Michael Strautmanis to speak at Founders Day


Lake Erie College is pleased to welcome Michael Strautmanis, Vice President for Civic Engagement for the Obama Foundation, as the keynote speaker for the College’s annual Founders Day event.

Strautmanis will present “Finding Your Purpose: A Path to Leading from Every Seat” at the event on Thursday, Nov. 1. Founders Day will begin at 2 p.m. in the Helen Rockwell Morley Memorial Music Building.

As the Vice President for Civic Engagement, Strautmanis oversees community affairs and strategic partnerships for the Obama Foundation. He is in constant dialogue with local Chicagoans who are looking to learn more about the Obama Presidential Center in Jackson Park and the foundation’s mission to empower young leaders to give back to their communities.

Before joining the Obama Foundation, Strautmanis spent over a decade of his career in Washington, D.C. There, he partnered with a diverse group of leaders and advocates to increase access to economic opportunity, strengthen the judicial systems, and champion equity and inclusion in the White House, federal agencies and Congress.

For four years, Strautmanis served in the Obama White House as Chief of Staff to Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett in the Office of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs. After President Obama’s first term, Strautmanis left to join the Walt Disney Company in Burbank, California and led an enterprise-wide initiative to consolidate, focus and deepen the impact of Disney’s corporate social responsibility programs.

In his lecture on Nov. 1, Strautmanis will discuss his personal journey as it relates to themes like potential and responsibility. As a featured author in “West Wingers: Stories from Dream Chasers, Change Makers, and Hope Creators Inside the Obama White House” (edited by Gautam Raghavan), Strautmanis discussed potential as a word he heard often as a young black boy in Chicago. 

“It meant opportunity, but it also meant responsibility, because if you had potential, you could do that one thing that every adult in your life who loved you wanted you to do – ‘make something of yourself,’” he wrote. “[It is] one of those phrases that’s defined by the negative space around it and begins to slowly reveal itself.”

In his speech, Strautmanis will discuss how, though we have made progress as a nation, opportunity is still not equally distributed. Concepts such as fatherhood, mentorship, and empowerment will play crucial roles in correcting course.

Strautmanis, whose relationship with President Obama began far before they ever reached the White House, often uses Obama as an example of the value that mentorship provides.

“He has a focus on self-examination – on relentlessly examining and testing yourself, coming up with conclusions about what you’re good at and what you need to improve, and then taking steps to improve yourself,” Strautmanis said.

Founders Day is an annual celebration at Lake Erie College where students, faculty, staff and friends gather to recognize the institution’s deep rooted traditions and its founders. This event is free and open to the public. A reception will be held in the Arthur S. Holden Center immediately following the event.

If you are interested in bringing a group to the event, please contact College Events Director Leah Jackson at ljackson@lec.edu.

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