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7 Inspirational Speakers Who Have Faced Challenges and Conquered

July 10, 2024

Inspirational speakers come in two equally powerful forms. Some keynote speakers deliver an energetic keynote focused on motivating and inspiring the audience from their first smile to their last word onstage. Other keynote speakers have personal stories of overcoming adversity that are innately inspirational, with or without the presenter being tagged as a “motivational speaker.” This blog will focus on the latter.

Inviting a speaker with a compelling story of facing challenges is an impactful way to motivate, enlighten, and equip your audience to tackle their own dilemmas with more confidence and resilience.

These public and keynote speakers have overcome obstacles, personally and professionally, emerging stronger and wiser. They have the unique ability to share their hard-won insights and equip your group with strategies to anticipate, manage, and overcome any crisis that may cross their path.

From all disciplines and industries, here are our 8 inspirational speakers who have faced challenges and conquered.

Elaine Chao

Former U.S. Secretary of Transportation, Former U.S. Secretary of Labor, President and CEO of United Way of America, Peace Corps Director, Director of Numerous Fortune 100 Corporate Boards

Elaine Chao is a dynamic speaker with a dramatic personal story, extraordinary resume, and wide-ranging expertise on leadership, innovation, the economy and much more. Her 37-day journey aboard a cargo ship with her mother and sisters to America foreshadowed a life of possibilities, challenges, and achievements. The first Asian American woman to be in the President’s cabinet, the arc of Elaine Chao’s experience encompasses cultures of Asia and the West; the public, private, and non-profit sectors; four presidential administrations; and living and working in New York, California, Kentucky, and Washington, D.C. Engaging, informative, and results-oriented, Elaine Chao will leave your audience inspired and ready to conquer the world.

Chao speaks about Government & PoliticsGeopoliticsLeadership & Management Business

Dave A. Chokshi, M.D.

Physician, Sternberg Family Professor of Leadership at the City College of New York, 43rd Health Commissioner of New York City, White House Fellow

Dr. Chokshi is a physician and public health leader who served as the 43rd Health Commissioner of New York City. As such, he led New York City’s response to COVID-19 from 2020-22. Dr. Chokshi was thus tasked with navigating the most unforeseen, unprecedented health crisis in modern history and communicating its ever-changing data to over 8.7 million city residents. Previously, he was also involved in responses to Superstorm Sandy and Hurricane Katrina.

As an organizational leader, a public spokesperson, a former governmental official, and a doctor and scientist, Dr. Chokshi’s calm and informed style of leadership is well respected and admired throughout various groups and sectors. He is a passionate and proactive advocate for health care equality.

At many of his speaking engagements, Dr. Chokshi gives the key leadership lessons he has learned in times of crisis, which span management, communication, strategy, operations, and policy.

Chokshi speaks about Healthcare & WellnessLeadership & Management

General John F. Kelly

45-Year Marine Veteran; Former White House Chief of Staff; Former U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security; Former Commander, U.S. Southern Command

Retired Gen. John Kelly is a 45-year Marine veteran who headed the U.S. Southern Command, where he focused on U.S. border security, organized crime, terrorist organizations and drug traffickers in his Latin American region for more than three years. Kelly retired as a four-star general in 2016. He then served as the 5th United States Secretary of Homeland Security in the Trump Administration, where he earned a reputation for being an aggressive enforcer of ethics, established Homeland Security policy, and most importantly, the law. After six months, he was selected to serve as White House Chief of Staff.

Since leaving the White House, General Kelly regularly lectures and conducts focused seminars on ethical and moral leadership, team building, and decision making. He has also presented at various programs regarding the state of American society and democracy, what the future may look like, and how Americans can stop erosion by electing the right kind of leaders from the city council level all the way up to president of the United States.

Kelly speaks about Leadership & Management

Olga Koroleva

Founder & CEO, Capital Brain; Real Estate Entrepreneur; High Altitude Mountaineer

As a technology pioneer in capital markets, entrepreneur, and world-class mountaineer, Olga Koroleva’s triumphs are limitless… both in the boardroom and on the mountain! She is the founder and CEO of Capital Brain, a company that creates AI-run investment strategies to invest in real estate and public securities. An adventurer by nature, she has also completed over 40 expeditions, summiting the highest, the deadliest, and the hardest mountains on the planet (Mount Everest, Annapurna I, and K2).

Koroleva is passionate about motivating others to live with a “peak performance” mindset. The lessons she has gleaned over the course of her career deliver an exciting and insightful presentation to audiences of all kinds.

Koroleva speaks about AIBusinessLeadership & Management

Mike Pence

48th Vice President of the United State; Founder of Advancing American Freedom; 50th Governor of Indiana; Former Member of the U.S. House of Representatives, Indiana; Distinguished Visiting Fellow at The Heritage Foundation; Author


Former U.S. Vice President Mike Pence has faced a crossroads at several times throughout his career in politics. Some of the hurdles he has overcome include losing his first two congressional elections to the Democratic incumbent nominee, leading the COVID-19 Task Force during the pandemic, and facing numerous media storms alongside one of the most controversial American presidents in modern history. Pence’s role in the infamous insurrection that took place on January 6, 2021 is a well-known and widely discussed example of the former VP facing a crisis head-on, and his decisions on that day have been commended by his fans and critics alike.

Despite these obstacles, Vice President Pence has emerged with confidence and success. He has authored two best-selling books and remained steady in his conservative beliefs. He founded Advancing American Freedom, a policy and advocacy based on traditional American values. If your organization can benefit from firsthand accounts of facing chaos in governance, Mike Pence is an excellent choice for a speaker.

Pence speaks about Government & PoliticsGeopoliticsLeadership & Management

Robert R. Redfield, M.D.

Virologist and Infectious Disease Physician; Cofounder, Prevention, Diagnosis, Treatment Inc.; Director, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2018-2021); Administrator, Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (2018-2021); Retired Army Colonel

Robert Redfield COVID

As a renowned virologist, Dr. Robert Redfield has uniquely experienced three surprising and scientifically complex global epidemics during his career: Ebola, HIV/AIDS, and COVID-19. On the frontlines of these epidemics, Dr. Redfield has played a significant role in finding, studying, and publishing the many scientific discoveries and medical advancements that have come about during his career.

The former Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shares his unique perspective with audiences, including anecdotes from his personal experiences with both the social and political components that complicate the trajectory of curing diseases.

Dr. Redfield is also passionate about fighting the stigma of drug use disorder, which causes greater harms to society and the disorder’s victims. Audiences also learn uplifting news about the science that will make a cure possible in the near future.

Redfield speaks about Healthcare & WellnessLeadership & Management

Misty Copeland

The First African American Female Principal Dancer with American Ballet Theatre

When she discovered ballet, Misty Copeland was living in a motel room, struggling with her five siblings for a place to sleep on the floor. A true prodigy, she was dancing en pointe within three months of taking her first dance class and performing professionally in just over a year: a feat unheard of for any classical dancer. In her powerful and inspiring speeches, Misty describes her accomplishments with an all-encompassing approach, touching upon her life story, social justice, and giving back. She leaves audiences with hope, inspiration, and a truly unforgettable experience.

Copeland speaks about Arts & EntertainmentMotivational & Inspirational

After reading this article, it’s easy to understand why hiring speakers who have overcome the odds and conquered personal and professional hardships can inspire your audience. These qualified storytellers can represent a wide array of verticals, including AI and technology, climate and environmental issues, business, health and wellness, finance and economy, government and politics, and arts and entertainment. Contact WWSG to get the speaking availability of any of the above speakers plus hundreds more. We represent all keynote speakers, even those not listed on our website, and we will make your experience hiring a speaker seamless.

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