President Barack Obama
Monday, May 7
Few presidents have walked a more improbable path to the White House. Born in Hawaii to a mother from Kansas and a father from Kenya, Obama was raised with help from his grandparents, whose generosity of spirit reflected their Midwestern roots. The homespun values they instilled in him, paired with his innate sense of optimism, compelled Obama to devote his life to giving every child, regardless of his or her background, the same chance America gave him.
After working his way through college with the help of scholarships and student loans, Obama moved to Chicago, where he worked with a group of churches to help rebuild communities devastated by the closure of local steel plants. That experience honed his belief in the power of uniting ordinary people around a politics of purpose, in the hard work of citizenship, to bring about positive change. In law school, he became the first African-American president of the Harvard Law Review, then he returned to Illinois to teach constitutional law at the University of Chicago and begin a career in public service, winning seats in the Illinois State Senate and the United States Senate.
On November 4, 2008, Barack Obama was elected the 44th President of the United States, winning more votes than any candidate in history. He took office at a moment of crisis unlike any America had seen in decades – a nation at war, a planet in peril, the American Dream itself threatened by the worst economic calamity since the Great Depression. And yet, despite all manner of political obstruction, Obama’s leadership helped rescue the economy, revitalize the American auto industry, reform the health care system to cover another twenty million Americans, and put the country on a firm course to a clean energy future – all while overseeing the longest stretch of job creation in American history. On the world stage, Obama’s belief in America’s indispensable leadership and strong, principled diplomacy helped wind down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, decimate al Qaeda and eliminate the world’s most wanted terrorists, shut down Iran’s nuclear weapons program, open up a new chapter with the people of Cuba, and unite humanity in coordinated action to combat a changing climate.
In times of great challenge and change, President Obama’s leadership ushered in a stronger economy, a more equal society, a nation more secure at home and more respected around the world. The Obama years were ones in which more people not only began to see themselves in the changing face of America, but to see America the way he always has – as the only place on Earth where so many of our stories could even be possible.
Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, are the proud parents of two daughters – Malia, 18, and Sasha, 15.
Tuesday, May 8
Marcus Buckingham is a researcher and thought leader focused on unlocking strengths, increasing performance, and pioneering the future of how people work. Building on nearly two decades of experience as a senior researcher at Gallup Organization, he currently guides the vision of ADP Research Institute as co-head and talent expert. He founded the Marcus Buckingham Company in 2006 with a clear mission: to instigate a strengths revolution. He believes that companies that focus on cultivating employees’ strengths rather than simply improving on their weaknesses stand to dramatically increase efficiency and productivity while allowing for maximum personal growth. Marcus focuses his speeches on the correlation between strengths-driven, engaged employees and business fundamentals, such as turnover rates, customer satisfaction, profits, and productivity.
As an internationally renowned thought leader and business expert, Marcus has been profiled by the New York Times, Fortune, Fast Company, Harvard Business Review, USA Today, and the Wall Street Journal. He has also appeared on numerous television programs, including Larry King Live, The Today Show, and The Oprah Winfrey Show. He has worked with Toyota, Facebook, Lululemon, Coca-Cola, Box, Master Foods, Wells Fargo, Microsoft, and Disney to inspire people to find their strengths and sustain long-lasting personal success.
Marcus’s first book, First, Break All the Rules (co-authored with Curt Coffman; 1999), argues that rules stifle originality and uniqueness, which can enable all of us to achieve our highest performance. The goal is to provide team leaders with the tools they need to turn talent into performance and drive the organization toward greater success and productivity. His other books about strengths in the workplace include Now, Discover Your Strengths (co-authored with Donald O. Clifton; 2001); The One Thing You Need to Know (2005); Go Put Your Strengths To Work (2007); The Truth About You (2008), and Find Your Strongest Life (2009). Building on the success of StandOut (2011), StandOut 2.0 features a productivity platform to reveal a person’s top two strength roles (areas of comparative advantage). StandOut 2.0 gives people practical innovations that fit their strengths, and gives team leaders quick insights on how to get the best from their team members.
Wednesday, May 9
An author, educator, licensed professional counselor, and former director of staff development and employee assistance, Connie Podesta doesn’t just address her audience—she captivates them, inspires them, and motivates them to new heights of personal and professional achievement. Offering practical advice that can be applied at work and home, she reminds audiences that the quality of their personal life directly affects their professional success. Connie uses her natural talent as an entertainer to connect with her audience, while delivering hands-on advice that changes lives and bottom lines. She is the author of Audiences Stand Up When You Stand Out, Life Would Be Easy If It Weren’t for Other People, and Self-Esteem and the Six-Second Secret; she’s also the co-author of How to Be the Person Successful Companies Fight to Keep.