Son of 'Post' Editor Wrote His Own Happy Ending

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Quinn Bradlee could have taken the easy way out.

Quinn, now 27, grew up in privilege, the son of Washington Post power couple Sally Quinn and Ben Bradlee. He went to the best schools, lived in historic mansions and was surrounded by famous writers and politicians.

His father was the editor of the Post during the Watergate years, and his mom is a columnist and best-selling author.

From birth, Quinn had been plagued with health problems--illnesses, seizures, and migraines among them--and had even had open heart surgery while still an infant. He was sick more often than not and had a few close calls. Instead of accepting doctors' suggestions that Quinn be institutionalized or treated differently, Sally Quinn became her son's tireless advocate, eventually getting to the root of his health problems.

At age 14, he was finally correctly diagnosed as having Velo-Cardio-Facial Syndrome, or VCFS, a common but little-understood disorder that is characterized by various physical ailments and learning disabilities.

Quinn had a bumpy road through school and adolescence but eventually found passion for life and happiness. He loves surfing, genealogy (his family on both sides has an illustrious history), and film.

He attended Landmark College, a college designed for students with learning disabilities, along with American University and the New York Film Academy, where he made a short documentary film about kids with VCFS.

After film school, Quinn didn't work for a year, which he acknowledges was a dream come true at first--especially for someone who has always had to work twice as hard to get ahead. He knew he wouldn't end up at a typical 9-to-5 job and wasn't sure of his next move.

"After three months, I just started sitting around," said Quinn, now 27. "It's not fun. You waste your life away by sitting around doing nothing."
Quinn instead decided to write a book about what it was like to grow up different from everyone around him. With the help of renowned writer Jeff Himmelman, Quinn shares stories from his childhood and adolescence in an honest and motivating manner. (I recently had the opportunity to talk with Quinn about his book and his life now.)

Quinn has also launched a website called, a site where kids with learning disabilities and their parents can find support, resources and friendship.

The idea came after Quinn spent some time on Facebook. A popular feature asking users to choose their top friends left Quinn feeling like the last kid picked during gym class. He had trouble navigating the complex site (and who doesn't, really?) and found that he wasn't the "top friend" of many people.

He would create a place for people just like him, where there would be no top friends and an easier-to-navigate website. Last fall, FriendsofQuinn was born.

About 15 million Americans have a learning disability, so Quinn knew he'd have quite an audience. And the media attention surrounding his book has helped the site tremendously.

One of his goals is to change public opinion about learning disabilities; Quinn said the term "learning differences" is more inclusive and accurate.
Quinn found great inspiration in an unlikely source: the David Spade movie Joe Dirt, about a man with a mullet who never quite fits in anywhere he goes and spends much of his time being laughed at and ridiculed.

Despite incessant mocking, Joe maintains a rosy outlook much of the time. Quinn cheered for the underdog.

He took one of Joe's quotes to heart: "Life's a garden, dig it?"

Instead of feeling sorry for himself or dwelling on his differences, Quinn focused on his strengths. Like SparkPeople members, he focused on a goal and achieved it!

Writing the book and starting the site has helped him find his calling, Quinn said. Now he's helping others just like him.

Growing up, he felt the pressure of life as a Bradlee--a family that has sent every generation of its men to Harvard since the 18th century. Quinn knew he wouldn't continue the Bradlee media legacy, but he knew he could create his own success.

"You don't have to be the best; you just have to have a big heart," he said.

I wanted to share an excerpt from Quinn's book that inspired me:
"The times when I am happiest are when I concentrate on the things I am good at. There are only two things I can do without screwing up: surfing and snowboarding. On the board, I can never screw up, I can only learn from my mistakes. That's how you should look at life."

I really think that passage can be applied to any of us. We all have strengths and weaknesses, and even when we make mistakes, we can learn and grow.

Did Quinn Bradlee's story inspire you? I read his book over a weekend and was truly captivated. You can read more about it here.

The photo is courtesy of FriendsofQuinn.

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I have a grandson who has been misdiagnose and so many medications it is just awful. He is a bright and wonderful Grandson. If it can be abbreviated he has been diagnosed with it. I found this young mans story compassionate. Well done and Thank you. Report
Jon Gabriel in "The Gabriel Method" has an interesting book. Report
I had a communications class with Quinn while he was at American University. I never knew about his struggles, but always remembered his input in that class because he was so enthusiastic and encouraging of all the activities we did. I saw him on a morning news show recently, and was very impressed looking through his website. It's a great thing to get out word like this. Report
The definition of "normal" is constantly changing - and that's a "good thing"! Report
The very first thing I thought when I saw this blog was 'What a good-looking guy!', now after reading it, I would have to add and a smart guy, and a motivated guy, and a determined guy. And I give his mother a lot of credit for fighting to give him the best chance. Harvard isn't everything, Quinn has done more than fine without carrying on that family tradition! Report
Such an interesting story. I'll have to read that book. Report
What a marvelous website! It will be interesting to see what develops. Report
Quinn is a success!! By anyone's standards. In fact he has striven harder in his life to get where he is and is setting examples for others to succeed. I am inspired by you, Quinn, and know there will be so many lives you touch as you go along this life. Your dedication to help others is admirable. Report
we as heavier people face set backs and ridicule. So, we can relate and as he did we can go on and do the best we can!!!! Report
Quinn is a hero to students and teachers alike. My lil sis is going to school to be a special education teacher and she has been influencing students while she's still in college. It's people like Quinn and my lil sis who will change the minds of the small minded people out there who look down upon these remarkable people. Quinn and lil sis will help develop and grow kids minds into being the reality in their seemingly unattainable dreams. Report
I have a daughter with severe developmental and medical challenges. I know it is a far off dream that some day she will have a 'normal' life but society would not be where it is today if people were not encouraged to pursue their dreams. Report
I am a peson that has been challenged all my life as well. I had a rough start with my hearing impairment, and was held back in 1st grade. I was teased for being dumb, but I never let that stop me. My second first grade teacher was tha best and inspired me to go toward teaching. I haven't completed that goal, but as a teenager, and young adult, I have worked with all kinds of children and my most fond memories are those special ones that will remain in my mind forever. Now days people can't even tell that I have had to have speech therapy, and reading classes. I am grateful, that each day brings a new way to look at my life and improve on it. Thanks to Quinn, I know I am not the only one faced with everyday challanges, and the joy to finding those answers. Report
What a lovely story, Quinn! I love the family support and personal drive to want to help others. I will be sending this to some friends of mine who's kids have some learning differences as well. God Bless you and thank you for being who you are. Report
Very interesting! Thanks for sharing his story. :) Report
In my opinion, anyone who has learning differences and achieves a goal they set for themselves is greater than any Harvard graduate!! People who have to work 2-3 times harder than anyone else to acheive thier goals have something extra special within them, that the famous Harvard grads only wish they had!! Way to Go Quin! Keep up the good work! Report
We need more like this! Report
What a special guy to help himself and inspire others. Good job! I enjoyed reading the article. Report
This is a wonderful article and right on time, since my 4 year old grandson is a special needs child, who has to work twice as hard to achieve things the rest of us take for granted. His mother, my daughter, was also told within the last two week, by his teacher, that he doesn't belong in the hearing impaired class with the other children. In addition to his hearing impairment, he has some other issues, that she doesn't want to deal with, because he doesn't fit neatly into the mold of her other students. I've told my daughter from day one, that she is here child's best advocate, and she is already out there fighting for what is best for him. As a former teacher, I was incensed that this teacher made these comments. It is so encouraging to read that this young man overcame the obstacles that society tried to put on him. I encourage anyone with a special needs child to read his book. Report
I really like the quote, "It's not fun. You waste your life away by sitting around doing nothing." So true. Now it's time for me to get off my butt and do something. Report
Thank you for your very inspiring story. Report
Thanks for the great story and inspiration you are a remarkable person and a fine example to all Report
QUINN you are truly an inspiration! Always be THANKFUL for your SPECIAL PARENTS who kept you at home and LOVED YOU SO TOTALLY. The way you are going you may exceed the works of all those HARVARD GRADUATES in your FAMILY HERITAGE by touching SPECIAL LIVES & BROKEN NEW FRONTIERS you would have missed. Always remember GOD has a SPECIAL MISSION for each of us & you are fulfilling yours. GOD BLESS AS YOU CONTINUE ON YOUR SPECIAL MISSION! I will be reading your book & following in amazement with PRAYERS OF SUPPORT. Report
Thank you. I work with children with learning difficulties and my son had seizures when he was younger and there was a stigma atattached somehow but he stood in front of his class and told them so that they can be aware of the signs if he was in trouble. A group of silly girls ridiculed him but the principal made them write a letter of apology. That turned the tide and they actually became good friends afetr that.
Well doneQuinn. Report
Yes, Quinn inspires me; he not only allowed his self to grow; he is encouraging others to do the same. Blessings! Report
This story should teach us all to count our blessings. Thank-you Quinn for your inspiring story. Report
It sure did. People like Quinn is what makes this world a better place to live in. Great article. thanks. Report
Yes, his story inspired me very much. I love to hear of people that overcome adversity and believing in themselves no matter what peers may say. Good for him! Thank you for sharing this story! Report
I so relate to this. I think growing up girl made this a better situation but now that I have a boy I really see how my brother and my husband struggled with their learning issues. Both different so now my son is kind of a double whammy.
I'm going to look into the college. That really sounds good. Report
The way I see things is that we need all types to make this a better world. There are some people who are geniuses, some are just intelligent, some are average, some are challenged. My grand-daughter falls in the latter but you would not know it. What a beautiful child she is and kind. She may have some difficulties in learning, but she has other qualities that overpass these. Thanks Quinn for this contribution. I will pass on the link to my daughter. Report
Great story. Thanx for sharing. I have a Quinn in my life... (& now I know why he likes snowboarding so much! - and golf...) Report
Very much so. Nice story. Thanks for sharing. Report
Very inspirational article. I commend any and every one that's willing to go that last mile. Report
I definitely think "learning differences" expression is so much better fitting than what our society tends to call it. I know quite a few people with mild to severe ADD and some who are autistic. I think they are amazing at many different things, and things they have a hard time comprehending must not be all that important. Report
I have a son with Learning Disabilities. This is an inspiring story about character and perseverance. I commend Quinn! Report
You are an inspiration to me and my family. Report
Thank you for such and inspirational story. I truly enjoyed reading it and I'm so glad there are sites where people are NOT judged. Praise God. Report
This is a perfect story of how with love & determination you can overcome all the "NOs" of the world. My younger brother is considered disabled to a degree --resulted from fetal alchohol syndrome. When he as a child, the DRs told my dad my brother would never amount to much ---never graduate from school, that he would never have more than an 8-12 year old mentality. Did he ever prove them wrong. He did graduate from school & works in yard maintenance for some of the locals. He also is my Dad's partner in the Truckers Mission that my Dad runs in SC. Actually my brother has a knack of walking up to a total stranger & starting a conversation. Many times that conversation will lead the driver to join the chapel services that my Dad has there @ the ministry. So yes when the professional say you can't do something, you can with determination & God's grace overcome your challenges. Report
I am thought of as disabled but I never see myself that way. I think thats how Quinn feels about himself. I believe that is instilled in you from the way you are raised and how you look at life. God loves us all and some people just don't know how God can love us better than them but he does. We see others like ourself and know that we are all equal. Report
Thanks for sharing this story. I work with people with learning disabilites as well as physical disabilities and it saddens me to watch society treat these people as being broken. I think it is awesome that he created a website to address his medical condition so others like him have a safe place to go. Report
I can completely relate to Quinn. I have been an ill person from birth right until this present moment. At this time, I have 32 medical conditions, but instead of sitting around in pity or letting others pity me...I hate that...I get around and do things. I'm not going to say what they are because I don't believe in bragging. But I do completely relate to Quinn's life other than the fact I came from an average one parent income while my mom stayed home. To me, that has no bearing on anything. I'm happy for Quinn and hope many are inspired by him and his work as many have been inspired or motivated by me in many ways and in many situations. Keep your chin up Quinn. You are never alone. Report
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