Hanover, Massachusetts, until 1978, when he transferred to Don Guanella, in Springfield, Pennsylvania. After graduating, Chris Burke volunteered to help with certain disability programs in school systems in New York, helping people with disabilities to get better access to public schools. While he was in school and after graduating, he focused on his dream by going to night classes, theater productions, reading books on his favorite actors, and even writing his own scripts.
Chris Burke received his first professional acting job as a part of an ABC movie “Desperate” that was only aired on TV. Although it was a small role, network executives and producers were so impressed by his performance, they gave him the role of Corky in the show “Life Goes On.” Corky is a boy with Down Syndrome, which made this the first time a character with Down Syndrome was a part of a network TV show. Chris says he and this character, Corky, share one common message: accept people for who they really are. This message shows who Chris Burke is as a person, as he did not want fame from acting but acceptance and to be a form of inspiration for others. He serves as an inspiration not only for people with disabilities, but everyone as he got himself to where he was by setting and sticking to his goals. He credits his success to holding to those goals and not letting any obstacles get in the way.
Chris Burke has earned a Golden Globe, an award given for excellence in film or on television, for his work as Corky, along with the award “Youth Inspiration” for being such an influential figure that everyone could follow. Both of these awards came in 1990, a year after the show had started (1989). Life Goes On played until 1993 before being cancelled, ending Chris’s television series role. Yet, Chris Burke didn’t stop with his work there; he started to become a speaker and talked at places like Fitchburg State, to inspire and let everyone know that they are capable.
Kaufman, Michael T. “Being Busy and Happy Is an Actor's Syndrome.” The New York Times, 13 Nov. 1993, www.nytimes.com/1993/11/13/nyregion/about-new-york-being-busy-and-happy-is-an-actor-s-syndrome.html.
Span, Paula. “The New 'Life' of Chris Burke." The Washington Post, 3 Oct. 1989, www.washingtonpost.com/archive/lifestyle/1989/10/03/the-new-life-of-chris-burke/3d70506a-a448-4cdd-a41a-2fd9bce92fad/.