Speaking to the World
Boston | Chicago | San Diego | Atlanta
Chief Human Resources Officer, Workhuman & Best Selling Author
“Steve Pemberton was one of the most incredible speakers I have ever had the pleasure of hearing. His message fit perfectly with our programming as he customized every last word. His own personal story had the audience standing in ovation at the end.” –Cyracom International
“I have been coming to our conference for 47 years and I’ve never met a man like him; heard a story like his or witnessed an impact like the one he had on us. A good man made great by his goodness.” - NAEYC
Steve Pemberton is a visionary senior human resources (HR) executive, human capital strategist, bestselling author, ardent human rights champion and one of the most inspiring leaders of our time. A passionate communicator and powerful presenter, Steve is widely appreciated for his ability to connect with a broad spectrum of audiences. From corporate America and the non-profit world to healthcare and higher education, Steve's relentless mission and framework continue to inspire and encourage others to deliver trusted guideposts for living, learning and leading. Read More >
From Monster.com to Walgreens, Steve has consistently served in leadership positions that have furthered his gift for seeking the greater good and creating engaged communities and organizations. Most recently, he served as the chief HR officer of Workhuman, a technology company that delivers performance management and employee engagement solutions to corporations worldwide. There, he avidly fostered the company's goal of inspiring HR leaders to embrace more humanity and cultivate a higher purpose in the workplace and in their communities. Steve is exceptionally skilled at creating inspiring, innovative environments while recognizing and developing talent. His "next practices" approach has successfully created award-winning organizational cultures that create maximum performance.
Steve's philosophy on human capital has been shaped by positions that delivered talent solutions to HR executives. As a result, he has observed how domestic and international organizations manage talent, particularly as the relationship between employer and employee has transformed in a world still recovering from a global pandemic. A highly sought-after voice on workplace trends, he presents at the most recognizable HR conferences in the world, is interviewed often by the business media on human capital matters and consults with organizations across the world on their talent strategies.
Beyond his professional achievements in the world of HR, Steve is also widely known as the author of two critically acclaimed, bestselling books. His first, A Chance in the World, shares his extraordinary story of how he defied seemingly impossible odds as an orphan navigating the perils of the foster care system all while trying to solve the mystery of his own identity. In 2018, the book was adapted into an independent film of the same name. A partnership with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt led to creating an integrated social-emotional learning curriculum based on the book, taught today in high schools throughout the United States.
Steve's second book, The Lighthouse Effect: How Ordinary People Can Have an Extraordinary Impact in the World, offers practical encouragement for becoming a "human lighthouse" – turning personal pain into a purposeful mission to help others, as he has done in his own life. The power of his life story, and its many engaging insights, has led to numerous high-profile media appearances, including the Today Show, CBS Evening News, Tamron Hall and People magazine.
Steve's personal and professional accomplishments have been recognized through numerous honors. A former candidate for the United States Senate, he received the prestigious Horizon Award from the U.S. Congress, presented to private-sector individuals who have expanded opportunities for all Americans through their own contributions and who have set exceptional examples for young people through their successes in life. Steve is also a recipient of the Lifetime Achiever Award by the New England Opportunity Association. Winston-Salem State University, Providence College and Boston College are among the institutions that awarded him an honorary doctorate.
With a steadfast commitment to people and community wellbeing, Steve gives abundantly of his time, talent and convictions. His robust history of service includes membership on the boards of the University & College Accountability Network, Loyola Academy, Boston College, The Wily Network, the Academy for Urban School Leadership, Boys Hope Girls Hope and Disability:IN, the leading nonprofit resource for business disability inclusion worldwide. At every turn, Steve continues with his own "Lighthouse Effect" by fulfilling his mission for all to have "A Chance in the World."
As a keynote speaker, Steve has earned high praise for his highly collaborative style, working closely with clients to seamlessly customize his content to the messaging goals and themes for each event. A gifted communicator and powerful storyteller, he consistently receives stellar reviews for his ability to connect with a wide spectrum of audiences and organizations. As one client said, "Steve Pemberton was one of the most incredible speakers I have ever had the pleasure of hearing." Read Less ^
The Extraordinary Journey of Steve Pemberton
How Sharing Your Story Can Help You Find Common Connections With Others | The Tamron Hall Show
Virtual Keynote: Human Lighthouse & the Power of Gratitude
Boston College Class of 2020 Commencement Address
A Chance in the World Promo
Creating A Different Vision
The Power of Education
A Chance in the World Sneak Preview
A Chance in the World - Reunion
On Diversity and Inclusion
Hope Is a Powerful Word
Steve Pemberton’s inspirational story, A Chance in the World, has touched the hearts of millions. In this inspiring presentation, Pemberton tells how he defied seemingly impossible odds as an orphaned boy navigating the foster care system — all while trying to solve the mystery of his own identity and destiny. Pemberton also provides valuable lessons on self-empowerment, breaking negative cycles, creating a vision and achieving your goals — even when everyone says you don’t have a chance in the world. This unforgettable keynote from an exceptional speaker can be customized to reflect your organization’s focus, culture, objectives and specific challenges.
Throughout his life, Steve Pemberton has learned an astonishing amount. But one lesson, more than any other, has always stuck with him: Not all heroes wear capes. There are ordinary people who may not even know they’ve completely changed the course of a person’s life. Pemberton likens them to human lighthouses. Like a lighthouse, their job is to protect the journey of the traveler. They’re humble and steady. They seek no reward. They require no recognition. And yet, we all set our compasses by them. They direct us back to the goodness in each other and in our own hearts. Read More >
In this inspirational talk, Pemberton shares stories of his own human lighthouses. You will meet those who have turned personal pain into possibilities for themselves and those around them. You’ll learn what motivates them, where their compassion comes from and the lessons their lives can offer us. Pemberton also offers a framework for living, earning and leading — a way to more positively engage with one another, to build trust, to see beyond the labels that define us to the human experiences that bond us. This unforgettable keynote, workshop or master class can be customized to reflect your organization’s focus, culture, objectives and specific challenges. Read Less ^
Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is not just an annual recognition of the life and legacy of a civil rights leader. It is an opportunity to look inward and ask ourselves what we can do to bring about a more equal world and what tangible actions we can take to ensure that all voices are heard — and valued — says bestselling author and business leader Steve Pemberton. It’s what Dr. King dreamed of and what Pemberton tries to achieve every day. In this inspirational presentation, informed by Pemberton’s turbulent journey of growing up in the foster care system, Pemberton asks us to reconsider King’s legacy in the context of the enduring structure of the lighthouse and how each day offers us an opportunity to find a lighthouse for ourselves and to become one for another. At a time when the very notion of diversity needs to be re-defended and re-defined, you’ll be renewed and inspired to make your own contributions to helping us find our collective humanity.
Steve Pemberton has discovered invaluable life lessons and leadership strategies in the stories of everyday heroes that have triumphed in the face of adversity. These inspiring people do not necessarily fit America’s ideas of a traditional hero. Instead, they’re redefining what heroism truly means through their character and values, as well as the humility, strength, courage and perseverance that they’ve shown in challenging circumstances. Drawing from these inspirational stories and his own odds-defying personal and professional journey, Pemberton shares strategies that any leader, team or organization can use to navigate adversity, overcome obstacles and bring the best out of every employee.
After growing up in foster care and being labeled as a boy “without a chance in the world” Steve Pemberton has never cared for labeling people. Drawing upon his experience as the former Chief Diversity Officer at Walgreens Boots Alliance, Pemberton discusses how the conversation on diversity should move away from a sole emphasis on classifying people by their visible characteristics. Instead, we should focus on who they are and the life experience they bring. Pemberton will outline how this approach brought increased shareholder value to Walgreens and Monster—and how it can be implemented by any company. By shifting the paradigm, you won’t just get more out of your employees. You’ll increase focus, company morale, customer engagement and top-line revenue.
As an orphaned foster child, Steve Pemberton was “given a chance” by a teacher that saw his potential. This life-changing event would later shape his leadership as a human resources executive and diversity officer at Monster.com and Walgreens. In this compelling keynote for executives, hiring managers and recruiters, Pemberton lays out strategies for leaders that recognize hidden talent and create an organizational culture that gives each team member their best chance at success. Pemberton shares real-life examples of employees and executives that saw the potential in people by looking beyond what others would see as disabilities or liabilities. He also shows how micro-cultural changes can grow to become cultural norms within your entire organization.
After years of being trapped in the foster care system, Steve Pemberton went on a search for his biological family. He discovered gaps in a health care system that ended up playing a tremendous role in shaping his life. He found that his grandmother had died of heart disease at just 40 years old, leaving all her children behind, including Pemberton’s mother, who had been battling with alcoholism and other health issues. Neither had access to treatment because the family was too poor to afford proper health coverage. Steve understands firsthand how social determinants of health can influence and damage lives and communities. He shares his personal story to help elevate the conversation around health disparities, hoping to make a difference in lives now and in generations to come, so that everyone has a "Chance in The World."
This empowering, interactive breakout session from Steve Pemberton focuses on the key strategies and behaviors that drive successful teams and further collaboration. Participants will learn how to leverage different views to improve outcomes, understand how to ask the right questions to build a powerful team dynamic, and build a culture of inspired engagement.
Steve Pemberton, Chief Human Resources Officer at Workhuman (formerly Globoforce), tackles this often-discussed topic with candor, clarity and conviction. His long career in diversity and inclusion work at Monster.com and now Walgreens Boots Alliance led him to develop the Five Rs for advancing women in the workplace: Recognize, Respect, Regard, Re-Evaluate, Repeat. This framework has created a sustainable culture of inclusivity that moves beyond corrective action to a powerful embrace of the competitive advantage that full inclusion of women often provides. Told in Pemberton's inspirational style with powerful examples, audiences will leave empowered and inspired to move forward in their gender inclusion journey.
Steve Pemberton recently wrote, “There is a quiet whisper happening in our country today and we’re wondering whether or not we’re getting this right. We’re wondering about the daily deluge of cynicism, the me-first kind of behaviors, the “if it bleeds it leads” kind of culture and becoming increasingly disconnected as we are becoming technologically connected. In this inspiring keynote, Steve Pemberton calls for all of us to drive cultural change and bring the “united” back to the United States through a “One America” ideology. Pemberton uses his own story to demonstrate how people can unite as one to overcome impossible odds—inspiring all of us to return to faith and service.
"As expected Steve’s living legend masterclass session was superlative in every way. He is the quintessential storyteller of dreams and truths."
"Teens from the YMCA of Metro Chicago’s Black and Latino Achievers lined up, even elbowed each other, to get a chance talk to Steve Pemberton – the role model who has it all – a successful career, access to Capitol Hill, a beautiful family. Well, he has it all now. And that’s just what these teenagers wanted to find out about. How did he – and how can they – overcome significant barriers in their lives?"
“Steve was absolutely perfect! He exemplified everything that our event represented and more. We would definitely love to have him back again!”
"It went off without a hitch, and was remarkably impactful and intimate given the Zoom environment. We had approximately 200 people including students with a history foster care from the 3 public institutions of higher ed in San Antonio. Steve was extraordinary. He spoke from the heart with great clarity, passion and compassion. The students felt very comfortable asking questions and were deeply inspired and moved. It’s truly an experience I will never forget and motivates me to carry on fighting the good fight for college students like Steve once was."
"We can't tell you how wonderful Steve was in his role in each and every one of the events/meetings he attended. The feedback has been truly amazing.
In particular, was the inspiration he left us with to make the most of our work to meet our Promise Scholarship goal and process of seeking out and enrolling hundreds of Maine youth.
Every person Steve came into contact with from students to faculty, to administrators, corporate CEOs, and donors, were moved and impacted by Steve.
I'm not sure how to share our gratitude with Steve from our team, so can you please let him know how grateful we are to him for giving of his time, but also his warmth and BIG heart.
Our new mantra is:
'Warrior spirit in a servant's heart!' "
"He was fantastic!! Everyone is raving about him. We couldn’t be more thrilled. Thank you for everything...."
"Steve Pemberton was wonderful. By far, he has been the best speaker we have ever had for our annual kickoff. Even several weeks after the event, our volunteers are still talking about his message and recommending his book to others. Many of our volunteers and staff have experienced raising foster children or work with children as caseworkers or teachers. Steve Pemberton's story provided them encouragement and inspiration. He brought a few tears to the audience, but they were good tears as he touched their hearts. I truly feel his words lifted everyone's spirits and brought meaning to the United Way message of 'Live United.'"
"Absolutely nothing but positive feedback. Steve was gracious, flexible and professional. He was amazing with the youth and staff in the morning, and touched them profoundly. Numerous kids asked for his book and have been discussing it since. His presentation at the event in the afternoon was moving and he did a terrific job linking his life’s journey to the work we do at Edgewood. I can’t say enough about how wonderful the day was!"
“What a fabulous Commencement we have had! I cannot begin to tell you how wonderful Steve Pemberton was (and is) and what a perfectly articulated message he delivered! He is something so special and real, and we know, from the comments we are hearing and the social media outburst we are experiencing, that his message resonated in a way that I’ve not seen before. A standing O at the Dunk — sustained for quite while — is something I’ve seen only twice in my nearly 40 years of participating in PC Commencements! He moved us…he inspired us…he challenged us…and he put us in the driver’s seat to promote change in our society. I am so grateful for the time we had with him, and for the sincere interest he took in preparing his remarks. Steve surely did his homework, and as a result, he knocked it out of the park. He personifies kindness and our families and students sensed that…and were blessed with a speaker who truly said something special! Steve will be a very tough act to follow…..”
"You could hear a pin drop as Stephen spoke. He told his compelling story while incorporating humor, emotion, and seriousness throughout. He made sure to mention specific names of people in the audience and incorporated them into his presentation. He was a phenomenal speaker with a truly inspirational story and we could not have asked for more."
"We have had a lot of speakers and Steve was by far the very best one we have had. Not only was his speech dynamic, moving and inspirational but he, as a person, is a remarkable individual. He moved the crowed to tears and then had them laughing. During the book signing, I helped him and was very impressed at the time he took to personalize every book and to acknowledge every person by having a brief conversation with them….Again, best speaker ever!!"
"Steve was a fabulous addition to our event. He spoke from the heart and did an extraordinary job of connecting his story to our mission and work. He could not have been more gracious to our many guests who wanted to talk and have their book signed, as well as to our students who he so smoothly worked into his remarks. He implored our audience to take action and to do something to lift our youth. We could not ask for more."
"Steve Pemberton was one of the most incredible speakers I have ever had the pleasure of hearing. Not that I ever doubted you – you set the expectation pretty high. But he blew any expectation I had away entirely! His message of a diverse world fit in perfectly with our programming, and his personal story had the audience in tears and standing ovation at the end. I’m glad we had the books ordered, because everyone wanted to meet him and thank him afterward. He is the nicest guy too. I got to spend a few minutes with him before the event and I thoroughly enjoyed talking with him. All in all, he was the best keynote speaker we could have gotten, and I was sincerely praised for it. Thank you for your incredible recommendation. I really appreciate your expertise and insight for our event needs."
"Steve did an incredibly amazing job. Everyone, from our honorees, board, guests and president LOVED him! He is such a gifted speaker and articulated his story in such a meaningful and beautiful way. He is the kind of speaker that when you leave the event, you really feel changed. He was very moving and motivating. Aside from being a gifted speaker, he did an outstanding job mingling with our VIP’s at the VIP reception. Steve was seated with some of your major donors and their families. They absolutely fell in love with him, and I have a feeling they will continue to maintain a connection. I can’t say enough good things about Steve Pemberton. DePelchin would love to work with him in the future."
"Steve Pemberton was inspirational, engaging, authentic, and eloquent. Steve possesses the perfect balance of humor, wit, smarts, compassion and business savvy. All of the students and faculty said that they could relate to something he said. A huge success and a huge impact on the Phillips Academy campus on MLK Day 2013. You can still feel the warmth of his visit on campus today!"
"Thank you so much for sharing A Chance in the World at Bridgewater State University! Our community loved your visit and we were deeply inspired by your book! Our students were thrilled to have an opportunity to meet you and find out how you achieved success from such humble beginnings. You unequivocally left a memorable impression on us!
It is clear that teaching the value of the struggle matters, that adversity, as difficult as it is, does not have to define us - but it's how we respond to it that defines our future. As an institution that attracts many first generation college students, your story resonated with us. Your authenticity and ability to connect with our students was powerful. Thank you for helping our young scholars envision what is possible for their own lives. During your speech, you so eloquently demonstrated the beauty of hard work, perseverance, gratitude and forgiveness - it made us all appreciate our own surroundings a bit more and think of our own limitless potential. We were truly inspired! Thank you for sharing your story and for giving so many others a voice for their own!"
"Steve Pemberton was an amazing speaker! The audience was riveted by his message. Comments made on the evaluation were very positive and included comments such as, 'My life has been forever changed' and 'Anyone could benefit from hearing Steve.'
In addition to being a great speaker, Steve is a genuinely nice person."
"Steve spoke very well and hit it from a very personal place. We broke all our fundraising record and exceeded our goal – so I’m happy!"
"I cannot express enough how thrilled we were with Steve’s keynote. Every member of the audience was on the edge of their seats and pulling for him all the way. I had my own emotional connection as my first tear fell when he shared the memory of the Spelling Bee judge that would give him the reassurance before holding up her 'correct' sign. I will always remember, 'She was my Ruby.' For educators, Steve’s story matters. For children it matters even more. We are so grateful for the additional attention he gave during the book signing. Watching administrators hold their personal copy close to their chests was a remarkable sight."
The Lighthouse Effect: How Ordinary People Can Have an Extraordinary Impact in the World
A Chance in the World: An Orphan Boy, a Mysterious Past, and How He Found a Place Called Home
Email Your List
You’ve reached your maximum number of speakers for this list.
Email Your List