Event Speakers

His Holiness the Dalai Lama

The 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet, spiritual leader of the Tibetan people; Author, The Art of Happiness and The Universe in a Single Atom.

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry

The Most Rev. Michael Bruce Curry is presiding bishop and primate of The Episcopal Church. At the church’s 78th General Convention in June 2015, he was elected to a nine-year term in this role and installed in November of that year; he serves as The Episcopal Church’s chief pastor, spokesperson, and president and chief executive officer. Throughout his ministry, Bishop Curry has been a prophetic leader, particularly in the areas of racial reconciliation, climate change, evangelism, immigration policy, and marriage equality. Bishop Curry was ordained a priest in 1978. He graduated with high honors from Hobart and Williams Smith Colleges and earned his Master of Divinity degree from Yale University. Bishop Curry is the author of five books and a regular guest on national and international media outlets.

Mingyur Rinpoche

Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche is a Tibetan teacher and master of the Karma Kagyu and Nyingma lineages of Tibetan Buddhism. Rinpoche’s teachings weave together his own personal experiences with modern scientific research, relating both to the practice of meditation. He has authored two best-selling books and oversees the Tergar Meditation Community, an international network of Buddhist meditation centers. He is also the founder of numerous health, hunger, hygiene, environmental, and empowerment projects in the Himalayas.

Reverend Mpho Tutu van Furth

The Reverend Canon Mpho Tutu van Furth is an episcopal priest, artist, author, accomplished public speaker, and retreat facilitator. She is the Founding Executive Director of the Desmond & Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation. With her wife, Marceline, she has established the Tutu Teach Foundation to enhance access to opportunity for women. Ms. Tutu van Furth and her wife live in the Netherlands. They have four children and two (amazing) grandchildren.

Valerie June

The Grammy-nominated, Tennessee-born, and Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter Valerie June has been recording and performing since she was 19 years old, climbing from Memphis coffee houses to national TV performances and getting name-checked by Bob Dylan. Her latest album The Moon and Stars: Prescriptions for Dreamers weaves a tapestry of folk, soul, gospel, country, blues, psychedelia, and symphonic pop, performed by an accomplished lineup of musicians with a dizzying palette of instruments (flute and banjo, mbira and Mellotron, saxophone, and synth) absorbed in free-flowing experimentation. The album (co-produced with Jack Splash) is acclaimed by fans and critics alike, and received a 2022 Grammy nomination for Best American Roots Song and 2021 Americana Honors and Awards nominations for both Album and Song of the Year. June’s first book, Maps for the Modern World, is a collection of poems and original illustrations, available now through Andrews McMeel Universal Publishing.

Zainab Salbi

Zainab Salbi is a celebrated humanitarian, author, and journalist. Oprah Winfrey identified her as one of the 25 Women Changing the World to People Magazine, and Foreign Policy Magazine called Zainab one of 100 Top Global Thinkers. Zainab is the Founder and former CEO of Women for Women International, Co-Founder for DaughtersforEarth, and host of Redefined with Zainab Salbi. She is also the author of several books, including the national best-seller Between Two Worlds and her most recent publication, Freedom Is an Inside Job. She is the creator and host of several shows, including #MeToo, Now What? on PBS, and Through Her Eyes with Zainab Salbi at Yahoo News.

Ross Gay

Ross Gay is the author of four books of poetry: Against Which; Bringing the Shovel Down; Be Holding, winner of the PEN American Literary Jean Stein Award; and Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude, winner of the 2015 National Book Critics Circle Award and the 2016 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award. His first collection of essays, The Book of Delights, was released in 2019 and was a New York Times best-seller. His new collection of essays, Inciting Joy, will be released by Algonquin in October of 2022.

Rainn Wilson

Rainn Wilson is an Emmy nominated actor, writer, and producer best known for playing the role of ‘Dwight Schrute’ on NBC’s The Office. He is currently filming his unscripted travel series Geography of Bliss for Peacock. Other movie and television roles include Super, The Meg, Backstrom, Blackbird, The Rocker, Utopia, Six Feet Under and Don’t Tell a Soul among many others. Wilson co-founded SoulPancake, a digital media company designed to celebrate humanity and champion creativity.

Rainn is the author of  The Bassoon King and the New York Times Best-Selling SoulPancake: Chew on Life’s Big Questions. His next book, Soul Boom: Why We Need A Spiritual Revolution releases April 25, 2023. In this book he explores the benefits spirituality gives us in creating solutions for an increasingly challenging world. He continues to explore many of the biggest human ideas and questions on his podcast,  Metaphysical Milkshake.

Cloudd Donavan

Cloudd Donovan is a goat yoga therapist, avid spiritual seeker, and an outstanding conversationalist.

Doug Abrams

Doug Abrams is a multiple New York Times best-selling author, as well as an editor, literary agent, and film producer. He is the founder and president of Idea Architects, a creative book and media agency. He co-wrote The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World with His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, which inspired the film MISSION: JOY. Doug also co-authored The Book of Hope: A Survival Guide for Trying Times with Jane Goodall. Books and films he has developed have been credited with convincing then-President Bill Clinton to stop the genocide in Kosovo (The Bridge Betrayed), for launching the modern anti-slavery movement (Disposable People), and for helping to expand a mass incarceration reform movement (Just Mercy, a book and film starring Michael B. Jordan and Jamie Foxx). He has had the privilege of interviewing extraordinary global heroes including Jimmy Carter, the Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu, Jane Goodall, Bono, Carlos Santana, and Richard Branson.

adrienne maree brown

adrienne maree brown grows healing ideas in public through her multi-genre writing, her music, and her podcasts. Informed by 25 years of movement facilitation, somatics, Octavia E. Butler scholarship, and her work as a doula, adrienne has nurtured Emergent Strategy, Pleasure Activism, Radical Imagination, and Transformative Justice as ideas and practices for transformation. She is the author/editor of seven published texts and the founder of the Emergent Strategy Ideation Institute, where she is now the writer-in-residence.

Peggy Callahan

Peggy Callahan’s sense of fairness (or maybe masochism) has driven her work in film, television, and human rights. Peggy believes in the power of story to create real change on the planet. She was honored to capture the life-changing conversations between His Holiness the Dalai Lama and his “mischievous brother” Archbishop Desmond Tutu. The dialogues inspired the film Mission: Joy – Finding Happiness in Troubled Times with Peggy as Co-Director and Producer. Peggy and team created the BIG JOY global project with scientists from UCSF, Harvard, and Berkeley. It is available online for free and increases participants’ joy as it expands the science of joy. Peggy‘s grown-up job is fighting modern day slavery. She co-founded two international organizations, including Voices4Freedom, that help people come to freedom. Finally. Forever.

Lucas Johnson, MDiv

Lucas Johnson, MDiv, is Executive Vice President, Public Life & Social Healing for the On Being Project. He has deep, global experience in conflict resolution and community organizing. He has been shaped by his time learning from veterans of the Civil Rights Movement in the U.S., most closely Vincent Harding and Dorothy Cotton, and by his work with human rights activists around the world, especially in Africa, Europe, and Latin America. For six years, Lucas was a leader in the U.S. community of the International Fellowship of Reconciliation (IFOR), the world’s oldest interfaith peace organization — based in Atlanta and focused on the Southeast and mid-Atlantic. From 2014 until he joined the On Being Project in December, 2018, he served as General Secretary of IFOR’s global operation. He incubated a Beloved Communities Project in Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Belgium; and helped to create an Ethics of Reciprocity initiative with the United Nations. Lucas studied at Mercer University and Emory University’s Candler School of Theology. He was born in Germany in a military family, grew up in Georgia (U.S.), and now resides between Amsterdam and the United States.

Tsoknyi Rinpoche

For over three decades, Tsoknyi Rinpoche has been teaching students worldwide about the innermost nature of mind in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, and more recently, how to be a healthy human being with his course Fully Being. Widely recognized as an outstanding meditation teacher, he is the author of many books: Open Heart Open Mind, Carefree Dignity, Fearless Simplicity, Why We Meditate, Ground Path Fruition, How Mindfulness Works and Solid Ground.

Soweto Gospel Choir

Soweto Gospel Choir was formed to celebrate the unique and inspirational power of African Gospel music. The choir draws on the best talent from the many churches in and around Soweto. The choir is dedicated to sharing the joy of faith through music with audiences around the world. Soweto Gospel Choir have three Grammy Award-winning albums.

Niclas Kjellström Matseke

Niclas Kjellström-Matseke is a Swedish-South African business leader with a two-decade career as a marketing-oriented CEO, and international investor in Europe and Africa. He has a special focus on sustainable business, and engaged in the UN’s pioneering work with Sustainable Development Goals, as a Board Member of the Sustainable Development Solutions Network. Niclas was the CEO of Novamedia Nordics since its start 2005-­2015. He is Founding Partner of the New York-based company 17Asset Management. He was a member of The Elders’ advisory board, and in 2013 received the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights – The Ripple of Hope Award for his “dynamic and creative leadership” bringing together the business­, political and civic communities.

Tania Singer, PhD

Tania Singer, PhD, is a professor of social neuroscience and psychology, and heads the Max Planck Society’s Social Neuroscience Lab, Berlin. She is a world expert on compassion, empathy and its training, and has a passion for creating bridges between fields that typically never interact. She has initiated and headed one of the largest meditation-based secular mental training studies on compassion, the ReSource project. Linking such findings to the field of (neuro)economics, she developed a Caring Economics approach. She is also heading the CovSocial project, a large-scale mental health study on stress, resilience, and social cohesion during the corona crisis.

Rickie Byars

Rickie Byars is one of the most acclaimed and beloved singer-songwriters there is in the genre of inspirational/New Thought music. Through her three decade career as both a solo artist, Music & Arts Director  and as Founder /Director of the world-renowned Agape International Choir, Byars’ deeply soulful and heart-felt songs of spiritual renewal, uplift and empower. She has built an impressive international following as well. Indeed, the vibrations of “realness” in her music are so strong that they resonate with everyone from residents of L.A.’s SkidRow to South Africa’s Archbishop Desmond Tutu and His Holiness the Dalai Lama, all of whom she has had the honor of performing for.  Rickie Byars has also served on the Board of Directors for Voices4Freedom for 5 years.

David Whyte

David Whyte grew up with a strong, imaginative influence from his Irish mother among the hills and valleys of his father’s Yorkshire. He now makes his home in the Pacific Northwest of the United States. The author of eleven books of poetry and four books of prose, David Whyte holds a degree in Marine Zoology and has traveled extensively, including living and working as a naturalist guide in the Galapagos Islands and leading anthropological and natural history expeditions in the Andes, Amazon, and Himalaya. He brings this wealth of experience to his poetry, lectures, and workshops.

David Whyte is one of the few poets to take his perspectives on creativity into the field of organizational development, where he works with many European, American, and international companies. He is the recipient of two honorary degrees: from Neumann College in Pennsylvania and Royal Roads University in Victoria, British Columbia.

Mamphela Ramphele, MD

Dr. Mamphela Ramphele, MD, has had a celebrated career as an activist, medical doctor, academic, businesswoman and political thought leader. Dr. Ramphele was Co-Founder, with Steve Biko, of The Black Consciousness Movement that reignited the struggle for freedom in South Africa. She is Co-Founder of ReimagineSA, Co-President of The Club of Rome, and Chair at the Desmond Tutu IP Trust. She has received numerous national and international awards acknowledging her scholarship and leading role in promoting the empowerment of women, youth, and other oppressed  people in South Africa and globally. She is the author of several books and publications on socio-economic issues in South Africa.


Learn more:

The Goodness Tour Team

The Goodness Tour is a non profit organization dedicated to bringing music and art experiences to people facing adversity all over the world.  The team includes musicians, artists, filmmakers and therapists who travel to refugee camps, disaster zones, hospitals, mental health centers and more to deliver free concerts and creative workshops for humans who have undergone traumatic events.

Co-founders: Luc Reynaud, Musician; Benjamin Swatez, Artist; Jeremiah Alexis, Producer/editor/writer

Kristin Neff, PhD

Kristin Neff, PhD, is currently an Associate Professor of Educational Psychology at the University of Texas at Austin. She is a pioneer in the field of self-compassion research, conducting the first empirical studies on self-compassion nearly twenty years ago. She has been recognized as one of the most influential researchers in psychology worldwide. She is the author of the bestselling book Self-Compassion.  Along with her colleague Chris Germer she developed the empirically-supported Mindful Self-Compassion program which is taught all around the globe.  They also co-wrote The Mindful Self-compassion Workbook and Teaching the Mindful Self-compassion Program.  Her latest book is Fierce Self-Compassion: How Women Can Harness Kindness to Speak Up, Claim Their Power, and Thrive.

Rachel Bagby

Rachel Bagby is an author, award-winning vocal artist, Stanford Law graduate and Co-Founder of Bagby, Davidson and Associates. Founder of Singing Farm Sanctuary, she has combined her improvisational mojo with living systems wisdom in advising social change innovators for over 30 years. Dekaaz facilitation is a contemplative form and practice Rachel created that distills the essence of experience into ten syllables of sharable wisdom. Honoring her ancestors’ legacy of reaching across multiple lines of financial, cultural, racialized and spiritual wisdom to realize true freedom, her creative processes galvanize communities to cultivate social healing towards a more just and joyful world.

Chude Jideonwo

Chude Jideonwo is the host of #WithChude — a network of media products that enable and strengthen the mind, the heart, and the spirit. He is also co-founder of media group RED, and human flourishing company Joy, Inc. RED has worked on national elections and social movements throughout Africa, and Joy, Inc. has worked with organizations from the Ford Motor Company to the Lagos State Government. Jideonwo has been a Forbes 30 under 30 honoree, an Archbishop Desmond Tutu Fellow, and a World Fellow at Yale University. He has been featured in publications like The New York Times and The Financial Times. He has published two books, including Are We The Turning Point Generation? He also teaches at the Pan Atlantic University. Jideonwo’s work centers on storytelling from across disciplines to inspire new, human-centered narratives about politics, markets, faith, identity, and society in Africa.

Dacher Keltner, PhD

Dacher Keltner, PhD, is a Professor of Psychology at UC Berkeley, Faculty Director of the Greater Good Science Center, host of its podcast, The Science of Happiness, and co-instructor of the online course of the same name. He has won numerous research awards for his studies of the biological and evolutionary origins of compassion, awe, love, beauty, power, social class, and inequality. He is the author of many scientific and popular articles, and several books, including the best-selling Born to Be Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life, and The Compassionate Instinct. His new book AWE will be released in January of 2023. 

Rodney McKenzie, MDiv

Rodney McKenzie Jr., MDiv, is the Vice President of Ally Development at the Fetzer Institute, a foundation whose work is focused on building the spiritual foundation for a loving world. Rodney creates transformative relationships with individual donors, donor advisors, and philanthropic institutions through engaged conversations, open dialogue, and internal reflection that result in increased giving to issues of faith and spirituality. Rodney brings twenty years experience as a leader in philanthropy and movement spaces and as a community organizer. As an out person of faith, Rodney’s work calls us all to be in deeper community together and creates spaces for philanthropic leaders to bring together notions of love, faith, and spirituality into their strategic giving so that everyday people have the opportunity to live bold and beautiful lives. Rodney holds a Master of Divinity from the Union Theological Seminary. He is from Dallas, TX, and currently resides in Brooklyn, NY.

Richard J. Davidson, PhD

Richard J. Davidson, PhD, is a William James and Vilas Research Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry, Founder & Director of the Center for Healthy Minds at University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Founder and Chief Visionary for Healthy Minds Innovations, Inc. Davidson received his PhD from Harvard University in Psychology in 1976. Davidson’s research is broadly focused on the neural bases of emotion and emotional style and methods to promote human flourishing including meditation and related contemplative practices. He is the author of The Emotional Life of Your Brain (with contributions from Sharon Begley), and co-author, with Daniel Goleman, of Altered Traits. He was named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time magazine in 2006. He was elected to the National Academy of Medicine in 2017 and appointed to the Governing Board of UNESCO’s Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Education for Peace and Sustainable Development (MGIEP) in 2018. 

Michelle C. Johnson

Michelle C. Johnson is an author, yoga teacher, social justice activist, intuitive healer, and Dismantling Racism trainer. She teaches workshops in yoga studios and community spaces nationwide. Whether in an anti-oppression training, yoga space, or individual or group intuitive healing session, the heart, healing, and wholeness are at the center of how Michelle approaches all of her work in the world. Michelle is the author of Skill in Action: Radicalizing Your Yoga Practice to Create a Just World.

Bill Vendley, PhD

Bill Vendley, PhD, is passionate about collaboration among the world’s different religious traditions. Before joining Fetzer in November 2019, he served for 25 years as the Secretary-General of Religions for Peace, the world’s largest multi-religious organization. Bill served as an advisor to President Obama on the Multi-Religious Cooperation and International Affairs Task Force of the White House Faith-Based Council. He was also an advisor to the US State Department Secretaries of State Hillary Clinton and John Kerry. Before his work in Religions for Peace, he was a professor and dean of a Roman Catholic graduate seminary. He studied Buddhism in Sri Lanka and practiced Zen meditation for five years in Japan. His graduate degrees are in systematic theology.  He is married to Yasuko Vendley, and they enjoy a cross-cultural multi-religious partnership aligned with Fetzer’s commitment to building a more loving world.    

Emiliana Simon-Thomas, PhD

Emiliana Simon-Thomas, PhD, is the Science Director at UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center (GGSC). Trained in neuroscience and social psychology, she runs the GGSC’s research fellowship program, manages major research initiatives, teaches The Science of Happiness, and collaborates, partners, and advises on multiple projects aimed at providing insights and resources for understanding and improving well-being. Emiliana is an international expert voice on the foundations and advantages of social connection and prosocial states and behaviors (e.g. compassion, gratitude), the origins of well-being, as well as on the most promising strategies for enhancing it individually, in relationships, and collectively.

Demond Hill

Demond Hill Jr. is a PhD student at the University of California, Berkeley, in the Department of Social Welfare. His research interests are at the intersection of Black children, Black youth, Black families, and (im)possibilities of Black healing, joy, and beauty. Specifically, utilizing critical theories, his research looks at the social and emotional development of Black children/youth. As an educator and youth worker who has evolved into a community-based scholar, he is unapologetically committed to collectively creating a liberatory world for Black children, Black youth, and Black families.

Jamil Zaki, PhD

Jamil Zaki, PhD, is an Associate Professor of Psychology at Stanford University. He is especially known for pioneering a new perspective on empathy as a learnable skill. In 2019 he was awarded the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, and his work has widely been published in academic journals and popular publications. His first book The War For Kindness was published in 2019.

Vanessa Nakate

Vanessa Nakate, 25, is a climate justice activist from Uganda and founder of the Rise Up Movement. She began striking for the climate in her home town of Kampala in January 2019, after witnessing droughts and flooding devastating communities in Uganda. She now campaigns internationally to highlight the impacts of climate change already playing out in Africa. In 2021, Vanessa was one of TIME magazine’s 100 emerging global leaders and The Financial Times 25 most influential women.

Elissa Epel, PhD

Elissa Epel, PhD, is a Professor and Vice Chair at University of California, San Francisco. She studies health psychology, how chronic stress can impact mental health, and biological aging throughout the lifespan — including intergenerational transmission of health. She also studies how contemplative interventions may promote emotional well-being, resilience, and physiological thriving, especially in the face of existential stress. She’s interested in climate distress and action. She is a member of the National Academy of Medicine, and past Co-Chair of Mind and Life Institute Steering Council. Epel is author of The Telomere Effect, a best-seller in 30 languages, and The Stress Prescription.

Benjamin Swatez

Benjamin Swatez is an Executive Art Director, International Artist, and Founder and Director of multiple creative therapy projects with a focus on children facing adversity in conflict zones, refugee camps, orphanages, homeless shelters, safe homes, and disability centers worldwide.

He has painted large-scale murals and community empowering wall art in over forty countries for embassies, schools, airports, community centers, and hotels. His art has been exhibited in over 80 international art shows on four continents and showcased in a number of contemporary art museums.

He Co-Founder of The Goodness Tour: Music and Art for People Facing Adversity and is currently working on his PhD in Peace Building and Conflict Transformation through the Expressive Arts.

Luc Reynaud

Luc Reynaud is an international musician-singer-songwriter, producer, music therapist, humanitarian, and public speaker who lives by the code that anything is possible if we do not limit ourselves. Luc’s start in music-service came after writing a song called The Freedom Song with a group of youth in a Hurricane Katrina evacuation shelter in Louisiana while volunteering through Red Cross. The Freedom Song garnered international success after two time Grammy Award–winning artist Jason Mraz recorded a cover of the tune and brought the story around the world. Seeing first hand the powerful and positive effects music and creativity had on humans moving through trauma, Luc began his mission to take this service everywhere needed. He founded a band called Luc and the Lovingtons and co-founded an organization called The Goodness Tour: Music and Art for People Facing Adversity. He continues to dedicate his life to this service.

Darwin Guevarra, PhD

Darwin Guevarra, PhD, is a postdoctoral scholar with the Network for Emotional Well-being at University of California, San Francisco. Darwin is broadly interested in intervention research on how to improve a person’s emotional life and well-being. Darwin specializes in leveraging placebo effects and cognitive nudges to manage distress.

Jim Coan, PhD

Jim Coan, PhD, is an American affective neuroscientist, clinical psychologist, writer, podcast host, human rights activist, and psychology professor at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, where he serves as Director of the Virginia Affective Neuroscience Laboratory, Co-Director of UVA’s College Fellows Program, and Principal of Brown Residential College. His research focuses on how the brain transforms interpersonal relationships into better health and well-being. He hosts the popular science podcast Circle of Willis, appeared for two seasons on the National Geographic television program Brain Games, and has written for public audiences via The Washington Post and VQR.

Shankari Goldstein

Shankari is a 500 hour Yoga teacher, activist, artist, farmer, and is currently studying herbalism. Her passions for unconventional and regenerative farming include growing medicinal herbs, cultivating contemplative green spaces for healing, and managing over 100 animals on over 200 acres. She also works with the Mind & Life Institute developing programming and content. Her current projects include the webinar series Inspiring Minds and The State of Union Yoga Address, which featured community activists, researchers, and contemplative practitioners. She has interviewed such thought leaders as Ruth King, John Kabat-Zinn, Rhonda Magee, Amishi Jha, Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche, Elissa Epel, Jack Kornfield, DJ Drez, Marti Nikko, Richard Freeman, Reggie Hubbard, Michelle Cassandra Johnson, Faith Hunter, Dianne Bondy, Sharon Salzberg, and Dr. Gail Parker. From 2016 – 2020 she was the director of Shensara Yoga and Music festival. She has also hosted events featuring world class speakers in dialogue with His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

Eve Ekman, PhD, MSW

Eve Ekman, PhD, MSW, is a contemplative social scientist designing, delivering, and evaluating tools to support emotional awareness in the fields of health care, well-being, and technology. Eve draws from interdisciplinary skills and first-person experiential knowledge rooted in clinical social work, integrative medicine, contemplative science, and meditation. Eve is lead teacher for Cultivating Emotional Balance, well-being lead on the health team at Apple, Senior Fellow at UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center, and a fellow at the Mind and Life Institute.