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There are epic stories, and then there are truly epic stories.

A video for Western Sydney University's "Unlimited" ad campaign profiles one such story — that of Deng Thiak Adut, one of the university's most extraordinary graduates.

In his case, as you'll learn, even the word "extraordinary" reeks of inadequacy because ... well, this guy's just indescribably persevering.


Deng Thiak Adut. Image from Western Sydney University/YouTube.

Today, Adut is an attorney (solicitor, in Aussie speak) who practices in Blacktown, a suburb west of Sydney. But his path to the courtroom was neither expected nor likely.

Three decades ago, he was just an ordinary kid growing up in Sudan. Then, as it always has, war changed that. Adut, then only 6 years old, was among tens of thousands of children conscripted to fight in the Second Sudanese Civil War.

Yes, this stuff is real. And Sudan still has a child soldier problem. Photo by Charles Lomodong/AFP/Getty Images.

The troop of boys marched for 33 days into Ethiopia, living off the land along the way, before going into battle against the Sudan People's Liberation Army.

"Kids. Going to war. You know they're not going to come back because they're going to put in everything they have. We were slaughtered," Adut said in an interview with "Models of Achievement," an Australian documentary series.

At the age of 12, Adut's life was nearly cut short when he was shot in the back during battle.

A stroke of luck brought a wounded Adut and his brother together. They'd both had enough. With his brother's help, he was smuggled away from the conflict into Kenya. In a corn sack. In the back of a truck.

Again, yes, this stuff is real. Image from Western Sydney University/YouTube.

The two brothers found relief at a United Nations compound. In time, with even more luck, they were sponsored by an Australian family and granted refuge in Blacktown.

Adut arrived in Australia in 1998 and finally had the chance to start rebuilding his life.

"My first impression was, 'Wow, I'm going to study. I'm going to finish university.' But how to get to university was not there," he said on "Models of Achievement." "I was not prepared from childhood to the age of 13 to start a formal education."

Image from Western Sydney University/YouTube.

In his first two years in Australia, he taught himself English. He supplemented his learning by chatting with locals at a nearby gas station. "This is where I learned early the good English and the bad words," he said, referring to "bikies," motorcycle gang members who didn't always offer the friendliest encounters.

Adut eventually earned his diploma and continued his virtuous march to keep learning.

In 2005, he enrolled in law school. "Studying [for a] law degree was hard. It was even harder because of my background," he said. But he didn't give up.

And on the night before his graduation, reflecting on how far he'd come, he cried until he physically couldn't anymore.

Image from Western Sydney University/YouTube.

"To be the first person to graduate with a law degree in my family, you can't call it a privilege. You don't give it a name." he said.

Now he wants to help make the journey to a life of safety, dignity, and free will easier for others in his community.

Adut is one of the only — maybe the only Sudanese lawyer in greater Western Sydney. He's been lauded for his work supporting Sudanese refugees both in court and in the community.

And he's a rare ally for a lot of folks in the region because, like in the U.S. and many other places, African Australians face uphill battles every day just because of their skin color — including in the justice system.

Hopefully, after taking in Adut's story, you can take a step back to consider the bigger picture surrounding this one man. Because to learn, to succeed, and to leave behind a legacy of your choosing shouldn't — for anyone — be something that's left to chance.

Watch Western Sydney University's inspiring profile of Deng Thiak Adut:

Health

A child’s mental health concerns shouldn’t be publicized no matter who their parents are

Even politicians' children deserve privacy during a mental health crisis.

A child's mental health concerns shouldn't be publicized.

Editor's Note: If you are having thoughts about taking your own life, or know of anyone who is in need of help, the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline is a United States-based suicide prevention network of over 200+ crisis centers that provides 24/7 service via a toll-free hotline with the number 9-8-8. It is available to anyone in suicidal crisis or emotional distress.


It's an unspoken rule that children of politicians should be off limits when it comes to public figure status. Kids deserve the ability to simply be kids without the media picking them apart. We saw this during Obama's presidency when people from both ends of the political spectrum come out to defend Malia and Sasha Obama's privacy and again when a reporter made a remark about Barron Trump.

This is even more important when we are talking about a child's mental health, so seeing detailed reports about Ted Cruz's 14-year-old child's private mental health crisis was offputting, to say it kindly. It feels icky for me to even put the senator's name in this article because it feels like adding to this child's exposure.

When a child is struggling with mental health concerns, the instinct should be to cocoon them in safety, not to highlight the details or speculate on the cause. Ever since the news broke about this child's mental health, social media has been abuzz, mostly attacking the parents and speculating if the child is a member of the LGBTQ community.

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Putting creative work out into the world to be evaluated and judged is nerve-wracking enough as it is. Having to market your work, especially if you're not particularly extroverted or sales-minded, is even worse.

So when you're a newly published author holding a book signing and only two of the dozens of people who RSVP'd show up, it's disheartening if not devastating. No matter how much you tell yourself "people are just busy," it feels like a rejection of you and your work.

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The legality of abortion is one of the most polarized debates in America—but it doesn't have to be.

People have big feelings about abortion, which is understandable. On one hand, you have people who feel that abortion is a fundamental women's rights issue, that our bodily autonomy is not something you can legislate, and that those who oppose abortion rights are trying to control women through oppressive legislation. On the other, you have folks who believe that a fetus is a human individual first and foremost, that no one has the right to terminate a human life, and that those who support abortion rights are heartless murderers.

Then there are those of us in the messy middle. Those who believe that life begins at conception, that abortion isn't something we'd choose—and we'd hope others wouldn't choose—under most circumstances, yet who choose to vote to keep abortion legal.

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