Sample Keynote Presentation – Lee Ellis, CSP*

Thank you for learning more about speaking opportunities with Lee Ellis. 

Over forty years ago, America welcomed home Col. Lee Ellis and his fellow prisoners of war. When Lee got out of the Hanoi Hilton after 1,955 days of captivity, there was a stark realization that society had shifted while he was away. Honorable values and morals had declined in politics, academia, entertainment, and our homes. This issue has been a burden ever since his return and he has consistently taken a stand for strong personal values such as character, courage, and commitment as a means for building healthy organizations and culture that produce long-lasting results.

With his latest 2016 award-winning release entitled Engage with Honor: Building a Culture of Courageous Accountability, as well as his last award-winning book, Leading with Honor: Leadership Lessons from the Hanoi Hilton, Lee has brought new light to the subject of honor and values. Through his research, writing, and speaking, he now shares his story and leadership wisdom throughout the world.

As one of the only former Vietnam POWs to share about this crucible experience, your audience will hear about his dramatic story and the senior leaders that led them through unbelievable trials. They will be challenged and inspired to lead with selfless honor, integrity, and character as the foundation for their daily decision-making. Breaking free from the shackles of fear, shame, pride, and self-preservation is the key to authentic leadership, and it’s a call to Leading with Honor.

Lee is available to share his 40+ years of experience and expertise, and his biography of experience in a variety of industries provides a well-rounded perspective for your industry or event. Read just a few endorsements below from Lee’s most recent keynote speaking engagements.

To invite him to participate in your next meeting or conference, please contact me at (770)540-4108 or [email protected]. More information is also provided on this page.

I look forward to having the opportunity to speak with you soon!

Best Regards,

Stormie Knight-Ellwanger

Speaking & Publicity Administrator

Leading with Honor

*What is CSP Certification? – Learn More

Lee Ellis Biographical Introduction

Audiences | Venues

– Business/Corporate

– Healthcare

– Military/Government

– IT/Technical

– Innovation/Thought Leadership

– Faith-Based/Non-Profit

– Utilities/Public Safety

His past clients include Fortune 500 senior executives, C-Level leaders, management, and front-line staff in these sectors.

Keynote Presentation Topics

Leading with Honor®: Lee shares his story of being captured and held as a POW in Vietnam for over five years and the leadership principles that helped him and his comrades return home with honor.

Using the POW story as a vehicle, Lee adapts his message to the needs of the client/audience. Recurring themes in all of his presentations are courage, character, commitment, and knowing yourself to be authentic. Typically, he will highlight two or three of the lessons from the fourteen described in his award-winning book, Leading with Honor: Leadership Lessons from the Hanoi Hilton to fit the client’s desires.


Engage with Honor™: In addition to sharing his story of being captured and held as a POW in Vietnam for over five years, he shares the proven Courageous Accountability Model™ based on the core principles of character, courage, and commitment. Also, learn how the 4C’s can provide a tactical plan for increasing performance and getting results with your team or organization. A full-color handout is provided for each participant with the Courageous Accountability Model and 4C’s from his book and training resources.


Additional topics related to his subject matter experience and expertise include –

– Organizational Development

– Behavioral Assessment and Development

– Team Building and Development

– Hiring, Firing, and Retention

– Succession Planning


What Others Are Saying

“Northwest Battle Buddies had the great honor of having Col Ellis be the guest speaker at our largest fundraiser of the year. The fundraiser was by far our most successful to date, [and] everyone who had the opportunity to listen to Col Ellis got a glimpse of the price of Freedom, a true American Hero and what he endured in the face of adversity.”

      – Shannon Walker – President/Founder Master Dog Trainer at Northwest Battle Buddies 

“Lee Ellis brought great insight to our customers and enthralled them as he related the leadership steps to those he lived as a POW. He was the highlight of our event, and we look forward to introducing him to more of our customers and co-workers in the months to come.”

      – Dan Gastley, Executive Vice President, Control Southern Inc

“Lee Ellis has spoken for us on two different occasions and he’s terrific. He takes the time to understand the audience to whom he’s speaking and delivers an on-target message that is truly phenomenal. His storytelling ability coupled with his lessons on leadership make for a winning combination.  I highly recommend Lee to anyone who is looking for an engaging speaker.”

      – Dan Oswald, Chief Executive Officer, BLR (Business and Legal Resources)

“Col. Ellis was an excellent speaker at our annual leadership breakfast with almost 1,000 civic leaders and administrators. He provided real life experiences through his life journey and applied it to our audience. It was a simple yet powerful message on the importance of leadership.”

      – Nathan Ballantine, Principal, North Gwinnett High School

“One of the primary reasons for the success of [SPESA’s Executive Conference] was your participation. As one of our attendees said, ‘The meeting opened with a speaker who engaged the attendees completely as he delivered real life lessons on true leadership. He is a true American hero.’ There wasn’t a person in that room that won’t be re-examining their leadership qualities and skills.”

      – Benton Gardner, President, SPESA (Sewn Products Equipment & Suppliers of the Americas)

“His thoughtful connection between his experience…and what makes up a good leader made his insights real for his audience. He left us all with much to think about, both professionally and personally. What an inspiration.”

      – Virginia Cartmell-Martin, Commercial Leader, G.E. Capital

“Lee’s inspiring message was timely and on target. The Leading with Courage theme resonated well with the audience and all of his key points had significant impact.”

      – Edmond Hughes, Vice President, Human Resources & Administration, Ingalls Shipbuilding

“Recently, Lee Ellis facilitated a leadership training event for 35 rather independent company managers, and I can speak on behalf of all our managers who were present in the meeting that each had a very enriching moment with valuable practical take away in several ways: in a better knowledge of self, in a better understanding of the other managers of the Denis Group and in having a clearer view on how to relate and work best with each other. More importantly, the managers of Denis Group had a clear view that there is no stereotype leader personality, but find that a richness in a diversity of leadership profiles provides opportunities for all as long as the team spirit is encouraged. We were thankful that Lee Ellis was able to share his experience and knowledge in leadership and to relate with our managers in a very meaningful way.”

      – Francois de Moulliac, Managing Director, Denis Asia Pacific Pte Ltd – Singapore, France

“One of the primary objectives of a presenter is to make the event organizer look good. This you did with spades yesterday. I have received numerous thanks and expressions of appreciation for inviting you as a speaker. You spoke from the heart with knowledge and conviction. You were superb.”

       – Dan Davies, Executive Director, National Association of Chief Executive Officers

“Duke Energy and Progress Energy recently merged, bringing two of the best electric utilities in the country into one organization. During this process, it became evident early on that we had an opportunity to establish a new culture for the combined organization. Colonel Ellis spoke to a group of about 140 key leaders within the Power Generation Operations and Central Engineering and Services groups and did a masterful job of relating his experiences in combat and as a prisoner of war in Vietnam to the challenges that Duke Energy is facing as we stitch our two companies together. He has helped us ‘lean into the pain’ and provide clarity as we face our mission head on. His presentation was masterfully done and left a permanent positive impression on those that attended.”

        – Jeffrey J. Lyash, Executive Vice President – Energy Supply (retired), Duke Energy

“Lee’s message of character, courage, and competence in leadership resonated perfectly with the objectives and goals of Dasein Executive Search, so we hosted him as a keynote speaker in two special events here in Brazil. His Vietnam POW story and leadership lessons learned inspired and informed key executives in these regions, and we look forward to hosting Lee again in the future.”

– Adriana Prates, Founder and President, Dasein Executive Search, BRAZIL

“Our young people were enthralled by Lee’s story and greatly challenged by the need to ‘return with honor’. Lee’s message is something young people and indeed our nation needs in this hour.”

– Pastor Martin Tang, Lead Pastor, Changi Christian Fellowship Church, Singapore

“Col. Ellis inspires others to elevate and demonstrate leadership under all circumstances through his personal story of courage and honor as a POW in the Vietnam war. His engaging speaking ability, exemplary leadership experience…are inspirational and impactful.”

        – Tom Beaty, President and CEO, InSight Sourcing Group

“Lee is an inspirational speaker who reminds us all of the cost of our freedom and what courage and service is all about.  He was a highlight at our conference and we will use him again with still larger audiences.”

        – Kenneth Daly, President and CEO, NACD

“I had the pleasure of attending a presentation by Col Lee Ellis (ret.). His ability to take the horrific tale of his imprisonment during the Vietnam War and transform it into invaluable lessons in leadership is nothing less than remarkable and inspiring.”

        – Christopher A. R. Brice, Chief Marketing Officer, Northwestern Mutual – Louisville

“I have nothing but the highest compliments for Lee’s presentation–both for his keynote presentation and workshop training. Lee’s book and leadership model were an excellent addition to our Leadership Development program.”

      – Janis Steblay, Sr. Specialist Employee Development & Organization Effectiveness, Orbital ATK Armament Systems Division

“Lee Ellis has been a highlight of the Crystal Visions Enrichment Program on board our luxury vessels. His unique and dramatic story is a terrific match with our itineraries, values and the high quality of enrichment that our travel savvy guests expect to experience on a Crystal cruise.”

        – Bret Bullock – Vice President, Entertainment – Crystal Cruises, Worldwide

“The remarks I heard from people who attended our CPCU Society event were over-the-top favorable of your speech, and that you were the best speaker in 10 years. I share those views.”

        – Harold A. Weston, JD, CPCU, RPLU, ARM // Clinical Assistant Professor of Risk Management and Insurance, Undergraduate RMI Program Advisor – Georgia State University

“Col. Lee’s story inspired attendees and equipped them with a new paradigm on dealing with challenges. I highly recommend Col. Ellis as a speaker for your corporate and government clients. He is a true American Hero that I feel fortunate to have crossed paths with.”


“Lee Ellis spoke to our HFMA-SC Chapter last October in Greenville, SC at our Fall institute. He was so well received, and I know the audience was attentive to every word he spoke! I would definitely endorse him to anyone considering Lee Ellis as an event speaker.”

        – Ronnie Hyatt, Sr Vice President-Finance/CFO, Bon Secours St. Francis Health System

“Col. Lee Ellis spoke to our board of directors and guests.  He was right on target for the audience, and there were long lines to buy his book afterwards.  He did an excellent job, and we highly recommend him.”

        – Dan Wheeler, National Adjutant,American Legion

“Thank you so much for your inspiring and insightful remarks at our Annual Meeting. They were met with universal acclaim and appreciation. We could not have asked for anything more as a fitting conclusion for our program.”

        – Roy Bowen, President, Georgia Association of Manufacturers

“Lee’s dynamic speaking engagements teach the understanding of integrity, character, and the meaning of selflessness. If you are looking for a captivating and enriching seminar, we give Lee Ellis our highest recommendation!”

        – Chantel Dunham, Director of Development, UGA Libraries, UGA Press, and The Georgia Review, University of Georgia

“Lee Ellis’ matter-of-fact and sometimes humorous style provided clear examples and illustrations in the lessons of honor as a basis for making major corporate decisions. Across the board, attendees expressed their appreciation of the very personal and meaningful lessons Lee shared with the group.”

        – Mackie Horton, President, UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School Atlanta Alumni Club

“We selected Col. Ellis to be a keynote speaker at our Leadership Club event in May. His presentation to the club did not disappoint. Lee was definitely our best key note speaker in 2014 and I would highly recommend him to anyone looking for a dynamic speaker with a passionate message on leadership.”

      – Amy Dolash, Sr Manager – Enterprise Sourcing, Leadership Club President, Rockwell Collins

“Col. Ellis spoke to 650 Air Force Reserve Yellow Ribbon families at our event, and his overall rating was a 4.88 out of a possible 5. That is the highest score we have seen for any of our keynote speakers. Thanks to Col (ret) Ellis and his entire staff. He is still consistently home runs with his audiences!”

      – David Schoch, Program Analyst, Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program

“Thank you for speaking to the recent Georgia Association Police Chiefs conference. I have read and heard many speakers on the topic of leadership. While many have given me tools to use, not many have struck me personally as you did. Your message made me reflect even deeper than normal…”

      – Thomas N. Culpepper, Chief of Police, Cartersville GA Police Department

“Home Medical Professionals had our first leadership and team building workshop, and it was better than we could have hoped for! We had 22 managers, including our owners, in a room for six hours and Col. Lee Ellis managed to keep everyone engaged during the meeting.”

       – Heather Tow, Director of Marketing and Patient Education, Home Medical Professionals

“Everyone here was extremely impressed with Col Ellis and several stated that it was by far the best speaker that we have had on campus since we started the [Character Development] program!”

       – LTC Anthony E. Fritchle, Executive Assistant to the President & Director for Planning, Riverside Military Academy

“We cannot thank Lee enough for his presentation [at BathFitter]. I heard nothing but great comments [at our annual event]—it was wonderful. The passion he brings is critically important for American business leadership.”

      – Joyce Hrinya, Managing Partner at A&R Strategy Partners, LLC

“I watched the audience, which comprised about 90 people, listen very carefully and watch Lee as he spoke. They were engaged and almost mesmerized by his story. Lee’s delivery style was excellent. He spoke from the heart, mixed in the occasional joke or one liner to keep the audience loose, and was given a standing ovation when finished. I couldn’t have asked for better and highly recommend Lee.”

       – Jim Murphy, Vice President – Eastern Region, Matrix Professional Services

“Lee recently spoke to a group of 150 senior business leaders and was terrific in relating his experiences. Having invited Lee to present to a number of different groups and in a variety of situations, both large venues and smaller more intimate settings, I can attest his presentation is always masterful, poignant, and leaves a permanent and very positive impression on attendees.”

       – Thomas J Fuller, Managing Partner – Epsen Fuller Group

“…Lee’s presentation was exceptional. We had a very high turnout for the event, both in person and through video conference, and the feedback from the event was very positive. Everyone who approached me had many great experiences to take away…The level of engagement through the entire presentation was very high…our team was moved by him and his experience.”

       – Dennis W. Lahmann, Research & Engineering Team Leader, Design & Drafting Services, Kimberly-Clark Corporation

“I had so many positive compliments about the [keynote speech]. I took away the challenge to have the courage to do what is right even when is doesn’t feel natural or safe.”

      – Darwin Hollingsworth, SNC IT Group Manager, Southern Company Services – Information Technology

“Every American, especially the younger generation, needs to hear Colonel Ellis’ inspiring message, which reaffirms that freedom is not without sacrifice.”

      – Jerry C. Davis, President, College of the Ozarks

“Your remarks were of the highest quality and were incredibly inspirational to our members. Time after time we heard through the rest of the event how impressed the attendees were. We could not have been more pleased.”

– Charles B. “Clay” Jones III, Vice-President and General Counsel, Georgia Association of Manufacturers

“As an event coordinator for the National Guard, my biggest fear is hiring a keynote speaker who doesn’t relate to or hold the attention of my audience. In working with Col Ellis, this fear is tenuous at best and subsides just a few words into any of his presentations. Col Ellis and his lessons of leadership from Hanoi bode well for all.”

       – Amy Laree Schmid, Oregon Air National Guard, Contractor, Yellow Ribbon Program Event Coordinator, Military Personnel Services Corporation

“Lee was well received by 200+ tourism professionals who really did not want the presentation to end. Comments were more than favorable from attendees, and we will encourage any of our members to book Lee for their meetings and retreats. I believe that his message is particularly pertinent to boards and politicians overseeing tourism budgets and other stakeholders.”

      – Chuck Bonelli, TMP, VP Marketing, Southeast Tourism Society

“Col. Lee Ellis did a masterful job in combining his story with the principles of leadership outlined in his book, Leading With Honor. He has a natural gift for connecting with people. I would recommend him as a speaker or presenter for any venue. He lives what it means to lead with honor.”

        – Mike Thompson, Jefferson Public Library, Jefferson GA

“It was our pleasure to include [Lee Ellis] as a plenary speaker at FCCI’s International Conference in Amelia Island this past September. The conference participants were blessed by your breakout lecture on ‘How to Win’ every time with an emphasis on engaging a team rather than withdrawing or dominating. As a plenary speaker, you communicated the importance of knowing oneself and guarding your character to live authentically. Thank you for taking the time to speak to our business leadership community, and I would highly recommend you for future conferences.”

      – Terence Chatmon, President & CEO, Fellowship of Companies for Christ International (FCCI)

“When faced with immense adversity, Lee Ellis turned what could have been devastating into an opportunity. In his book ‘Leading with Honor,’ he details a unique approach to leadership shaped by his experience in a Vietnamese POW camp. These decisive strategies are just as relevant to aspiring leaders as they are to seasoned professionals who have held leadership roles for many years. By focusing on honor and what that means each and every day, readers from all backgrounds will be compelled to live better and lead stronger.”

      – Jerry Hendrix, VP Human Resources, Mohawk Flooring

      – Robert Stevenson, Director Human Resources, Mohawk Flooring

“My team and I here at Polaris would like to thank you for the outstanding leadership training. It was an absolutely positive [experience] on how to lead with honor. While we have had many other guest speakers in the past to come in and talk about leadership, there is no doubt in our minds that your leadership lessons from the Hanoi Hilton overshadow the past speakers. The team has already asked to have you return next year as a followup on the progress we have made on our commitments and to learn better ways to lead.”

      – Mike Santiago, CEO, Polaris Aviation Solutions

“Lee Ellis recently spoke at our Health & Safety Summit, as with all guest speakers you never know what to expect.  Wow is what I can say.  Lee’s message was unbelievable that still have guests talking of how influential his speech and story was.  Having Lee as our guest speaker brought a new dynamic and highlight to our summit as well as bringing our teams together.  I would highly recommend having him at future events.”

      – Lindsey Wallace Van Wingerden, Manager, Board Relations – CB&I

“Lee was remarkable. He was engaging and so informative about leadership. The participants loved his stories and how he applied them to the lessons. We have received ‘Thank you’ and ‘Great Session’ from many participants verbally and via email.”

      – Monita Outland, MPH, Training Specialist III, Centers for Disease Control (CDC) University

“The Colonel’s presentation was wonderful and warm and I love that his leadership lessons speak to each individual and can be applied to all aspects of everyday life. Our audience included retirees to full-time workers, and lots of incredible volunteers. All were so impressed and moved and went away with a great message and valuable lessons to implement in their lives.”

– Kim James, Branch Manager, Madison County Library

“Wow!  Col. Ellis’ presentation to our Veterans Entrepreneurship Program was truly inspirational.  He provided some valuable lessons for leadership and life.”

        – Sheb True, Ph.D., Professor and Director of GAVE (Georgia Advancing Veterans Education), Coles College of Business, Kennesaw State University

“Thank you for giving such an excellent, inspiring presentation! The physicians hear so many clinical lectures that your topic was truly special! The physicians responded with really wonderful comments and very positive CME evaluations.”

      – Anne Kramer, RN-BC, MN, Director, Medical Education/Medical Library, Gwinnett Medical Center

“He is a superb speaker who captivates an audience, even 3800 women!  Upon his recognition as the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution’s 2015 DAR Medal of Honor Winner, he was received with cheers and a standing ovation after his heartwarming and inspiring speech. Not only was he awarded this highest Medal given by the National DAR, Col Ellis was also recognized as the Georgia Society Daughters of American Revolution’s Distinguished Citizen Award as he truly exemplifies the qualities of honor, service to country, courage, and leadership.”

– Phyllis King, Georgia State Chairman, Daughters of the American Revolution

“Col. Ellis had a direct link to the audience as he was speaking to Vietnam Veterans and their guests. His ability to take his experience as a POW to the world of leadership is remarkable. Listening to Col. Ellis speak about his USAF career, and his experience in the Hanoi Hilton was very moving. We would welcome him back anytime.”

       – Dave Hambrick, President – Chapter 1, Georgia Vietnam Veterans Association

“Col. Ellis was one of our Distinguished Lecturers at Harding University during the 2014/2015 academic year. We were so pleased and honored to have him on our campus. The student’s response was overwhelming. He was very engaging with them and the entire audience. We received positive feedback on his visit for weeks. The students loved him. I just can’t say enough positive words about his visit. We would always be honored to hear Col. Ellis again and again.”

      – Karen Edmonds-Friar, American Studies Institute, Harding University

“Col. Ellis’s presentation embodies the YPO Ideal: Leadership through Education. His presentation provides (i) historical education of the Vietnam War, (ii) emotional focus on overcoming seemingly unbeatable obstacles, and (iii) true take-home value on leadership skills all YPO members may use in life and business.”

      – David Ellis, Co-President, GemCapWPO At-Large Member

“This is the first time I heard Lee speak, and I was in awe.  His message on leadership and courage draws in the entire audience.  He packs the room full – not an empty seat! Lee’s inspiring sessions are not to be missed! I would give him 5 out of 5 stars.“

      – Dana Halvorson, Senior Director, Not for Profit and Constituent Services, American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living

“Lee Ellis is one of the most inspiring speakers and leaders of character I’ve ever had the privilege of hearing.  At our recent seminar attended by professionals from many of Atlanta’s top companies, Lee captivated the audience with his personal story of courage and resilience and his compelling lessons in leadership. Not surprisingly, he also received the highest possible scores for his presentation.”

      – Susan Hitchcock, Executive Director of Women’s Initiatives, Board Member, Turknett Leadership Group

“Lee Ellis’ presentation of ‘Leading with Honor, Leadership Lessons from the Hanoi Hilton’ does exactly what you would want for your team—it makes you a better leader and shows how a group can work together no matter what difficulties lie in front of them. I highly recommend Lee for your next function.”

      – Juancarlo Rendon – LUTCF, FSS, Agency Manager, Texas Farm Bureau Insurance

“Lee Ellis spoke to the Atlanta Estate Planning Council this past November, and he knocked the ball out of the park. His message was inspirational, motivating and relevant to our group. I recommend Lee as a speaker to professional groups such as ours.”

      – Dave Polstra, CPA, CFP®, CIMA®, Partner | Co-Founder | Wealth Advisor, Brightworth

“Lee Ellis is a national treasure! Lee’s powerful presentations and transformational thinking provides practical and impactful value for leaders and teams at any level.”

      – Randy Walton, CEO and Managing Partner, The Walton Group, Inc.

“Lee Ellis is one of the most insightful people I know when it comes to leadership and management and how those principles work with the different personality styles and behaviors. He is also an excellent communicator who helps people like me to translate those principles into concrete actions.”

      – Dean Harbry, PCC, Executive Advisor & Coach, Internal Innovations LLC

“Hearing about his experience as a POW and the lessons learned on principled leadership were very moving and inspiring. Lee’s inspirational message and principles on leadership, courage, and honor translate across industries and professions.”

      – Kelley J. Kash, Colonel, USAF, MSC (Retired), Chief Executive Officer, Maine Veterans’ Homes

“The Georgia State Council for the Society for Human Resources Management had the distinct honor of hosting Lee Ellis as our key note speaker at our annual conference. He is a talented story teller…and inspired those who heard him as was evident as the audience showed their appreciation with a standing ovation.”

     – Sally Roberts SHRM-SCP, SPHR, Human Resources Director, Morris Communications Company, LLC

“A quick note of appreciation for your inspirational talk at the recent Emerson/Control Southern event.  I learned a lot about history and the incredible odds you and your fellow soldiers faced during this horrific time…thank you for agreeing to be a part of our event and making a difference in the lives of so many who aspire to become level 5 leaders.”

      – Doug Turner, President, Control Southern Inc

“It was our honor to have Col. Lee Ellis, USAF (Ret) speak at the 2015 Region III EMS Awards. When Col. Ellis began telling his story and tying it to Leadership skills you could have heard a pin drop. Should you ever have the opportunity to hear him tell his story, I say take it; you will be glad you did.”

       – Janet M. Schwalbe, CMPE, VP President Physician Services, Gwinnett Hospital System, Inc.


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