People of Action
Meet the Speakers
New York Times Bestselling Author | Expert on Resilience, Survival, and Optimal Mindset
In 2008, Amanda Lindhout travelled to Somalia — a country often called “the most dangerous place on earth”. Abducted by a group of masked men along a dusty road, Amanda was held hostage for 460 days, and survived on her strategy, fortitude, and hope in the face of unimaginable adversity. Her unique experiences lend to important issues such as women’s rights, resilience, politics, and counter-terrorism. Her tale of survival builds suspense and momentum, revealing life-changing insights with actionable takeaways on how to re-frame pain into power.
A bestselling author, Amanda’s multiple-award-winning memoir of her experience in Somalia, A House in the Sky, has been on The Globe and Mail’s “Top Ten Bestsellers” list for a record- breaking three and a half years. The book is now being made into a film by Hollywood production company Annapurna Pictures (Zero Dark Thirty, Her, American Hustle, Joy, Foxcatcher) with Oscar-nominated actress Rooney Mara playing the role of Amanda.
An internationally renowned speaker, Amanda has shared stages with such luminaries as Bill Clinton and Richard Branson. She has visited over 90 countries to share her story, captivating audiences as large as 25,000 people.
She has been featured in Vogue, New York Times magazine, Dateline, The Today Show, Morning Joe and Anderson Cooper among other renowned media.
Expert Start With Why Facilitator
David Mead is committed to a world in which the vast majority of people wake up inspired to go to work, feel safe while they’re there and go home at the end of the day fulfilled by the work they do. Today, he’s here to share a few simple ideas that are helping to make that world a reality.
In 2004, he started a career in corporate training. A few years later, while earning an MBA with a focus in Organizational Development, he realized something. What he, and so many other people, were being taught in business school was contributing to the poor leadership he had been enduring for much of his career.
In 2009, shortly after beginning his MBA studies, he met, and was inspired by Simon Sinek and his concept of the Golden Circle and was invited to join Simon’s team. He started by developing content to help Simon share his powerful ideas and in 2012 he began speaking and facilitating workshops to help shift people’s perceptions about leadership and culture.
David has taken his years of practice and co-authored a new book with Simon, Find Your Why, a step-by-step, practical guide on how to discover the Why for any individual, team or organization.
David has presented these simple, inspiring ideas on 5 continents to over 150 organizations in a wide range of industries such as athletics, technology, retail, healthcare, finance, government and hospitality.
Regardless of the organization’s size, industry or country, David finds that these ideas resonate with those who want to find meaning in what they do and are committed to creating a culture where people come before profit.
Happiness Expert and Bestselling Author of The Book of Awesome
A Harvard MBA, New York Times bestselling author, award-winning blogger, and one of the most popular TED speakers in the world, Neil Pasricha is “a pied piper of happiness” who dazzles audiences with ideas that skyrocket happiness into the stratosphere. With infectious enthusiasm, heartfelt authenticity, and a “what works” authority, Pasricha draws on the latest research in happiness to increase individual performance and create a more positive and productive workplace.
Pasricha spent a decade with Walmart, the world’s largest company, directly working for two CEOs and as the organization’s director of leadership development. He now travels all over the globe sharing messages on happiness to Fortune 500 companies, schools, and non-profits. In the past few years, he has spoken to over 200,000 people at hundreds of events, making him one of the world’s most sought-after speakers. He has spoken to Royal Families in the Middle East, Ivy League Deans, and to CEOs at organizations such as Audi, Abbot, and GE.
His first book, The Book of Awesome, is a runaway #1 international bestseller with millions of copies sold. His newest book, The Happiness Equation: Want Nothing + Do Anything = Have Everything (also an international bestseller), provides step-by-step guidelines to illustrate how to improve your time, your career, your bottom line, your relationships, and ultimately (of course), your happiness. His intentionally acclaimed blog, 1000 Awesome Things, has scored over 50 million hits and twice won the Webby Award for “Best Blog in the World.”
Pasricha partnered with Harvard University to design one of the first global leadership development programs inside a Fortune 10 company. And, as a management consultant, he advised Fortune 50 companies on top level leadership strategies. He earned his Master’s degree from the Harvard Business School, focusing on Leadership and Organizational Behaviour.
Pasricha’s writing and work has been featured in Harvard Business Review, Forbes, CNN, BBC, The Guardian, The New Yorker, The Sunday Times, China Daily, The Jakarta Post, The Sydney Herald and Wired.
Social Entrepreneur | Restaurateur
Mark Brand is one of North America’s foremost social entrepreneurs. With eleven businesses under his belt, he is an example of a new form of leadership that encompasses good in every step.
Five years ago, Mark took over Save On Meats, a Vancouver butcher and diner that has provided food security and access since 1957. In 2013, he created The Token Program, an alternate currency to feed those in need without a cash exchange. Since then, over 100,000 tokens have been redeemed, filling 100,000 empty stomachs, and creating interactions between those who have, and those in need.
In addition, in partnership with his charity A Better Life Foundation, more than 1.8 million meals have left Save On’s doors to feed those who struggle. ABLF works with community agencies, marginalized individuals, and governments to create tangible waves of change.
Mark is a graduate of THNK, a Stanford fellow, A Professor of Innovation at USC, Executive Chef for Pope Francis’s Laudato Si Challenge, and an advisor to corporations and agencies working to make real change.
Corporate Comedian and MC
The name James Cunningham is synonymous with excellence and professionalism in the entertainment industry. He has made quite a name for himself as one of Canada’s funniest and most versatile performers. His remarkable and diverse career knows no boundaries.
From the smash success of his award-winning Funny Money lectures to his nightly stints on comedy stages across North America, Cunningham is simply one of the best. If it’s a master of ceremonies or just a fabulous evening of entertainment you’re looking for – look no further! He has proven, time and again, that he is one of the most skilled professionals on and offstage and has a long list of repeat clientele to prove it. He has been asked to host shareholder and annual business conferences across the country and around the world, repeatedly. Pepsi, Frito-Lay, Brink’s, KRAFT, Canadian Tire, McDonald’s, STAPLES, Nestle Purina, Walmart, GoodLife Fitness, BMO, Scotiabank, Proctor & Gamble, Medtronic, Ingram Micro, and Grant Thornton International, are just a few of his past corporate clients.
On television, Cunningham has been featured multiple times, including two of his own hour-long Comedy Now standup comedy specials for CTV and The Comedy Network, two Just For Laughs “Galas” for CBC-TV, five seasons as a writer and actor on the award-winning television series Comedy Inc. and on NBC’s Last Comic Standing. Currently, Cunningham is the host of Eat St., the Food Network Canada’s hit show that gives audiences a curbside view of North America’s tastiest, messiest, and most irresistible street food. The show is also airing on Cooking Channel in the US, and in countries around the world. Cunningham’s Eat St, cookbook (Penguin/Pintail) was recently a North American best seller.
Cunningham has performed at and hosted events for the nation’s top corporations and distinguished crowds of all ages. His clean and audience-appropriate performances have earned him countless recommendations. Combining his knowledge of the stage and his experience as a standup comedian, he has entertained at over 1,000 shows in the corporate arena. His personalized presentations guarantee laughter and delight at every type of event and function imaginable. Whatever the theme or purpose of your next corporate gathering, Cunningham will provide the humour necessary to make it an especially successful and memorable one.
Additionally, James hosted a series of sold-out events across Canada for THE POWER WITHIN where he had the pleasure of sharing the stage with former U.S. President Bill Clinton, Sir Richard Branson, Martha Stewart, Barbara Walters, Andre Agassi, Suze Orman and Hilary Swank, to name a few.
Rotary Club of Langley Central
Dean, her husband Rhino and their 3 children emigrated to Canada from South Africa 29 years ago. Dean grew up in Zambia and after marrying Rhino lived in Malawi, Namibia and South Africa. Dean was born into a Rotary family and when Rhino joined Rotary in 1986 became an active Rotary Ann until she joined Rotary in 1989. On arriving in Vancouver both Dean and Rhino joined the Rotary Club of West Vancouver and at present are members of the Rotary Club of Langley Central in District 5050.
Dean has had a varied career from the early days of being an Operating Room Nurse on Professor Christiaan Barnard’s first heart transplant team to running a Nursery School in Malawi. Together with Rhino they now owner manage a company that is involved in soil stabilization during road construction.
Dean has served on District and Zone committees; which include: Regional Rotary Coordinator and Regional Rotary Foundation Coordinator, Pacific Northwest PETS Chair, District Governor in 2007/2008 and Rotary International Director 2016-2018, Rotary International Vice- President 2017- 2018.
However, her best experience is leading teams of Rotarians, Rotaractors and Interactors to Africa and seeing how this volunteer experience changes their lives.
Violinist | Regional Coordinator for Davidsfonds
I am a violinist from Nieuwpoort, Belgium, a small city in Flanders’ Fields. I grew up in the shadow of one of the prominent peace monuments in the region and as kids we played in the park right next to the sluices complex that created Flanders’ Fields. Even though we had never seen war or conflict from up close, we could see the results of a world wide conflict in our everyday lives. From Nieuwpoort I went to Ghent to study Music, with a Russian music professor. When awarded a Rotary Foundation Ambassadorial Scholarship to go study at the Moscow State Conservatory, I took the ambassadorial role very seriously and took up Eastern European Studies. In 2010 I returned to Belgium with a lot of amazing Rotary moments to never forget and even broader perspective on the world.
Music teaches me every day that the only borders there are in this world, are the borders mankind creates. Music also teaches me that if something seems impossible at first, it is just a matter of how you look at it. A piece that you had never thought you’d be able to master, you can tackle in 1 day or maybe a year, but in the end… if you put your mind to it, it is possible.
I share the message of international understanding and goodwill with every single public I play for and have played many fundraising concerts for Rotary and other non-profits I think make a real difference in society.
I also still have a “day job” and as such am the regional coordinator for Davidsfonds, the biggest cultural foundation in Flanders. About 750 volunteers count on me for help on attracting and retaining membership, programming and marketing their activities and last but not least liaising with press and sponsors.
Through both professional commitments I try to help build a better society close to home, where people talk and also listen to each other, work and have fun together. As a proud Foundation Alumnus and Rotarian this is my contribution to positive peace.
Aaron helped coordinate the Rotary Friendship Exchange (RFE) between District 5370 and District 1620 in Belgium. Aaron has also coordinated RYLA for 2 years.
Vice President and Relationship Manager of the Commercial Real Estate division for M&T Bank
Drew Kessler is a Vice President and Relationship Manager of the Commercial Real Estate division for M&T Bank. He currently is responsible for a portfolio of loan and deposit relationships with major businesses within the metro New York City area; while increasing the bank’s business in established and developing markets. His leadership positions in the industry
date back to 2003. Drew has built his career as one of the leading bankers in New York. Drew prides himself on his commitment to client service and his comprehensive knowledge of the real estate and financing industry as well as his dedication to community service.
Drew values the relationships he has built with other professionals in the real estate industry; particularly the Realtors with whom he works hand-in-hand to make sure that their clients have a great experience. In 2008 Drew obtained his Real Estate license and became a Realtor to better serve the Realtor community. He was named President to the Rockland County Board of Realtors for the year of 2010. He most recently served as the 2015 President for the 10,000 member Hudson Gateway Association of Realtors which covers Rockland, Westchester, Orange and Putnam counties in New York. As a sign of his stature in the real estate community, Drew regularly appeared on Fox Business News from 2008-2013 for his expertise on the finance industry and the real estate market.
A Rotarian since 2001 at the age of 20, Kessler has served the North Rockland Rotary club in all levels of leadership and became the youngest president in their 91 year history at the age 25. He has been honored with the Distinguished Service Award and the Paul Harris Fellowship. Drew is a past District Governor of Rotary District 7210 which is made up of 1650 members in 57 clubs serving the 9 counties of the Hudson Valley. Currently he serves as the District’s Rotary
Foundation Chair, an Assistant Rotary Coordinator for Zone 32 that encompasses New England and is 1 of 8 members of the Young Past District Governor’s Committee that serves the Rotary International President. Rotary is an organization that fosters and encourages the idea of Service in both the local and worldwide community. He lives by the motto “Service above Self”.
Drew resides in Hopewell Junction, New York with his wife Vicki and their five children Dilynn age 17, Joe age 16, Parker age 13, Jackson age 6 and Brandon age 3.
Post Doctoral Researcher at University of Toronto & Ghent University (Belgium)
Rotary touched my life first and foremost through the people I met in Rotaract, which was my first contact with Rotary International. Future best friends and Rotary mentors brought great happiness to my days as a Rotaractor at the University of Lethbridge. We are still in touch to this day. Then Rotary presented me with the opportunity of a lifetime: to embark on a year-long academic and cultural exchange that took me from my Albertan home to Amsterdam, the Netherlands where I studied towards a Masters of Science degree as a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar. Little did I (or my family!) know that this experience would change my life forever. Rotary’s motto of ‘service above self’ was a faithful guide as I explored different career paths. During my Ambassadorial Scholarship I seized the opportunity to intern at the World Health Organization in Geneva. This was a critical step in my career in pursuit of universal access to medicines.
Ten years and one PhD later, I now research policy options for governments in low- and middle-income countries to improve access to a basic package of essential medicines for the most vulnerable people. I’m currently a post doctoral researcher at the University of Toronto and the Ghent University (Belgium). Committed to making medicines more affordable, I am a board member of the Foundation for Pharmaceutical Accountability in the Netherlands. We use legal tools to question unexplainably high medicines prices. Our work has recently been covered in The Financial Times and prominent Dutch national media outlets.
Katrina helped coordinate the Rotary Friendship Exchange (RFE) between District 5370 and District 1620 in Belgium.