John Graham's speeches bring people to their feet and into action, inspiring them to solve the public problems that concern them. Giraffe workshops are street-smart trainings in the nuts and bolts of getting the job done.
Graham's style is relaxed, humorous and direct. He's comfortable in any format, from national conference keynotes to corporate luncheons to high school assemblies. He can speak from a podium but prefers to move around. All Graham's speeches are carefully tailored to the specific needs of each audience, with themes applied to their particular concerns and brought alive by stories of his own adventures and experiences.
His audiences include international, national and regional conferences of all kinds. He's in demand by corporations, conference planners, nonprofits, groups of high-net-worth individuals, universities, schools, churches and government agencies. He's an acknowledged expert in teaching civic engagement and character education to youth.
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"John Graham knocked our socks off! He didn't just engage an audience; he stamped the event as a 'must have been there' celebration. His workshops afterward were rated "10s." We'd have him back in a minute.” — Barbara Brown, Director Leadership Anchorage
"We've been fortunate to have seen and heard as speakers many iconic figures over the years, from finance titans, athletes, entertainers and philanthropists. John Graham inspired above all...John's message will resonate with our members for years to come." — Angelo Robles, Founder and Chairman, Family Office Association
"John Graham kept the audience on the edge of their seats. He invigorated the inner spirit. He was absolutely terrific!" — Dolores C. Jones, National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners
"[Graham's] powerful comments made a lasting impression on the Brigade, the Academy staff and our retired and civilian guests. [His] presentation was a tremendous success." — Vice Admiral Rodney P. Rempt, Superintendent, United States Naval Academy
"Because of you we were able to raise over $50,000 to help expand our philanthropic framework..."—Maddy Metzger-Utt, Greater Everett Community Foundation
"You had an impact that will be felt for years into the future. A journalist had tears in his eyes as he thanked me for convincing him to attend. Thank you again for sharing your message of courage, risk, meaning and leadership. The years you have spent cultivating an understanding of true leadership and making decisions for the common good are a gift to humanity.” — Sarri Gilman, Executive Director, Leadership Snohomish County, Everett, WA
[Primary focus: audiences of investors, venture capitalists, entrepreneurs and high-net-worth individuals]
Looking for ways to "give back?" Graham leads off by telling the inspiring stories of "Giraffe Heroes"-people honored by his organization, the Giraffe Heroes Project for sticking their necks out to help solve pressing public problems. Why do these heroes do what they do? Why do they take these risks?
In 33 years of asking these questions, the answers are clear: Giraffe Heroes are motivated by the personal meaning their actions add to their lives, meaning flowing from helping solve important public problems, from making life better for other people.
After decades of climbing mountains and dodging bullets in wars and revolutions around the globe. Graham shares the stories of how he painfully learned the same lessons--that the secret to a life of meaning is giving back.
Then he challenges his audiences: what can each of them do to leverage the skills, contacts and resources that already sustain their business lives to help solve a public problem significant to them? Graham's challenges are tough but in the language his audiences understand. Everyone has unique opportunities to make a difference, he says. What public problem has your name on it? Find that problem, and then tackle it with everything you've got. It'll help solve the problem; and it'll add meaning, passion and deep satisfaction to your own life.
[Focus: general audiences]
Thirty-four years ago, John Graham was nearly killed when the cruise ship he was lecturing on burned and sank in the freezing waters of the Gulf of Alaska. Rescued at the last moment as a typhoon engulfed his lifeboat, he emerged with a sense of direction and purpose that hasn't wavered. "All of us want meaningful lives," he says now, "but we don't have to face death to find them. The guiding signs are all around us, most of them small and subtle—I just ignored them." No matter what your situation in life, don't settle for just taking up space—find the meaning you're looking for in service, in committing to ideals beyond your personal needs. Let Graham help you find or renew the passion for what you care about—then go after it with everything you've got.
[Focus: leaders and leaders-to-be]
How can you improve your effectiveness as a leader, building on what you already know? John Graham, author of Outdoor Leadership, offers insights and practical tips from forty years of experience on mountain-climbing teams, in Vietnam, at the UN, as an environmental activist and in the nonprofit world. “The core of good leadership,” he says, “is a lot more than making tough decisions and handling conflicts. It’s also about developing trust, communicating with sensitivity, balancing head with heart—and inspiring others with a clear and compelling vision of success.”
[Focus: organization conferences]
How do you keep the vision in your organization bright, the goals sharp, and the people in it working with passion and commitment? Let author, storyteller activist and former diplomat John Graham help you build on the fire and purpose you started with. “There’s tremendous motivation in doing work you know is meaningful,” he says; “meaning is thesource of vision, passion and strength, for individuals and for organizations. Connect with that meaning and you’re unstoppable.” John’s message is serious, but his style is informal and humorous, laced with stories from his adventurous life, and from the lives of the heroes honored by the Giraffe Heroes Project.
(Focus: high school kids)
Teens pay attention when John Graham asks them what they care about. The author of It’s Up to Us, a handbook for teens, Graham uses an easy tone and style, and plenty of dramatic stories, to show students that nothing is more important than living a meaningful life, and that the surest path to that meaning is service. “You can find thousands of ways to make a difference,” he says, as he offers practical tools for the search. “Find the ones that excite you and go for them with everything you’ve got.”
[Focus: Change agents and change agents-to-be]
John Graham has been leading this workshop for twenty years, and it's led to the solution of problems big and small. He's used it to help avert a major strike in Canada—and help a high school kid recruit allies for working with the homeless in Dallas.
The workshop begins with participants each creating a strong, clear picture of success for their work or project. That's followed by a series of challenging role plays Graham creates on the spot to help individuals sharpen their pictures of success and communicate them with enough power to attract support and overcome resistance and conflicts.
[Focus: change agents and change agents-to-be]
This hands-on, participatory workshop shows participants how to transform ideals and ideas into real changes in public policy. Subjects covered include:
[Focus: leaders and leaders-to-be]
John Graham shares a lifetime of leadership experience as a mountaineer, diplomat, citizen activist, and President of the Giraffe Heroes Project. To him, leadership is not a set of rules but an art; not just skills and techniques, but personality and style; involving not just the body and the mind, but spirit and character as well. Topics covered include:
BUSINESS, LABOR AND MANAGEMENT
"Those (Members of Congress) present were unanimous in the favorable reaction to your remarks. Surely the program's success was due in great part to your efforts." —Congressman Charles W. Whalen, Washington DC
“We especially appreciated that you took the time to understand our mission and work—and to focus your talk on elements that could be put to use immediately in efforts to correct a health care system that is inefficient and unsustainable. Your encouragement and practical advice will enable us to take on new aspects of this huge challenge. And by calling on each of us to focus on the personal meaning of our work, you tapped both the heart and the inner motivations…the stories you shared from you adventures in life were terrific.” —Sumner Schoenike, MD, President, Pierce County (WA) Medical Society
"Your powerful comments made a lasting impression on the Brigade, the Academy staff and our retired and civilian guests! Your presentation was a tremendous success!" —Vice Admiral Rodney P. Rempt, Superintendent, United States Naval Academy
VOLUNTEERISM AND SERVICE
"You and your ‘Giraffes' were simply outstanding. Your presentation was not only informative and entertaining, but also incredibly inspirational." —Deborah Sutton, President, Junior League of Dallas
"You took Star Island by storm and won our hearts. You are a stimulating and enriching addition. Your workshop generated a good deal of talk, and I think action as well. Thank you for taking the time and energy to give us so much." —Pam Skillman, Unitarian Church, Chestnut Hill ME
"You were like a breath of fresh air and I enjoyed every lung-full. You made a very big impression here in Capetown." —Eric Arraguise, Capetown, South Africa
BUSINESS, LABOR AND MANAGEMENT
"We've been fortunate to have seen and heard as speakers many iconic figures over the years, from finance titans, athletes, entertainers and philanthropists. John Graham inspired above all...John's message will resonate with our members for years to come." -- Angelo Robles, Founder and Chairman, Family Office Association
"Your message to our audience, challenging them to get involved, to make a difference, and to not be afraid of success, was perfect. Your lifeboat story had everyone on the edge of their chairs. After the meeting, a couple members approached me to see how they could get more involved in the Chamber, so your inspirational story works quickly!" -- Amy Looten, Executive Director, Quincy Area Chamber of Commerce, Quincy IL
"The message you delivered could not have been more inspirational. It's important for all of us to be reminded about something as basic as caring and how essential it is in our lives." -- Juli Lindquist, Sales Manager, Four Seasons Hotel, Seattle WA
"You enabled us to identify many of the difficulties facing the union and to begin creating a vision of what we might become. You did this by getting each one of us to reconnect with our purpose in joining the union movement in the first place and by helping us to understand the need to take greater risks and more responsibility for our actions. In this way you enabled us to raise our sights and better understand our individual and collective role in making the union become as fully potent as possible." -- Fred W. Pomeroy, Pres., Communications and Electrical Workers of Canada, Ottawa Ontario
"John Graham is an inspiring speaker but more than that, his philosophy on guiding both our personal and professional lives is very powerful and possible." -- Seattle Management Association, Seattle WA
"I was totally enthralled by your message and according to all the reports back to me, so were many others. You were challenging and highly motivating--exactly what the business and school partners needed to kick off this year's involvement together." -- Cynthia Shelton, Executive Director, Partners in Public Education, Seattle WA
"Over my years in business I have attended many motivational programs given by the best speakers at the time. So, when I learned that the keynote speaker at the annual meeting of the Opportunity Council was yet another motivational speaker, I just smiled. Well, what can be said? John Graham's presentation to the assemblage was outstanding. Such a powerful message and so uniquely packaged that it seemed it was aimed directly at me and about me. At the conclusion, I felt I could truly stick my neck out. But most amazing is that I still feel that way." -- Judi Edwards, Opportunity Council Board President, Bellingham, WA
'Your powerful comments made a lasting impression on the Brigade, the Academy staff and our retired and civilian guestsÖ Your presentation was a tremendous success." -- Vice Admiral Rodney P. Rempt, Superintendent, United States Naval Academy
"Your closing message on moral courage was a great inspiration to all those who attended. Strong, positive role models for these young men and women have a tremendous impact on their development. Your comments are certain to remain in the forefront of their thoughts throughout their careers." -- Johnny A. Weida, Brig Gen, Commandant of Cadets, United States Air Force Academy
"Those (Members of Congress) present were unanimous in the favorable reaction to your remarks. Surely the programís success was due in great part to your efforts." -- Congressman Charles W. Whalen, Washington DC
"It was a huge success in everyone's opinion. Everyone felt they learned, and were taking back to their offices, some new and refreshing approaches." -- Mary Meier, Seattle City Light, Seattle WA
"Your keynote address couldn't have set the tone for our conference any better. We have had nothing but rave reviews. Your stories embellished your points so beautifully, and I appreciated your summarizing the key points. I think everyone was re-enforced by your encouragement to step up and contribute to the community." -- Marilyn Clement, Superior Court of the State of Washington, Seattle WA
"'Awesome' was the way one faculty member described your presentation. 'Engaging, fascinating and truly inspiring,' said another. Two representative quotes from students:
'What you said really meant something to me. You really made me think.'
'Sometimes it seems like nobody cares but you care so now I can care.'"
--Meleesa Wyatt, Service Coordinator, University Prep, Seattle
"Your message was global, exciting, dangerous, outrageous and often had one on the edge of one's seat! But in the end it boiled down to making choices that make one's life meaningful. And that perspective is what the room of 300 educators wanted to hear. Your address set the tone for what turned out to be a remarkable day. I canít thank you enough. You truly made an impact."
--Deborah Lackey, ED, North Harris Montgomery Community College District, Woodlands, TX
"While John Grahamís incredible tales of danger and adventure were obvious crowd-pleasers, his passion for helping people see that they too could find meaning in their lives by dedicating themselves to a cause they love was what was truly inspiring." -- Colgate University Maroon-News
"Our deep appreciation for the wonderful keynote address you delivered at our Leadership Connections conference last week. It was the perfect kickoff! Your message about the importance of leading a meaningful life--one that is based on purpose, vision, trust and service--was right on target. Your stories about your own amazing adventures made the early childhood professionals in the audience contemplate their own potential, inspiring them to step out of their comfort zone, trust in their innate abilities and pursue an even bigger vision in their work on behalf of children and families. Folks left the room buzzing about how they could take this message and share it with the teachers and support staff at their centers. -- Paula Jorde Bloom, Ph.D., McCormick Tribune Center for Early Childhood Leadership
VOLUNTEERISM AND SERVICE
"I had some inkling that your public speaking would be phenomenal but your keynote address for Leadership Snohomish County will leave an impact that will be felt for years into the future. The audience was blown away. A journalist had tears in his eyes as he thanked me for convincing him to attend; I told him that I would never have been able to recreate this moment for him. Thank you again for sharing your message of courage, risk, meaning and leadership. The years you have spent cultivating an understanding of true leadership and making decisions for the common good are a gift to humanity." -- Sarri Gilman, Executive Director, Leadership Snohomish County, Everett WA
"For our organizationís tenth anniversary, we wanted someone who would invite reflection, inspire action and leave the room bristling with energy.... John Graham knocked our socks off! He didn't just engage an audience; he stamped the event as a 'must have been there' celebration, and that distinction was extended to our organization. His workshops afterward were rated "10s." We'd have him back in a minute. -- Barbara Brown, Director Leadership Anchorage, Anchorage AK
"People would have to be brain dead not to have been affected by you. In fact, we all were savoring and re-playing parts of your talk all day. You may not overtly be a priest or rabbi or mullah or monk--but you are a little of each, perhaps. Thanks for your ideas and energy and, most of all, your wisdom."
-- Dave Zeretzke, Inter-island Conference on Families, Friday Harbor WA
"You and your Giraffes were simply outstanding. Your presentation was not only informative and entertaining, but also incredibly inspirational." -- Deborah Sutton, President, Junior League of Dallas, Dallas TX
''Your keynote address was all that we could have wanted--and more! All we heard was praise for the way you used the theme of the conference and personal experiences to effectively encourage and motivate conference participants. Most helpful from the workshop was your dynamic presentation and your ability to inspire." -- Tabatha B. Burn, Florida Office for Campus Volunteers, Tallahassee FL
"You received rave reviews from the participants. Your presentations were just as we hoped they would be--inspiring and eloquent but also realistic and well-grounded. We appreciate all that you did to make the conference such a success." -- Mary McIntire, Dean of Continuing Studies, Rice University, Houston TX
"Thanks again for all you did. We sure hit the jackpot with you." -- Michael Ryan, Topeka Civic Summit, Topeka KS
"This is an inspirational speaker, nationally known, who can speak to a room of 700 people and then truly engage in one-on-one conversation and correspondence with a grassroots person on the other side of the country. Too often it seems that one precludes the other. And it is so seldom that we find someone who not only talks the talk but actually walks the walk. Thank you for the gift of John Graham and the Giraffe Project." -- Evelyn Schaeffer, Leadership Ashtabula County, OH
"John was a mesmerizing speaker, infusing our volunteers with the desire to work to bring about significant change in their communities. John also led us through a visioning exercise that allowed our volunteer leadership teams to move from basic first level community service endeavors to higher level sustainable community projects." -- Wendy Garf-Lipp, Program Director, Girl Scouts of Eastern Massachusetts
"In my many years in nonprofit work, I have heard many ìinspirationalî keynotes, but few to match John Graham's. I was amazed by the humility, heart and breadth of his personal stories, a perfect match for his message of the wonder and pride in service to others, and choosing to make a difference. Wow! Through his well-told tales, John touched something deep within his listeners, and I for one will always remember his parting quote from Mary Oliver: 'Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?'"
-- Bill Henkel, Director, Whatcom Homeless Service Center, Bellingham WA
"Because of you we were able to raise over $50,000 to help expand our philanthropic framework... Everyone I talked to thoroughly enjoyed hearing your story; your emphasis on service to the community was exactly the message that we hoped to share with the audience." -- Maddy Metzger-Utt, Executive Director, Greater Everett Community Foundationn
"The great comments about your presentations keep pouring in! Thanks again! You were truly an inspiration to everyone." -- Tanya Dorf, Training Director, Kansas Assn. of Rehabilitation Facilities, Kansas City KS
"We especially appreciated that you took the time to understand our mission and work, and to focus your talk on elements that could be put to use immediately in efforts to correct a health care system that is inefficient and unsustainable. Your encouragement and practical advice will enable us to take on new aspects of this huge challenge. And by calling on each of us to focus on the personal meaning of our work, you tapped both the heart and the inner motivations--the stories you shared from your adventures in life were terrific." -- Sumner Schoenike, MD, Past-President, Pierce County Medical Society, Tacoma WA
"John told a remarkable story, keeping the audience on the edge of their seats and conveying a message that moved the professionals in our audience. John was able to invigorate the inner spirit needed to take on our challenges (of advocacy). As one participant put it: 'John Graham was absolutely terrific. Part of the conference is to step back and evaluate what it is we do and he was very helpful in this recharging.'"
-- Dolores C. Jones, National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners
"John's reminders of our own personal power have been instrumental in moving our entire Church into new and expanding areas of ministry. As a result of his weekend workshop we now have an active ministry through a Sister Church in Tallinn, Estonia; our youth are reconstructing homes for native Americans; and a large contingent of people are regularly providing meals for street people. John has stimulated us to actually DO what we have been talking about for years and years." -- Dr. P. David Wilkinson, The Church of St. Francis, Tucson AZ
"Your workshop was the most valuable thing that has happened to me in a long time. You helped me get in touch with my vision as missionary and community builder. As you shared with us about 'vision,' I got in touch with my own calling and with a new sense of hope." -- Sister Marcia Huber, Institute for Mission and Ministry, Paterson NJ
"I am so grateful for your enormous contribution to our community service conference, for your good and helpful presence and perspective, for your thoughtful and encouraging comments, and for your example of one who has gone beyond rhetoric to a personal and sustained commitment to help others. I was also moved by the earnestness of your engagement and how much joy it so clearly brings to you." -- Peter W. Cobb, Executive Director, Council for Spiritual and Ethical Education, Atlanta GA
"Your presentation received rave comments! Your message was so inspirational and thoughtful. You have a wonderful delivery that engages the heart and mind of the listener. Thank you for speaking to (our congregation) and thank you for the work that you do." --Sandy Welch, Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Whidbey Island WA
"You were like a breath of fresh air and I enjoyed every lung-full. You made a very big impression here in Capetown." -- Eric Arraguise, Capetown, South Africa
"Everyone has commented on the fine job you did, especially in providing so much information in such an open and thoughtful way." -- William R. O'Connell, Jr., United Nations Association of the USA, Atlanta GA