The Lavin Agency Speakers Bureau

A speakers bureau that represents the best original thinkers,
writers, and doers for speaking engagements.

Megan Phelps-Roper Talks to Good Morning America on Her New Memoir, Unfollow, Out Today

Could you leave your family and lifelong friends behind and start over? The hotly anticipated memoir of former Westboro Baptist Church member Megan Phelps-Roper is out October 8th—and Good Morning America featured her and her incredible story, Unfollow, today.

Changing her life from one of spreading shocking bigotry to one of compassion and acceptance wasn’t easy, but Phelps-Roper’s journey is as uplifting as it is rare. Deeply personal, yet with strong universal appeal, Unfollow: A Memoir of Loving and Leaving the Westboro Baptist Church, explores exactly how she was able to escape and build a better life. She opened up on Good Morning America about how she went from picket lines outside of military funerals, to using her voice to uplift understanding instead.


As a granddaughter of the Church’s founding father, Phelps-Roper was deeply embroiled within the virulent religious group from birth, and knew no other way of life.  By 2009, she was running the church’s Twitter account, playing a key role in spreading its signature brand of hateful rhetoric to the world stage. However, after interacting with genuinely empathetic individuals online, Phelps-Roper began to doubt the dogmatic assertions of her faith and its celebrations of human tragedy. In 2012, she and one of her sisters made the difficult decision to leave their family and home, renounce their teachings, and face permanent ostracization.


And even though the memoir is just hitting shelves now, it’s such an intersting story, compellingly told, that Unfollow  is already on track to becoming a major feature film: scripted by Nick Hornby and produced by Reese Witherspoon.

To book speaker Megan Phelps-Roper, contact her exclusive speakers bureau, The Lavin Agency.

Reducing Prejudice Requires Meaningful Conversation—but the Results Speak for Themselves, Says Dave Fleischer

Prejudice divides us, and to Lavin speaker Dave Fleischer, Director of the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s Leadership LAB, dismantling it is nothing less than a science. “Deep canvassing”—a method refined by Fleischer and his team—means knocking on doors to engage people in fact-based, personal conversations about subjects like gay marriage and transgender rights. The effect is tangible: real, data-verified change tracked in over 15,000 conversations.  

In his warm and optimistic keynotes, Fleischer teaches audiences the method he created for empirically reducing prejudice, including around trans rights, which recently came under further attack as the Trump administration proposed a new plan to “[define] gender as a biological, immutable condition.” In talks, he’ll explain why people welcome the opportunity to reflect on an issue, even if they’ve already “made up their mind” about it, and how 10 minutes of intentional conversation can generate authentic shifts in belief. Persuasion is not as simple as delivering a message, he says. You have to create a two-way dialogue, and Fleischer will show you how.


To book speaker Dave Fleischer, or another Lavin speaker on Social Changevisit our dedicated  topic. 

It’s Easy to Empathize with One Person. Stanford’s Jamil Zaki Helps Us Scale Up.

“For decades, social scientists have documented a troubling quirk in human empathy: People tend to care more about the suffering of individuals, and less about the pain of many people.” In the wake of what seems like an increase in natural disasters around the world, empathy expert Jamil Zaki explores humanity’s tendency to feel less as tragedies grow.  

The phenomenon is called compassion collapse: “dozens or hundreds of people, by definition, can lose more, fear more, and hurt more than any one of us; human concern should scale with the amount of pain in front of us. Instead it dries up,” Zaki writes in The Atlantic. Understanding compassion collapse is the first step in fighting it, which is part of what Zaki studies as director of the Stanford Social Neuroscience Lab. There, he asked people to use virtual reality to help understand the plight of a single homeless person. This not only increased concern for homeless people overall, but also support for affordable-housing policy, even a month after the VR simulation.    


Watch Zaki’s TEDx talk “Building Empathy: How to Hack Empathy and Get Others to Care More.”   


BUILDING EMPATHY: How to hack empathy and get others to care more | Jamil Zaki | TEDxMarin


To book Jamil Zaki, or another psychology speaker for your next speaking event, contact The Lavin Agency.

Lavin Speaker Vijay Gupta—a Violinist Who Helps the Homeless and Incarcerated—Named a 2018 MacArthur “Genius”

Violinist and educator Vijay Gupta has just been named by the MacArthur Foundation as one of their 2018 Fellows—a distinction known cheekily as the “Genius” Award. Recognizing Gupta’s remarkable work with Street Symphony, his musical engagement program that pairs professional musicians with Skid Row LA residents, Gupta was named for “providing musical enrichment and valuable human connection to the homeless, incarcerated, and other under-resourced communities.”

As a member of the MacArthur Class of 2018, the Foundation recognized Gupta’s unique model of outreach to marginalized individuals in places that offer other social services. “His strategy of generating musical projects through extended engagement and by forging interpersonal relationships has begun to inspire other performing groups in the Los Angeles area to be more socially conscious. Dedicated to bringing beauty, respite, and purpose to those all too often ignored by society, Gupta is demonstrating the capacity of music to validate our shared humanity and focusing needed attention on interrelated social issues that cluster at places such as Skid Row.” 


Receiving news of his fellowship, Gupta says “The MacArthur Fellowship is an incredibly humbling honor, affirming not only the work of Street Symphony, but the work of our partners and communities who continually remind us that the arts are a powerful force for community, belonging and humanity.  Through performance, dialogue and teaching artistry, Street Symphony illuminates the lives and stories of people impacted by homelessness and incarceration in Los Angeles County. Every person has a story that matters, and every person deserves access to a creative and expressive life. Music fosters community—not only to heal and inspire—but as a powerful force, forging the arc of social justice towards our common humanity.”


Watch the MacArthur Foundation’s video interview with Vijay Gupta below:


Violinist and Social Justice Advocate Vijay Gupta | 2018 MacArthur Fellow


To book speaker (and now MacArthur Fellow) Vijay Gupta for your next event, contact The Lavin Agency today. Be sure to check out our other MacArthur Fellows too, from journalists to artists and more.