AAE’s Top 20 Booked Speakers of 2020

Whether in-person, virtual, or somewhere in between, the speakers featured below have delivered great messages for AAE clients this year. When our event industry took a massive pivot towards virtual events in 2020, these keynote speakers followed the trend and embraced it. 

These speakers were our top 20 booked speakers of 2020. We are extremely grateful for their partnership with us so that their voices and important messages could be heard. 

#1 Richard Rothstein

Distinguished Fellow at the Economic Policy Institute & Senior Fellow at the Thurgood Marshall Institute of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund
Richard Rothstein, Top Keynote Speaker
Richard Rothstein, AAE’s Top Booked Keynote Speaker in 2020

A sought-out speaker on topics of equity, race, and education, Richard Rothstein is a research associate of the Economic Policy Institute and a Fellow at the Thurgood Marshall Institute of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. Previously, he was the national education columnist for The New York Times from 1999 to 2002. 

Richard often speaks on “The Color of Law,” where he addresses how federal, state, and local policy explicitly segregated metropolitan areas nationwide, creating racially homogenous neighborhoods in patterns that violate the Constitution. He explains how we as a nation need to address this time in history so that we can repair our country.


#2 Brian Krebs

Leading Cybercrime Journalist & New York Times Bestselling Author of “Spam Nation”

A noted cybersecurity expert, Brian Krebs is best known for breaking stories on high-profile data breaches while writing for The Washington Post between 1995 and 2009. Brian Krebs is now an independent investigative reporter who writes about cybercrime at the award-winning website KrebsOnSecurity.com

Here’s what one of our clients said about working with Brian on a 2020 event: “From showing up at events he wasn’t contracted to participate in, to hanging out with the students at our Cyber Defense Challenge and, of course, for delivering an absolutely kick-ass keynote address, we are truly grateful.”


Eduardo Briceno, Top-Rated Keynote Speaker
Eduardo Briceno, Top-Rated Keynote Speaker

#3 Eduardo Briceño

Growth Mindset and Improvement Expert; Co-Founder of Mindset Works

A fan-favorite speaker at AAE, Eduardo Briceño is a top-rated keynote speaker and workshop facilitator on the topic of growth mindset. Alongside Carol Dweck and Lisa Blackwell, he co-founded Mindset Works in 2007. Eduardo’s TEDx and TED talks on growth mindset and improvement have each been viewed by millions. 

Eduardo is also one of our top-rated keynote speakers, with good reason. Clients have praised his ability to deliver presentations that are both engaging and customized for each audience.



#4 Jane Elliott

Anti-Racism Activist, Educator, Feminist & LGBT Activist

Best known for her “blue eyes – brown eyes” exercise in the days following the assassination of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., Jane Elliott has been a consistent and powerful voice against discrimination, demonstrating the ease with which good-natured children turned towards biases and hatred. 

Jane’s classroom exercise was filmed the third time she held it with her 1970 third-graders to become The Eye of the Storm, inspiring a retrospective that reunited the 1970 classmates with their teacher fifteen years later in A Class Divided. She continues to speak to audiences about this famous exercise.


J.R. Martinez, Motivational Speaker
J.R. Martinez, Motivational Speaker

#5 J.R. Martinez

Actor, Best-Selling Author, Motivational Speaker, Advocate & Wounded U.S. Army Veteran

Whether it is speaking to troops and audiences around the world or winning the coveted mirror ball trophy on Dancing with the Stars, J.R. Martinez continues to inspire us here at AAE. As an injured combat veteran of the Iraq war, he has undergone 34 surgeries and spent nearly 3 years in hospitals. J.R. now advocates for burn survivors. He is the author of the New York Times best-selling book “Full of Heart: My Story of Survival, Strength, and Spirit,” a memoir about how he was able to take his personal tragedy and turn it into an inspiration for others.

A client gave us this review about J.R.: “As a speaker, J.R. Martinez was extremely inspiring, engaging, and charismatic. We received plenty of positive feedback from members of the luncheon. He was personable, relatable, kind, and welcoming. He took the time to talk with the audience post-presentation and took pictures as well. He left his mark on everyone in the room.”


#6 Lizzie Velasquez

Motivational Speaker; Author of “Lizzie Beautiful” & “Be Beautiful, Be You”

Lizzie Velasquez is an accomplished motivational speaker, TED presenter, and YouTube personality, addressing the topic of bullying. Born with a rare disorder that prevents her from gaining weight, she was once dubbed the “World’s Ugliest Woman.” Lizzie has turned that challenge into an opportunity to educate others on the consequences of bullying. 

Millions have seen her TED Talks where she helps people reject hateful perspectives while embracing self-definition. Lizzie also produced her own award-winning documentary and she released her fourth book, “Dare To Be Kind,” in 2017. In this daring book, Lizzie reveals the hidden forces that give rise to self-doubt, shame, and cruelty, and empowers us to redirect them to unlock empathy and kindness for ourselves and others.


Nikki Giovanni, Activist and Keynote Speaker
Nikki Giovanni, Activist and Keynote Speaker

#7 Nikki Giovanni

Poet, Educator & Best-Selling Author

When it comes to social justice, Nikki Giovanni is one of the most powerful voices of her generation. When her poems first emerged from the Black Rights Movement in the 1960s, she immediately took her place among the most celebrated and controversial poets of the era.

Having been the recipient of many literary awards, Nikki’s distinctive style presents the truth, committing passion to the fight for social justice. Since 1987, she has been on the faculty at Virginia Tech, where she is a University Distinguished Professor.



#8 Dolores Huerta

Co-Founder of the United Farm Workers of America; First Latina Inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame; Two-Time U.S. Presidential Award Recipient

Dolores Huerta has worked for labor rights and social justice for over 50 years and is a popular keynote and commencement speaker with universities. She coined her signature rallying cry “Sí, se puede!” — “Yes, we can!” as a young activist back in the 1970s. 

Dolores is a civil rights activist, community organizer, co-founder of the United Farm Workers Union, and founder of the Dolores Huerta Foundation (DHF.) The DHF connects groundbreaking community-based organizers to state and national movements to register and educate voters; advocate for education reform; bring about infrastructure improvements in low-income communities; and advocate for greater equality for the LGBTQ community.


#9 Ruby Bridges 

Civil Rights Activist & First African-American Child to Integrate a White Southern Elementary School

In November 1960 when she was only 6 years old, Ruby Bridges became the first African American student to integrate into an elementary school in the South. During this tumultuous time in history, Ruby’s family faced much adversity and received an outpouring of support from the Black community.

Ruby continues to advance the cause of civil rights today through her Ruby Bridges Foundation, which was established to teach tolerance, appreciation of differences, and respect. 


Fran Hauser, Top Keynote Speaker
Fran Hauser, Top Keynote Speaker

#10 Fran Hauser

Media Executive, Startup Investor & Best-Selling Author of “The Myth of the Nice Girl”

Fran Hauser is a long-time media executive, keynote speaker, startup investor, and advocate for women in business. She is also the best-selling author of “The Myth of the Nice Girl.”

Having worked in executive roles with Time Inc., AOL, and People.com, Fran is reshaping how women perceive themselves in the workplace. As an investor, she provides both financial backing and inspirational guidance for female entrepreneurs and women-owned businesses.


#11 Eddie Glaude Jr.

Noted Scholar on African American Culture & James S. McDonnell Distinguished University Professor
Eddie Glaude Jr., Inspirational Keynote Speaker
Eddie Glaude Jr., Inspirational Keynote Speaker

Scholar, Distinguished Professor, award-winning author, columnist for Time Magazine and  MSNBC contributor, Eddie Glaude Jr. is one of our most requested speakers on diversity, race, and African-American culture.

His most well-known books, “Democracy in Black: How Race Still Enslaves the American Soul”, and “In a Shade of Blue: Pragmatism and the Politics of Black America”, take a wide look at black communities, the difficulties of race in the United States, and the challenges our democracy faces.

As an intellectual and a noted conversation starter, Glaude takes care to engage fellow citizens of all ages and backgrounds in dialogue about the direction of the nation.


#12 Ijeoma Oluo

Best-Selling Author, Writer & Social Activist

Ijeoma Oluo is not afraid to speak her mind on the topics of race, gender and social issues. Her latest book, “Mediocre: The Dangerous Legacy of White Male America,” addresses the historical rise and today’s impact of male white privilege on society. Ijeoma said in a Seattle Times interview, “I believe that we are all perpetrators and victims of one of the most evil and insidious social constructs in Western history: white male supremacy.”

Ijeoma’s New York Times bestselling first book, “So You Want to Talk About Race,” released in early 2018, gained significant attention this past summer in the wake of George Floyd’s death. She has also received numerous awards for her humanitarian efforts both in the Seattle area and nationally.


Activist and Speaker Angela Davis
Activist and Speaker Angela Davis

#13 Angela Davis

Feminist, Social Activist, Professor & Writer

Angela Davis is a leader in our nation’s quest for social justice. As an educator, both at the university level and in the larger public sphere, she emphasizes the importance of building communities of struggle for economic, racial, and gender justice.

A persistent theme of Angela’s work has been the range of social problems associated with incarceration and the generalized criminalization of those communities that are most affected by poverty and racial discrimination. She is a founding member of Critical Resistance, a national organization dedicated to the dismantling of the prison industrial complex. 



#14 Doug Lemov

Managing Director of Uncommon Schools; Author of “Teach Like a Champion”

Doug Lemov is a champion for teachers everywhere. Uncommon Schools is a non-profit charter school program committed to working beyond the walls of our schools because every child deserves an outstanding education. They partner with more than 3,000 teachers and leaders from public school districts in New York and New Jersey to improve classroom instruction.

Doug’s books—including “Teach Like a Champion” and “Driven by Data”—and professional development workshops have helped millions of teachers around the world achieve better outcomes for their students.


Shane Ortega, LGBTQ Activist and Keynote Speaker
Shane Ortega, LGBTQ Activist and Keynote Speaker

#15 Shane Ortega

The US Army’s First Openly Trans Soldier

Shane Ortega continues to break barriers for indigenous people and the LGBTQ community. One of his most notable achievements was his work to remove the ban on transgender members serving in the military.

Shane is a military veteran and a mixed American Indian enrolled in the Skaroreh Katenuauka Nation. He is also an advocate, author, speaker and educator in topics such as LGBTQ equity, indigenous rights, disabled veterans’ rights, MMIW, two-spirit education, land sovereignty, and colonial/tribal law relationship.



#16 Dominique Dawes

Olympic Gold Medal-Winning Gymnast, Former Co-Chair of President Obama’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition

You may remember Dominique Dawes from her storied gymnastics career when, along with many other medals and accolades, she became the first African American gymnast to win an individual medal in gymnastics. After retiring from the sport to which she dedicated 18 years of her life, she is now an accomplished motivational speaker, speaking to audiences of hundreds and thousands on topics focusing on passion, leadership, and teamwork.

Earlier in 2020, Dominique opened the Dominique Dawes Gymnastics Academy in her home state of Maryland, focusing on health and the positive aspects of gymnastics. She also has been a spokesperson for the American Heart Association for years and speaks often on the topic of cardiovascular health and fitness.


Top Motivational Speaker Adrian Gostick
Top Motivational Speaker Adrian Gostick

#17 Adrian Gostick

Founder of The Culture Works & Bestselling Author of “The Best Team Wins”

A frequently quoted speaker on leadership and employee engagement, Adrian Gostick is a global workplace expert. He is the founder of the training and consulting company The Culture Works and author of the #1 bestsellers “All In”, “The Carrot Principle” and “Leading with Gratitude.”

Adrian regularly speaks to Fortune 500 companies, has appeared on NBC’s Today Show and CNN, and has been quoted in The Economist, the Wall Street Journal, and Newsweek.  


#18 Jaime Casap

Former Chief Education Evangelist at Google

A thought leader on the future of work, Jaime Casap partners with educational institutions, school systems and businesses to transform education and bring greater diversity and equity into their practices.

During his 14 year tenure with Google, Jaime brought both Chromebooks and GSuite tools into higher education and K-12 sectors. He was the creator of the Google for Education Transformation Framework, a holistic approach to education transformation. Jaime was also AAE’s guest speaker during our Happiness Webinar Series earlier this year. 


#19 Scott Hamilton 

Olympic Gold Medalist Figure Skater, Three-Time Cancer Survivor & Best-Selling Author

With a positive outlook, a fierce tenacity, and a desire to succeed, Scott Hamilton has faced and overcome adversity throughout his life. Scott has won 70 titles, awards and honors, was inducted into the United States Olympic Hall of Fame and is a privileged member of the World Figure Skating Hall of Fame. 

Scott further inspires others as a speaker, humanitarian, and cancer and pituitary brain tumor survivor. After losing his mother to cancer, then becoming a survivor himself, Scott became an activist and launched the Scott Hamilton CARES Foundation and several additional education and survivorship programs. Working with Scott Hamilton as a guest speaker during one of our Happiness Webinars this year was definitely one of my most memorable highlights of 2020.


#20 Billy Mills

Second Native American to Win an Olympic Gold Medal & Co-Founder of Running Strong for American Indian Youth
Olympian Billy Mills
Olympian Billy Mills

Billy Mills is the only American to have ever won the Olympic gold medal in the 10,000-meter run, often called one of greatest upsets in Olympic history. His life was captured on screen in 1983 in the film Running Brave, starring Robby Benson as Mills, following his life from childhood through his Olympic victory in 1964.

Billy is is a national spokesperson for Christian Relief Services and has helped the organization raise over $300 million. He is also the founder of Running Strong for American Indian Youth, an organization that helps Native American youth programs. Through his empowering story and message, he has helped thousands of corporations and associations throughout America reach within the depths of their capabilities and perform to the greatest of their potential.



Reflecting on 2020, we are fortunate to have been able to bring these great and inspiring voices to our clients and their audiences this year. As we shifted to virtual event formats, these talented individuals continued to deliver for our clients, garnering 5-star reviews. Some of them were experienced in virtual formats, while others worked for the first time with a virtual audience. We can’t wait to see what 2021 has in store for each of them.

Need help finding a speaker or entertainer for your upcoming 2021 event? Contact us for even more great ideas.