Editor’s note: This story appeared in the January 2022 edition of The Daily Universe Magazine.
Daniel Andersen is a senior preparing to graduate in the spring, but not without making his directorial debut. Andersen spent the Fall 2021 semester working on a multiple-city documentary project showcasing how those with disabilities have successful careers in the arts.
A passion project turned Capstone garnered the support of students and faculty. Andersen anticipates the premiere of his film “I Am Limitless” next month.
Q: How has being disabled impacted your faith?
A: I think that having a disability is viewed by many as more of a burden than an upside. For me, the truth is the exact opposite. My reliance on faith in every piece of my life has filled my world with joy. And experiencing weakness, in whatever form it may take, has made me rely on my Savior and helped me understand my Father in Heaven in ways I never could otherwise. In short, my disability has made my relationship with God and my Redeemer intimate and consistent to a degree I don’t think I would have achieved otherwise and I am grateful for that.
Q: What does your faith mean to you and how does it affect your daily life?
A: My life is kind of a practice in daily faith. For me, there are many uncertainties and challenges that can pop up at a moment’s notice. My faith is a lifeline. It’s a reminder that God loves me and has a plan for me. It’s a reminder that I am never alone. The Holy Ghost is with me and my Savior walks alongside me, experiencing everything that I do. Some people are astonished that I am as optimistic and hopeful as I am. That is my faith working in my daily life. It helps me see joy in my life all around me.
Q: How has being in the journalism program blessed your life?
A: I have been blessed several times over to experience finding my purpose in life. In high school, I learned that I loved people with disabilities and sharing their unique perspective with the world. When I found the journalism program, I realized that I had a passion for stories. Helping people share the most tender pieces of their lives with the world has become a mission for me. The journalism program has given me the tools and encouragement to pursue this mission. And it’s given me a home to connect with like-minded people who share in this mission.
Q: Why do you think it’s important for those who are disabled to speak out on their experiences?
A: I think it’s important because for so long, our stories have gone untold. The first step to inclusion is understanding. And the first step to understanding is sharing information. People with disabilities make up a far-ranging cross section of the global population. Anyone could join our community at any point of their lives. Our stories aren’t just stories about disabilities. They are stories about life, love, sacrifice, dedication, and every other human emotion and topic. By sharing our stories with the world, we are seen as more human.
Q: What do you hope your documentary project gives to those in the disabled community and those outside of it?
A: For much of my life, I was governed by my doubt and fear. My documentary is my culminating achievement in conquering my doubts and fears and pursuing my dreams. If this film encourages one aspiring performer with a disability, I have achieved my goal. If it helps one person feel more connected with a community of people that understand them, I have achieved my goal. If one of the people I have showcased in the film feels seen and their story heard, I have achieved my goal. And if I show one person who doesn’t identify with having a disability that they can and should try and understand, befriend and become an ally with our community, then I have achieved my goal. I have high hopes for this film, but I have no illusions about it. This film will not fix the world. But maybe, just maybe, this film is a stone in the foundation of inclusion and understanding that I and others can build upon. If that happens, then I have achieved my goal.
Q: You graduate this semester, what has been the highlight from your years at BYU?
A: The highlight of my time at BYU has been the people. I have a profound appreciation for people and their stories. Being in a place where people can come together, learn from each other, grow in the gospel and share their love for one another is a beautiful and awe-inspiring experience. There are no words to describe how much this community means to me. It’s not perfect. There have been moments where I have felt like I didn’t fit in. But as I engaged with the community through service, activities and the wide range of opportunities to meet strangers that soon become friends, I have made BYU my home away from home. So, for anyone who still has time left at BYU, take time to appreciate it with the people you love. And for those that may feel lost or forgotten, there is a place here for you. There are people who love you and as you share your love for others, you will find them.