John Graham went to sea on a cargo ship in Asia when he was seventeen, took part in the first (and to date only) direct ascent of Mt. McKinley's North Wall in Alaska at twenty, and hitchhiked around the world at twenty-two, covering every war along the way for the Boston Globe.
A U.S. Foreign Service Officer for fifteen years, he was in Libya during the 1969 revolution and served in the war in Vietnam. For three years in the mid-seventies, he was a member of NATO's top-secret Nuclear Planning Group, then served as a foreign policy advisor at the U.S. Congress for Senator John Glenn. During a posting at the United Nations, however, his life began to turn. He became deeply involved in U.S. human rights initiatives, including the fight against apartheid in South Africa.
Still, something was missing. In 1980, a close brush with death aboard a burning cruise ship in a typhoon in the North Pacific forced him to accept a deeper meaning for his life. Now out of the Foreign Service, he began teaching better ways of handling challenge and conflict.
Since 1983 he's been a leader of the Giraffe Heroes Project, a global nonprofit moving people to stick their necks out for the common good—and giving them the tools to succeed. The Project finds ordinary people acting with extraordinary courage on a broad range of important issues—then gets their stories told on the web, in schools and in both traditional and social media (www.giraffe.org).
Graham has been part of major peace-building efforts in the Middle East and Africa. He now directs Giraffes Heroes International (GHI), helping citizens in the developing world solve difficult public problems, such as poverty, violence, corruption and poor leadership (www.giraffe.org/ghi). GHI's latest initiatives have been in Egypt, Zimbabwe and Kenya.
Graham's speeches move people into action, inspiring them to solve the public problems that concern them most. His workshops are practical trainings in getting the job done. His blog pieces most recently included a firsthand account of Chinese oppression in Tibet. He is the author of Outdoor Leadership, Stick Your Neck Out—A Street-smart Guide to Creating Change in Your Community and Beyond, and a memoir, On the Edge. He does TV and radio all over the world. Graham has degrees from both Harvard and Stanford, neither of which he ever intends to use.
He believes: "A full life demands passionate involvement, and that often means taking risks. The key is knowing what to take risks for, and how to take them well."
Speeches and trainings
BUSINESS, LABOR AND MANAGEMENT
Bank Administrators' Institute
American Planning Association
Bullivant Houser Bailey, PC
Communications Workers of Canada (nat'l conf.)
Emerson Electric Company
Four Seasons Hotel, Seattle
McKinsey and Co.
Seattle Management Association
Washington Natural Gas
Western Petroleum Company
City of Seattle Advanced Mgmt. Program
Ohio Assoc. of Private Industry Councils
Port of Seattle
Seattle Public Utilities
Texas State Workforce Commission
U.S. Department of Labor
U.S. Forest Service
Washington Employment Security Dept.
Benedictine Health Services
National Association of Pediatric Nurse Professionals
Pierce County Medical Society
Providence Health Plans
Harvard Divinity School
Lakeside School (Seattle)
Northwest Ethics Institute
State University of New York
US Air Force Academy
US Naval Academy
University of Alaska, Fairbanks
Univ. of Washington School of Public Affairs
West Virginia Safe Schools Conference
VOLUNTEERISM AND SERVICE
Assn. of Fundraising Professionals
Children's Defense Fund
Everglades Restoration Conference
Family Health Institute
National Assn. for Community Leadership (nat'l conf.)
National Association of Junior Leagues (nat'l conf.)
National Community Service Conference
National Conference on Volunteerism
National Service-Learning Conference
National Character Education Conference
People to People Student Ambassadors
Points of Light Foundation
Rotary Club of New York
Sierra Club (nat'l conf.)
Student Conservation Association
United Cerebral Palsy Association (nat'l conf.)
Council for Spiritual and Ethical Education
Trinity Church (New York)
Unitarian Church (Star Island Center and other congregations)
United Church of Christ Annual Synod
Initiatives of Change (Switzerland)
Khmer Institute for Democracy (Cambodia)
Oxford Union (U.K.)
Panchgani Dialogue on Development (India)
Rands Afrikaans University (South Africa)?
University of Capetown
World Ethics Conference (U.K.)
Workshop (at same venue as speech): $1,000
BUSINESS, LABOR AND MANAGEMENT
"Your message to our audience, challenging them to get involved, to make a difference, and to not be afraid of success, was perfect. 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
"John Graham's presentation 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 guests . . . Your presentation was a tremendous success."
—Vice Admiral Rodney P. Rempt, Superintendent, United States Naval Academy
"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
"'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. Your address set the tone for what turned out to be a remarkable day. I can’t thank you enough. You truly made an impact."
—Deborah Lackey, ED, North Harris Montgomery Community College District, Woodlands, TX
VOLUNTEERISM AND SERVICE
—" 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 organization’s 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."
—Dave Zeretzke, Inter-island Conference on Families, Friday Harbor 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
"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