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Bill Strickland

Give people the tools they need, treat them with respect, and they will perform miraculous deeds.

An Extraordinary Business and Community Leader

Contact Bill For Booking
Bill Strickland | An Extraordinary Business and Community Leader
Lavin Exclusive Speaker

For thirty years, Bill Strickland has used his innovative arts and training centers to transform the lives of thousands of impoverished adults and teenagers. In his emotionally powerful talks, he explains how he went from a failing student to a trustee on his school’s board, and other real success stories from his experiences in the world of education. A commanding speaker, his resonant message of self-worth leaves audiences in tears and on their feet. “Strickland is a genius,” says former e-Bay president Jeff Skoll, “because he sees the inherent genius in everyone.” 

Bill Strickland has changed lives, restored our faith in ethical leadership, and reshaped the business of social change. As Executive Chairman of the Manchester Bidwell Corporation—an extraordinary jobs training center and community arts program—he and his staff work with corporations, community leaders, and schools to give disadvantaged kids and adults the opportunities they need to build a better future. (Centers are already running in Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, San Francisco, Grand Rapids, New Haven, Boston, and Buffalo; with many more in the planning stages, including international centers in Israel, London, and Japan.)


Recently, Strickland was named as one of the 25 members of the White House Council for Community Solutions by President Obama. And for years now, in front of enraptured audiences, this MacArthur Genius has shared his unshakable message of leadership, self-worth and the intrinsic ability in all of us to achieve remarkable transformation in our lives. He was also honored by the US Senate for his contribution to social innovation.

Strickland is also the author of Make the Impossible Possible, a recipient of The White House’s “Coming Up Taller” Award, and the founder of the Grammy-winning MCG Jazz, the most successful jazz subscription series in America.   


“Bill’s talk was so moving and inspirational, that if I had only seen him, the conference would have been worth it. His message will resonate with me forever.”

Next Concept HR Association

“I’m writing to thank you for your help facilitating Bill Strickland’s engagement at our national convening this week. Despite the snow, we had a full house to hear his remarks, and we were so glad. People from around the country were moved to tears and moved to action (even better). One team made a commitment at the closing remarks. They said, ‘Yesterday we had a fully compliant state plan. This morning, after hearing Bill Strickland, we decided to blow it up and create a disruptive, innovative state plan.’ That is awesome!”

US Department of Education

“Bill Strickland spoke to 502 Freshman students about his book *Make the Impossible Possible.* He also engaged some of our faculty, who are teaching this book, in an informal discussion. He made such an impression on our students and faculty. Our students were inspired by his talk, as at least 100 or more waited for him after the presentation to take pictures, get autographs and speak with him personally.”

Florida A&M University

“Everyone is still raving about Bill’s keynote. He received a standing ovation which is rare for our conferences as many of our delegates are fairly cynical after seeing many, many speakers over the years. However, Bill’s inspiring story really touched them and I’m sure will stay with them for a long time to come. He is also just a lovely man and everyone really enjoyed the opportunity to speak with him at our gala dinner.”


Speech Topics

The Art of Leadership and the Business of Social Change

Strickland is a mesmerizing speaker who will inspire you to make a difference, in your life and in the lives of those around you. Ever-gracious, he delivers a profoundly simple, optimistic message for leaders: give people the tools they need, treat them with respect, and they will perform miraculous deeds. He also delves into his story of hope: of how a kid from Pittsburgh’s ghetto would go on to lecture at Harvard and serve on the board of the National Endowment of the Arts; of his meeting with a pottery teacher who would change his life; of growing a near-bankrupt community center into one of the most acclaimed social organizations in the world. Throughout, he shares his powerful set of beliefs: for example, that we all make ourselves “poor” in one way or another when we accept that we are not smart, experienced, or talented enough to accomplish something. “A successful life is not something you simply pursue—it is something that you create, moment by moment.”

A Teacher Saved My Life
Growing up in a rough part of Pittsburgh, Bill Strickland saw a hopeless path laid out before him. Then one day a chance encounter with a high school pottery teacher gave him a new passion. It gave him something to look forward to every day. Strickland credits that teacher with saving his life. That’s the power of one teacher. Strickland’s acclaimed Manchester Bidwell organization has the same impact, but on a grander scale. It comes down to respect and attention, on an individual level. Technology can make educating easier, but it’ll never be able to replace the emotional support that’s so key in helping young people succeed. Only a teacher can provide that. This rousing keynote is Strickland’s call-to-arms for fellow educators. He champions them as some of the most important people in the world and, calling on over three decades of experience, will demonstrate the power they have to make lives better. This talk is for all education groups, and will cast teachers in a great light.