SLI Keynote Speakers

Chris Bashinelli

Chris Bashinelli, better known as “Bash,” was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York to Lebanese and Italian-American parents. At 20, he studied anthropology in East Africa, but upon arriving home, he learned his father had terminal cancer. His father’s death, combined with his experience learning about other cultures set him on an international quest to better understand people and the qualities that lead to a happy and meaningful life.

After a decade-lone acting career, including an appearance on the HBO show, “The Sopranos,” Bash decided to follow his passion — using media to build bridges between cultures. A celebrated diversity and inclusion speaker, who has traveled the world for more than a decade sharing a message of empathy and understanding, Bash hosts “Bridge the Gap,” a television series featured on PBS and the National Geographic Channel, where he experiences life in someone else’s shoes.

Michele Gay

Michele Gay is a mother, educator, and co-founder of Safe and Sound Schools. After losing her daughter Josephine Grace on Dec. 14, 2012, in the Sandy Hook school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, Gay has channeled her energy into advocating for improved safety and security in schools and communities across the country.

An educator by training, a mother at heart, and a community advocate by choice, Gay is uniquely positioned to help others prepare for, prevent, respond to, and recover from tragedies in their own communities. She acts as a consultant for a variety of government and local entities, working diligently to unite stakeholders of all disciplines and perspectives.

Eric McElvenny

Eric McElvenny is an amputee endurance athlete living in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He earned a mechanical engineering degree from the U.S. Naval Academy in 2006 while preparing for service as a Marine Corps infantry officer. On his third and final tour in Afghanistan, McElvenny was seriously wounded by an IED, resulting in the amputation of his right leg below the knee.

Faced with a physical challenge and an uncertain future, McElvenny made a life-changing promise to himself to run an Ironman Triathlon. On his journey from the hospital bed in southern California to the finish line in Kona, Hawaii, he realized the challenge and adversity he was up against and the techniques he used to reach the finish line could be used against the challenges others face. When not training, racing, and delivering inspiration, McElvenny enjoys spending time with his wife and three children.

Additional information

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