Plenary Sessions

2024 Accelerating Health Equity Conference KeyNotes

The Accelerating Health Equity Conference is excited to present keynotes that both motivate and inspire individuals and organizations to take action in finding solutions to address health equity gaps and advance the health of individuals in all communities.

Tuesday, May 7, 2024

Clint Smith

Clint Smith

Clint Smith is the author of How the Word Is Passed, a #1 New York Times bestseller, and a staff writer at The Atlantic. A compelling poet, writer and speaker, Smith believes that understanding our history is the key to understanding the world and giving us the tools to fight for racial justice.

His other books, Counting Descent and Above Ground, have covered topics ranging from slavery’s impact on today’s society, to fatherhood and the way our changing world influences the way we raise our children. Smith’s forthcoming book, Just Beneath the Soil, will shed light on little-known stories behind World War II sites and assess how these places shape our collective memory of the war. He has received fellowships from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, New America, the Emerson Collective, the Art for Justice Fund, Cave Canem and the National Science Foundation, and his essays, poems and scholarly writings have been published widely. A former National Poetry Slam Champion, Smith is a recipient of the Jerome J. Shestack Prize from the American Poetry Review.


Thank you to the Catholic Health Association of the United States for sponsoring this session.

Wednesday, May 8, 2024

Pillsbury House Theatre

Minneapolis-based Pillsbury House Theatre has performed its award-winning Breaking Ice program for over 30 years. The performance focuses on starting and facilitating productive conversations about diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace. Blending drama, music, poetry, movement and humor in several different scenes, Breaking Ice’s diverse company of professional actors explore the ways systemic inequities, implicit bias and common misperceptions create uncomfortable interactions that ultimately prevent innovative, motivated and productive professional efforts.

After each performance, trained facilitators lead group discussions to deepen awareness and help audience members practice how to explore challenging situations together.

Breaking Ice has performed and facilitated important conversations for tens of thousands of audience members, including for Fortune 100 companies and community-based organizations throughout dozens of states.

Thursday, May 9, 2024

Ashton Applewhite

Ashton Applewhite

Ashton Applewhite is an anti-ageism activist and the author of This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism. In her speaking and writing, Applewhite pushes back on the narrative that two-thirds of life should be framed as a decline, and she urges audiences to identify the age biases that are so prevalent throughout modern society. The Washington Post included her book in its list of “100 best books to read at every age,” and Forbes cited it as one of "10 books to help you foster a more diverse and inclusive workplace.”

A leading voice in the emerging anti-ageism movement, Applewhite has spoken on the TED Talks mainstage and at community centers, universities and the United Nations. She advocates for including age alongside race, gender, sexuality and other qualifiers that demand better inclusion efforts. Her work and advocacy landed her on Fe:male One Zero’s first international edition of “40 over 40 – the world’s most inspiring women” in 2022, as well as on HelpAge USA’s inaugural “60 over 60” list of Americans “who are making significant contributions to society at the local, national or international level.”

An internationally recognized expert on ageism, Applewhite speaks widely at venues that range from universities and community centers to the United Nations and the TED mainstage. A co-founder of the Old School Anti-Ageism Clearinghouse, Applewhite is at the forefront of the emerging movement to raise awareness of ageism and to incorporate age alongside race, gender and sexuality as a criterion for diversity. In 2022, the World Health organization named Ashton one of the Healthy Ageing 50: fifty leaders transforming the world to be a better place to grow older.


Thank you to the John A. Hartford Foundation for sponsoring this session.

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