UNITE featured keynote and trailblazer speakers from diverse backgrounds and expertise who were there to inspire you, helped you lead and showed you how thinking outside of the box  could help you manage your local government in today’s complex environment.  Due to ICMA’s contractual obligations with the keynote and trailblazer speakers, these sessions are not available for viewing past the original UNITE end date of December 31, 2020.

Keynote Speakers

Retired Lt. General Nadja West – Wednesday General Session

Session: Leading Through Uncertainty

A trailblazer in female leadership, Lieutenant General (ret) Nadja West is the 44th Army Surgeon General and the former Commanding General of US Army Medical Command. She is the first African American woman 3-star General in the Army’s history, and currently the highest-ranking woman to ever graduate from West Point.

Nadja West – In the News: 

How 3-Star General Nadja West Overcame Self-Doubt

Women in Charge: Nadja West

Army Surgeon General Shares Secrets to Successful Leadership

Thank you to our Wednesday General Session sponsor

Robin DiAngelo – Thursday General Session

Session: White Fragility

Robin DiAngelo is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard For White People To Talk About Racism, which has been on the New York Times bestseller list for almost two years and been translated into multiple languages. Her book is widely considered an essential guide for white people seeking to understand and challenge racism. Her research has been the subject of conversations taking place in business and organizations worldwide and has influenced the international dialogue on race. In her talks, Dr. DiAngelo, an academic, author, and facilitator, explains systemic racism with clarity and accessibility. She has the exceptional ability to speak directly about what has traditionally been a deeply challenging and taboo conversation in a way that opens and engages her audience. In so doing, she provides the questions and perspectives needed to develop more racially-just practices.

Robin DiAngelo – In the News: 

CBS News special “Justice for All” explores nationwide fury over racism and brutality in policing – CBS News

Robin DiAngelo: How ‘white fragility’ supports racism and how whites can stop it – CNN

Debunking The Most Common Myths White People Tell About Race | Think | NBC News – NBC News THINK

Thank you to our Thursday General Session sponsor

Richard Florida – Friday General Session

Session: Urban Development and Cities

Richard Florida is University Professor at University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management and School of Cities, where he also serves as Chief Urbanist in the Creative Destruction Lab.  He is a Distinguished Fellow at New York University.

He is the author of more than ten books including The Rise of the Creative Class and more than one hundred books chapters and articles in peer-reviews academic journals.

He is a Senior Editor at The Atlantic, where he co-founded and serves as Editor-at Large for CityLab, the world’s leading publication devoted to cities and urbanism.

Florida previously taught at Carnegie Mellon, George Mason University and Ohio State University, and has been a visiting professor at Harvard and MIT and a non-resident Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution. He earned his Bachelor’s degree from Rutgers College and his Ph.D. from Columbia University.

Richard Florida – In the News: 

Richard Florida’s Three Game Changers for the Post-COVID World

Coronavirus An Opportunity to Make Cities More Equal and Inclusive

Re-Opening Our Communities After COVID-19: Additional Insight from Richard Florida

Thank you to our Friday General Session sponsor

Chris Gardner – Saturday General Session

Session: Hard Pivots, Atomic Times and A New Vision of the American Dream

Chris Gardner is an entrepreneur, international best-selling author and award winning film producer. Gardner’s autobiography, The Pursuit of HappYness became a New York Times #1 best seller, has been translated into over forty languages, including six dialects of Chinese and recently translated into Arabic. Gardner is also the inspiration for the critically acclaimed film “The Pursuit of HappYness” for which Will Smith received the Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild and Academy Award nominations for his performance.

Gardner’s second book, “Start Where You Are” also a best seller was published in 2009. Chris is currently finishing his newest book “HappYness 2.0 The Blueprint” which could be available this year.

Gardner has recently won a Peabody Award for producing “And Still I Rise,” a documentary about the life of his dear friend and mentor Dr. Maya Angelou. Gardner has, as he says, re-enlisted in the United States Navy. In 2018, he was honored to receive The Lone Sailor Award from the United States Navy Memorial Foundation.

Some of the previous winners of this award include: Arnold Palmer, Senator and Astronaut John Glenn and President John F. Kennedy. Chris Gardner’s sole goal of his media projects and speaking engagements is to help others achieve their fullest potential.

Chris Gardner – In the News: 


Dr. Manuel Pastor – Wednesday Trailblazer

Session: Uncommon Ground: Centering Racial Equity for a Better America

Dr. Manuel Pastor is a Distinguished Professor of Sociology and American Studies & Ethnicity at the University of Southern California (USC). He currently directs the USC Equity Research Institute (formerly known as Program for Environmental and Regional Equity (PERE) and the Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration (CSII). Pastor is the Turpanjian Chair in Civil Society and Social Change at USC, and holds an economics Ph.D. from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

Pastor’s research has generally focused on issues of the economic, environmental and social conditions facing low-income urban communities – and the social movements seeking to change those realities. Pastor’s most recent books covering those topics include State of Resistance: What California’s Dizzying Descent and Remarkable Resurgence Means for America’s Future (New Press 2018), and Equity, Growth, and Community: What the Nation Can Learn from America’s Metro Areas, co-authored with Chris Benner (UC Press 2015).

Pastor currently serves on California Governor Gavin Newsom’s Council of Economic Advisors and on the California Business and Jobs Recovery Task Force. He previously served on the California Strategic Growth Council, the Commission on Regions appointed by California’s Speaker of the State Assembly, and the Regional Targets Advisory Committee for the California Air Resources Board.  In 2012, he received the Liberty Hill Foundation’s Wally Marks Changemaker of the Year award for social justice research partnership, and in 2017, he was awarded the Champion for Equity award from Advancement Project, California.

Dr. Manuel Pastor – In the News:

What’s Next? Envisioning an Equitable Economy Post COVID-19 & Systemic Racism with Dr. Manuel Pastor

Business Has a Role in Dismantling Racism: 3 Takeaways from Our Conversation with Dr. Manuel Pastor and Amelia Ransom

Kristen Cox – Wednesday Trailblazer

Session: Fighting the Pandemic: Acting on Real-Time, Real Data

Kristen Cox is the former Executive Director, Governor’s Office of Management and Budget (GOMB). A champion of continuous process improvement, Kristen designated Theory of Constraints (TOC) and her SUCCESS Framework as the guiding process improvement tool for Utah state government. By integrating operational excellence with the state’s management and budgeting practices, Kris and the GOMB team worked closely with all cabinet-level agencies to achieve at least a 25% improvement to state government operations by January 2017 by focusing on quality, capacity, and cost. A cornerstone of this initiative is a focus on evidence-based practices and data-driven decision making.

In 2007, Kristen was appointed as the Executive Director of the Department of Workforce Services where she served for five years. While serving at DWS, she established a division to ensure that the organization used proven tools and methodologies to support the best possible outcome for customers. Before returning to Utah, Kristen held the position of Secretary of the Maryland Department of Disabilities, was appointed to a position with the Department of Education by President George W. Bush, and has held a number of positions with the National Federation of the Blind. She also ran as the Republican candidate for lieutenant governor during Maryland’s 2006 general election. In 2012, Kristen’s photo graced the cover of Utah Business Magazine where she was named as one of Utah’s “30 Women to Watch.” She was also honored as the 2012 Days of 47 “Pioneers of Progress Award for Business and Enterprise.”

Kristen was born and raised in Utah and credits her mom for her work ethic and determination. Kristen says her mom worked tirelessly to support and nurture Kristen and her sister—especially during the years she was a working, single mom. Kristen received her Bachelor of Science in Educational Psychology from Brigham Young University. She served an LDS mission to Brazil and treasures any opportunity to speak Portuguese. Kristen and her husband, Randy, have two sons. They love the outdoors—especially hiking Utah’s mountains and trails. Kris is an avid reader and loves being active. Despite her loss of sight, some of Kris’ favorite activities include yoga, spin, and boot camp classes, skiing, and she thoroughly enjoyed the chance she had to go paragliding at Utah’s Point of the Mountain.

Kristen Cox – In the News:

Utah Recognized as a Leading State in New National Report on Data and Evidence in Policymaking

Cox Tells Us to “Start by Stopping” to Address Local Government Issues

Vijay Gupta – Thursday Trailblazer

Session: The Medicine of Music

Vijay Gupta is a violinist and educator whose efforts to merge music with mental health are changing the world, note by note. Named a MacArthur Fellow for “providing musical enrichment and valuable human connection to the homeless, incarcerated, and other under-resourced communities in Los Angeles,” Gupta is the founder of Street Symphony—a musical advocacy program that empowers citizen-musicians by engaging with communities experiencing extreme poverty, incarceration, and homelessness. The results have been extraordinary.

Vijay Gupta – In the News:

Town Hall South speaker: ‘Arts are critical lifelines’

MacArthur Fellow Vijay Gupta on Making Music Accessible for All

Spotlight on Homelessness

Thank you to our Thursday Trailblazer sponsor

Featured Speakers

Glennon Doyle – Monday Featured Speaker for the League of Women in Government Symposium

Session: Teamwork: Building Trust, Unity and Purpose at Your Organization

Glennon Doyle is the author of the #1 New York Times bestseller UNTAMED, a Reese’s Book Club selection. She’s also the author of New York Times bestsellers LOVE WARRIOR (an Oprah’s Book Club selection) and CARRY ON, WARRIOR. An activist and thought leader, Glennon is the founder and president of Together Rising, an all-women led nonprofit organization that has revolutionized grassroots philanthropy – raising over $25 million for women, families, and children in crisis. She lives in Florida with her wife and three children.

Glennon Doyle – In the News:

Glennon Doyle’s ‘Untamed’ finds power in the uncomfortable

‘There’s No Map’: Glenning Doyle on Living An ‘Untamed’ Life

‘Untamed’ author Glennon Doyle on her best career advice, and the importance of learning to trust yourself

Thank you to our League of Women in Government Symposium sponsor
Session: Green Growth Sounds Good – But How to Get It?

With two decades of experience in international and domestic executive policy making, Ms. Connie Hedegaard is today assuming several key positions in support of a low-carbon and green economy. Ms. Hedegaard was the European Commissioner for Climate Action from 2010 to 2014, during which she led the negotiations towards the adoption of the EU 2030 Climate and Energy Framework. She was also responsible for the 2050 Roadmap for moving to a low carbon economy and represented the EU in the international climate negotiations. She was the Minister of Environment and Minister for Climate and Energy in Denmark between 2004 and 2009. Currently Connie Hedegaard is chairing a number of foundations and executive boards, including OECD’s Round Table for Sustainability, EU Commissions Mission Board on Adaptation to Climate Change, KR Foundation, Aarhus University, and Denmark’s green think tank, Concito. She also serves as a board member in many organizations including European Climate Foundation and the Danish Annual Democracy Festival, Folkemødet. Ms. Hedegaard holds a master degree in History and Literature and has authored and contributed to several books, publications and columns.