Guests at Wednesday’s University of Regina Inspiring Leadership Forum might have felt starstruck during the keynote speeches.
This year marks the 11th edition of the forum – an event that provides participants with a chance to hear inspirational stories from internationally-renowned women.
One of the speakers at the International Trade Centre at Evraz Place was celebrity Caitlyn Jenner – a former Summer Games gold medalist who became one of the world’s most famous transgender women five years ago when she revealed her true identity on national television.
Prior to her keynote, Jenner had an opportunity to share a bit about her story to members of the media on Wednesday afternoon. She said her role as a speaker at the forum is to hopefully inspire people to live their truth.
“Sometimes that can be very difficult to do. Everybody’s got stuff, everybody’s got things in life they have to deal with – this was my stuff,” explained Jenner. “How do we deal with that and how do we come out the other side as a better person.”
“Living Your Truth” is the theme for this year’s forum.
Jenner admitted she is kind of new when it comes to inspiring leadership and inspiring women. However she hopes her journey will inspire people to live their life authentically, to take on a leadership role and make a difference in the world.
“For me, I love diversity in the human being. So I want to help them understand what it’s like to be trans,” she said. “It’s just kind of who you are. It’s part of humanity.”
The list of speakers also included American writer, producer and public speaker Dawn Smith, and award-winning international speaker and author Samra Zafar.
Smith, a former field producer for Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign, discussed her experience leaving The Assembly, an evangelical, fundamentalist cult her grandfather founded in the 1960s.
As for Zafar, she dug into how she escaped an abusive marriage after living as a child bride in a forced marriage. She also touches on authentic leadership, human rights and mental health issues in her speeches and recently published book A Good Wife.
Last hurrah for U of R president
The 2020 Inspiring Leadership Forum is the last one for Dr. Vianne Timmons, president and vice-chancellor at the University of Regina.
Timmons, a driving force behind the creation of the forum, described the event as her baby when she first arrived at the U of R. She said at the time, she wanted to create a gathering that was for women and about women in the city.
When the first forum happened 11 years ago, it featured 250 participants. But over the years, the school and other organizers have managed to attract bigger names and more speakers for the annual seminar.
On Wednesday, the event not only featured over 800 people – it was sold out.
Timmons said the stories participants had a chance to listen to are meant to show that they can succeed, overcome obstacles and be resilient in times of trouble in their own lives.
“We want people to leave here inspired, excited and a little bit charged to do something good in the world. That’s what we try to do.”
Dr. Timmons has a few more weeks with the U of R before she leaves to her home province where she will serve as president and vice-chancellor at Memorial University of Newfoundland.