Breaking Bad actor RJ Mitte challenged Illinois State’s newest students to overcome their fears during a speech Friday at Welcome Week’s University Convocation.

Mitte, an advocate for human rights and persons with disabilities, was the featured diversity speaker during the mandatory session at Bone Student Center’s Braden Auditorium. Students also heard from Provost Janet Wessel Krejci and were entertained by the Q Brothers, internationally known for their hip hop adaptations of Shakespeare.

On Breaking Bad Mitte played Walt Jr., the son of a cancer-stricken chemistry teacher who turned to drug manufacturing as a means secure his family’s future.

Born in Lafayette, Louisiana, Mitte was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at age 3. Despite his disability, Mitte entered into showbiz at 13. Before taking on the role of Walt Jr., Mitte was an extra on several other television shows, including Hannah Montana and Everybody Hates Chris.

Rick Lewis introduces RJ Mitte

Associate Dean Rick Lewis, right, introduces actor RJ Mitte during University Convocation on Friday, August 14, 2015.

During his ISU visit, Mitte spoke to students about overcoming fear as he shared stories about his career and disability. He stressed the significance of denying fear the ability to “manipulate your desires.”

“Don’t let your life be controlled by fear,” Mitte told students. “You can do anything. You chose not to.”

Mitte emphasized the impact one person can have on another, and he challenged students to bravely step out of their comfort zone and be an example.

“So many times people are afraid to get involved,” Mitte told students. “But once you walk away, it’s too late. You’ve missed your chance.”

Since his role in Breaking Bad, Mitte has served as a youth spokesperson for the National Disability Institute Real Economic Impact Tour. He’s also involved with the Tri-Union I AM PWD (Inclusion in the Arts & Media of People with Disabilities) campaign, which seeks equal employment opportunities for people with disabilities throughout the entertainment and news media.

Mitte’s visit and Welcome Week are sponsored by the Dean of Students Office.


Roshaunda Coleman is a broadcast journalism major at Illinois State University.