Jeanne Celestine Lakin
- Diversity and Inclusion
- Humanitarian Issues
- Children's Issues
Audience & Industry
- Colleges and Universities
- Faith-based Groups
- Global Audiences
- Women's Events
Rwandan Genocide survivor, Jeanne Celestine Lakin, overcame a childhood of genocide, abuse and orphanhood. She inspires audiences with her capacity for forgiveness and serves as testimony to the power of human resilience and perseverance.
Few people in history have experienced the horrors of genocide and holocausts and lived to tell their story. Far fewer have the strength and courage to relive those harrowing moments so that others may understand the depths of its injustice to learn from it. Jeanne Celestine Lakin is one of those extraordinary, courageous people.
In the Spring of 1994, the Rwandan government, assisted by trained militias and Hutu citizens, launched an orchestrated massacre with the goal of eliminating the entire Tutsi ethnic group. Over the course of 100 days, young Celestine Lakin, a Tutsi, and her little sisters narrowly evaded the bloodthirsty militiamen while they hid in forests, swamps and bushes. After months of carnage, she learned almost all her adult relatives, including her parents, along with one million others were slaughtered. Yet surviving the genocide was only the beginning. At age 14, Celestine Lakin found herself in an American classroom learning an unfamiliar language, battling PTSD, and bearing the deeps wounds caused by the horror she witnessed.
Determined not to be defined by her past, Celestine Lakin recognized education as the key to overcoming poverty and began a promising new phase in her life. She earned her high school diploma, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees, all with honors, and started the process of healing and forgiveness that she simply could not keep to herself.
Celestine Lakin is the author of A Voice in the Darkness: Memoir of a Rwandan Genocide Survivor and founder of the charity program One Million Orphans, that seeks to bring sustainable support to the world’s most vulnerable children.
Why Book Jeanne Celestine Lakin for Your Event
With compassion, maturity and sincerity, Celestine Lakin takes audiences along on her personal journey of perseverance -- from genocide orphan to author and orphan advocate. Her message instantly becomes an encouragement to both student groups and business audiences alike in need of the insight to overcome their own struggles. Celestine Lakin also illuminates faith-based audiences with her profound testimony of faith and forgiveness while highlighting the power of unity and the human family.
Jeanne Celestine Lakin's Speech Topics
Resilience and Perseverance: Natural Human Traits
In her speech on “Resilience and Perseverance,” Celestine Lakin highlights stories of fellow overcomers, draws parallels to her own story, and then relates that to the audience. Despite challenges that can seem daunting, she argues that the desire to overcome is a deep-seated natural human characteristic that we all have the capacity to embrace.
Faith and Forgiveness
Celestine Lakin delivers a presentation on faith and forgiveness that has changed people’s perspective for the better. Celestine Lakin’s parents were killed for something as arbitrary as their ethnic classification. In her case she witnessed the murder of her father. Later, she was beaten, raped, and set to be sold into marriage. Her home was looted, burned, and her future destroyed. She had every reason to hate the perpetrators and even the ethnic group responsible for these crimes; yet she doesn’t.
Celestine Lakin highlights the freedom forgiveness offers. “It is a gift from God,” she says. “It is meant to free you, the oppressed, not the oppressor”. She made this realization through her Christian Faith, counseling sessions, and credits her relationship with God for exercising this freedom.
This presentation is perfect for churches, spiritual groups, and faith-based groups.
How Labels Can Harm
This speech is focused on propaganda and how it is used in society to assign labels to groups of people. Often, a general label obscures the truth and humanity of a person or group of people. Sometimes these labels can have negative connotations and cause the user to distance themselves from the labeled group. During the Rwandan genocide, labels were utilized to dehumanize the Tutsi Ethnic group.
In this presentation, Celestine Lakin explains how these labels came about. How we can spot them when they are turning harmful. And what we can do to create a more inclusive atmosphere in our communities, schools, and businesses.
The Darkness of Genocide
In 100 days over one million people were massacred in the Rwandan Genocide, which was planned through the methodical dehumanization of the Tutsi ethnic group. The framework and management for the killing campaign was organized by an extreme branch of the Hutu government. Celestine Lakin was a young girl, but she remembers the first signs of the genocide: ethnic segregation in school, police abruptly stopping by her home, and ominous warnings and hateful glares from neighbors. When the killing started, she was home with her nine siblings. Her father scrambled to protect his children, but the force of ethnic hatred was too strong. Every single Tutsi was marked for death.
Celestine Lakin takes audiences through the dark 100 days of genocide and reveals exactly how she hid, what she heard, and the horrors she saw. While this presentation is heavy and at times very dark, she reveals points of triumph and inspiration that are beyond words to describe.
Works by Jeanne Celestine Lakin
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Author, Raising Our Hands; National Organizer, Women’s March; Co-Founder, ORGANIZE; Creator and Executive Producer, MTV’s “Exiled!’; Education and Media Specialist, United Nations