6 questions with Celeste Headlee – Leader’s Breakfast Keynote Speaker


Which one of your professions was the key driver for Branching into motivational speaking?
Journalism. It’s been clear, over the 18 years that I’ve been a journalist, that our conversations are dropping in quantity and deteriorating in quality. I see the effect that has on our politics, our education, and our medicine because I am reporting on those issues daily. Once I found what was lacking in my own conversations, I decided to spread the word as far as I could.

Who was your most notable interview subject?
I’ve interviewed presidents and celebrities and Nobel Prize winners, so many of them are notable. But my favorite is Salman Rushdie. He’s a delight to talk to and taught me how to really listen to a question and make sure I understand it before I answer.

Biggest success story.
My son. He starts college in the fall at Georgia State University.

Favorite pastime?
My favorite pastime is hiking or kayaking, I haven’t been able to do it for a couple years because I need foot surgery. But once that’s done, I’ll be back out in the hills of Georgia or paddling down the rivers. Once you get into a rhythm with your paddle or your feet, it’s almost like meditation.

You help lead the Next Generation Project for NPR, training young broadcast journalists, what do you see as the most challenging factor for graduates now?
I think the biggest challenge is to get past the social media identity. Connection can feel like communication and young people sometimes struggle to understand the difference. Some confuse a text exchange for a conversation or feel they are close to people whom they only know over Facebook. When you communicate with printed text only, through email or text, you are missing out on a lot of data that helps you understand the meaning of what’s being said: non-verbal cues and tone of voice. That’s two-thirds of the meaning in a conversation and it’s lost if you are connecting through text.

What keeps you motivated?
The response of people that I meet. I can tell that I’m making a difference because I see the lights go on in people’s eyes. And I get emails from people that are so heartfelt and touching, it’s impossible to mistake the impact that I have.

Leaders Breakfast
Friday, September 16, 7 – 10am
The LA Hotel Downtown
333 South Figueroa Street
Los Angeles, CA 90071

To purchase tickets and sponsor visit iida.org. See Sponsorship Opportunities here. For up-to-date information about the event and to read more about the speaker and honoree, visit iida-socal.org.

Elise Ozawa, IIDA
VP of Communications
Momentum Textiles

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