Athlete-Turned-Activist Kristin Duquette on Being a Champion: “Trust Yourself and Trust Your Journey”

Kristin Duquette is a leader — both in and out of the pool. The swimmer is a five-time American Paralympic Record Holder and the former US Team Captain for the 2010 Greek Open. She was diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy at the age of the nine, but what could have derailed her dreams has only propelled her forward. The 24-year-old is a true activist — she got her B.A. in Human Rights at Trinity College — and she now focuses on promoting disability rights as human rights. In 2014, Kristin was named the Disability Mentor for the Clinton Global Initiative University. She currently works within the Obama Administration. Here’s Kristin’s incredible story:

You’ve done so much as an athlete and activist. What is your biggest accomplishment so far?

It’s so funny because the word “accomplishment” has changed for me over the years. A few years ago, I’d probably say breaking two American Records within one race in 2011 or being the Captain for Team USA during an international event, or even now working inside the Obama Administration, which are all huge feats for which I’m incredibly grateful. But now, I’d say being confident in myself and my abilities regardless of the outcome, and being okay with outcomes that are out of my control. Let me tell you, that’s hard to do!

What challenges have you overcome to get where you are?

I’ve gone through things like chronic sickness, living with a progressive disability, mental health issues, inaccessibility and being kicked off a collegiate swim team because of my disability. So far, I’ve learned that pain and hardships are inevitable in life and there’s no way to prevent bad things from happening to us, but that’s the same for incredibly joyous moments too. What makes these things manageable is being open to my support system. With time and consistent work, I’m able to step into another chapter.  

How did you get started with your activism work?

I’d say during my time at Trinity College. That’s when I really started to feel comfortable with myself. Once I decided to stop training after not making the London Paralympics for swimming, I dove into different issues at school and explored how I could engage with others and our world.


You’ve met some really important people like President Obama. Any favorite moments?

I think each person I’ve met brings something different to the conversation. But I have to say, I found Joe Biden to be incredibly present and engaging as it clearly came across how much he cares about others. That’s special, and that stood out to me.

What is your ultimate life goal?

Helping others. No matter what I do — professionally or in my personal life — I ask, “Am I helping others? Am I contributing to the greater good?” It’s a bit idealistic to say, but those two values are true to myself and I’ll always intend to carry those out.

How do you define success?

Stick to what’s true to you while working towards your goals and help others along the way. Look in the mirror and acknowledge that you’re doing the best you can in all areas of your life at this given moment. Be open to learning and following your curiosity. That’s success.


What advice do you have for young women?

Fuel your ambition towards following your curiosity. Trust yourself and trust your journey. Get okay with making mistakes because you’re a human being. Make a list of short-, middle- and long-term goals, but ultimately know that “success” is not a linear line — it’s usually a maze where you can’t see around the corner. And always be confident in yourself and know that you’re exactly where you’re meant to be.

Kristin Duquette is living her dreams!


Interview conducted by Amanda Garrity, 1,000 Dreams Fund contributor