From homeless to multimillionaire: Speaker to address Omaha event next week

A man who went from homeless single father to successful stock trader will speak next week as part of an event put on by the United Way of the Midlands.


Chris Gardner, whose autobiography “The Pursuit of Happyness” was the subject of a 2006 feature film starring Will Smith, will speak over Zoom at the group’s “Unlock the Power Within You” event, scheduled for 4 p.m. Wednesday . The meeting will be made available for free to those who register online.


Gardner, whose net worth is estimated to be $70 million, said he doesn’t describe himself as a motivational speaker. Rather, he said, he simply shares with others the lessons he has learned during his struggles.


Now is a particularly important time for a message of hope and personal empowerment, Gardner said, as lockdowns cause financial and emotional struggles for people. He said he thinks people can draw inspiration from earlier triumphs over adversity, both in their own lives and across history.


“We’ve been here before,” he said.


Young people are particularly struggling, Gardner said, as this is the first time their lives have been put on hold for a national crisis and they have been forced to adapt. He said he wants young people to know they are vital to fighting the coronavirus outbreak.


Following Gardner’s remarks, Shawna Forsberg, president and CEO of United Way of the Midlands, will moderate a discussion on social justice in the community between Albert Varas, executive director of the Latino Center of the Midlands, and Tom Warren, president and CEO of Urban League of Nebraska. Gardner then will take questions from the audience.


“Mr. Gardner’s message of empathy and hope is especially timely given the increased number of people in need in the Omaha-Council Bluffs metro,” Forsberg said. “We know everyone who attends will be inspired by his incredible story and motivated to help our neighbors in need in any way they can.”

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