University of Southern California

November 25, 2009 • by Sourena Vasseghi

Dear Friends of Marshall:

My name is Sourena Vasseghi and I'm honored to bring you a special USC Marshall School of Business Thanksgiving message.

I was born in 1977 with severe cerebral palsy.  That's a nervous system disorder that occurs when the brain is denied oxygen for a certain period of time, causing damage, the extent of which is different in each case. In mine, it's purely physical; it has no effect on my mind or my ability to think clearly. It is like having a USC brain in a UCLA body.

I grew up in Los Angeles rooting for USC, and while not easy, I graduated in 2001 with a degree in Marketing from the Marshall School of Business.  I met with Dean Ellis before I graduated and he asked me what I wanted to do.  The last thing I wanted was to have no career to inspire me, and to just be "the handicapped guy who graduated from USC."  I didn't want that to be my legacy.  So my answer was that I wanted to become a motivational speaker.   If you've ever heard me talk, that might seem like a challenging goal - my mouth has trouble articulating the words I want to say.  But at Marshall, we aren't in the habit of giving up.  We're USC.  We figure out a way to succeed and Dean Ellis had an idea.  He suggested I start toward that goal by writing a book, and he put me in touch with screenwriter Jay Lavender.  With Jay's help, I wrote, Love Your Life and It Will Love You Back. My book won an Indie Excellence Award in 2008.

I often think of Coach Pete Carroll's favorite expression:  "Win Forever."  I use that in my own life every day.  I truly need to maximize everything I've got, give every bit of energy, passion, strength I can muster, whether it's giving a speech, writing this e-mail or just interacting with people, because I don't want a substandard life. I want a wonderful, exciting, rewarding, passionate life, like the one I'm living now. And every day, I keep trying to find ways to do more, to give more, to help more people.  

This Thanksgiving, I am grateful to USC, the Marshall School of Business, and for having a wonderful life.  I've learned that if you love your life, it will love you back.  That, to me, is winning forever.


Sourena Vasseghi
USC Marshall School of Business, BS '01