Speakers Draw Inspiration From Adversity

Stories of struggle and perseverance resonate with audiences

Captain Chesley Sullenberger stock

The story surrounding Captain Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger's "Miracle on the Hudson" has recently made a big splash in movie theaters as Sully, starring Tom Hanks and directed by Clint Eastwood, topped box office receipts. The real Sully has actually been a much sought-after corporate speaker for the last eight years, and the persistent interest in his story has revealed this truism: Audiences love stories of adversity. They allow us to understand debilitating, painful, or even deadly challenges faced by those who experienced them firsthand, and to vicariously experience the courage or resourcefulness that allowed them to overcome even the most difficult situations -- and in the process for audience members to get in touch with our own inner strength.  

Here are a few speakers who will motivate your group with stories like Sullenberger's, discussing not just what they have gone through, but where they found the power to get through it, stronger than ever.

 Consuelo Castillo Kickbusch
The highest-ranking Latina in the Combat Support Field of the U.S. Army, Castillo Kickbusch grew up in the Mexican-border town known as the "Devil's Den" -- a drug-smuggling corridor near Laredo, TX. With little money and few comforts (she had only one pair of shoes, which she could wear only on school days) Kickbusch worked through her tough circumstances by internalizing a ferocious work ethic and resolute spirit. She found her calling in the Army, and soon impressed her superiors and rose up the ranks.

"I thought I had arrived," she says. But even after finding success in the armed forces, a question from her mother stuck with her: "What have you done for others because you wanted to do it for them -- and not because it was part of your job?"

When Kickbusch was offered a promotion to become a battalion commander, she left many flabbergasted by retiring. "It was time for me to leave a legacy," she says.

She founded Educational Achievement Services (EAS), with a focus on empowering people of all ages in all environments, and The Family Leadership Institute, a branch of the organization dedicated to helping immigrant and impoverished families participate in their children's education. Now Kickbusch has turned her struggles and success into a mission to help others overcome their own challenges and through her motivational speeches. easleadership.com; successfulmeetings.com/ConsueloKickbusch

 Heather Abbott
This survivor of the Boston Marathon bombing lost her left leg as a result of shrapnel to her foot. Just four months following the bombing, she was living independently and returned to her job. Within the first year following her amputation, she returned to the activities she loved, including paddle boarding, running, and wearing high heels. Abbott shares her story with audiences across the country and inspires others with her contagious optimism and thoughtful reflection on her journey. goodmanspeakersbureau.com; successfulmeetings.com/HeatherAbbott

 Scarlett Lewis
Inspired by a simple message her son wrote on their kitchen chalkboard, Lewis has embarked on a journey of forgiveness and a mission to transform thoughts of anger, disappointment, and pain into love, after her son died in the Sandy Hook school shooting. She founded The Jesse Lewis Choose Love Foundation, which honors her son, and told her story in the book Nurturing Healing Love.

Using the latest neuroscience, her work addresses new ways to effectively teach emotional intelligence in a logical sequence, focusing on awareness and mindfulness. Based on the science and research behind successful "Social and Emotional Learning" programs, Lewis provides adults in the corporate world the same tools that support and promote healthy interaction, cultivate happiness, and enable employees to have a healthy perspective in their work and personal lives, without being distracted by negativity. goodmanspeakersbureau.com; successfulmeetings.com/ScarlettLewis

Alfredo Fuentes
Captain Al Fuentes had dedicated many hours of his life to disaster relief efforts both in the U.S. and internationally. But on Sept. 11, 2001, Fuentes faced his greatest test as acting battalion chief, leading a contingent of fireboats on a mission to carry away survivors from the burning World Trade Center Towers. In the midst of coordinating rescuers and pulling wounded firefighters from the wreckage, Fuentes himself was caught in the collapsing rubble as he rushed to search for more survivors in the North Tower. He sustained crushing injuries to his skull, lungs, and ribs, and lay pinned beneath a steel girder for more than two hours. Fuentes persevered through prayer, finally managing to radio his comrades, leading them to his position, and his eventual rescue.

To try and create something constructive out of the horrors of 9/11 and the post-traumatic stress he suffered, Fuentes started the Patriot Group.

After the tragic events of Hurricane Katrina, Fuentes and other retired FDNY members and counselors traveled to New Orleans and assisted first responders and emergency personnel. It is his goal to assist and protect the citizens and first responders of our nation and those around the world. goodmanspeakersbureau.com; successfulmeetings.com/AlfredoFuentes

Chris Waddell
Chris Waddell likes to say, "It's not what happens to you, it's what you do with what happens to you," and his own story embodies this message. Waddell was a promising young skier at Middlebury College when a skiing accident left him paralyzed from the waist down.

Facing his disability with determination to get back on the slope, and learning how to use a monoski, within a year Waddell was able to return to skiing. In two years, he was named to the U.S. Disabled Ski Team and went on to become the most decorated male skier in Paralympic history. After 11 years on the ski team, his ambitions led him to become the first paraplegic to summit Mt. Kilimanjaro with little assistance.

Waddell helps his listeners to draw inspiration from how he overcame devastating challenges, urging them to apply it to their own difficulties, and succeed in whatever they are facing. goodmanspeakersbureau.com; successfulmeetings.com/ChrisWaddell