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“Underachiever” who invented electronic newsletter becomes nonprofit visionary

March 24, 2014
photo of Gary Oppenheimer in a garden Gary Oppenheimer

Keynote speaker, once an “underachiever”, now a nonprofit visionary

When I was a kid, I didn’t like going to school. Too much energy and too little opportunity to burn it off.  Although I loved science and history, I did pretty poorly in most other subjects.  Indeed I was so bad in math that I thought “D” was a numeric grade.

I wanted to do the least amount of work necessary to keep me from being left back. My parents were told I was a “gifted underachiever”, and although my many projects and interests may have suggested “gifted”, my report cards nearly always said “underachiever”.

Once I was unleashed from school, I soldered a computer together in 1975 (still have it but I’m now afraid to turn it on), wrote and demonstrated a prototype email system in 1977, invented the electronic newsletter (and therefore possibly spam – sorry about that!) in 1985, and eventually dreamed up in 2009.

Clearly I was the poster child for school interfering with an education.

While I worked hard to do as little work as possible in school, has been the exact opposite.

An important part of my work is to be the evangelist for our vision and mission – to hopefully inspire people to be the agent for change in their community.  My goal is to be the small candle that sparks many others candles to fully illuminate the room and one of the best ways I’ve found to do that is through keynote speaking engagements.’s potential is so robust that I’m never short of words – only time.

All too often, I’ve seen speakers who show up, speak and go home.  They probably did all their homework as a kid. I instead show up and speak, do a Q&A, meet with smaller groups, visit nearby food banks and food pantries, community groups, etc.  When I travel for a speaking event, I try to make the absolute most of my visit to an area.

As an example, a week ago, I was keynote speaker at Cultivate Iowa.  I also met with the Des Moines Area Religious Council and their food pantry, participated in the Iowa Food Systems Council board meeting, did a colloquium at Iowa State University for their graduate program, visited the offices of the World Food Prize, met with the Iowa Food Bank association along with the Food Bank of Iowa – all within a two day period.  I also managed to purchase tickets to Crosby Stills and Nash who reminded us to Teach our children well,…happened to be performing there!

A prior speaking engagement in Salt Lake City had me doing the keynote, meeting with students, touring the Bishop’s Storehouse (food bank of the Mormon Church), the Utah food bank, two food pantries, a community garden group, plus a meeting with the Utah director of Indian Affairs (we were working to get meetings set up with two Native American communities too).  All within two and a half days.

People often assume that would only be of interest to foodies and food bank people.  That’s like saying a radio can only play one station because it’s the one it’s tuned to.  In actuality, has a social responsibility component, along with environmental, faith and empowerment components and I’ve done speeches on all of them and more.

If your organization, university, food bank association, nonprofit, foundation, company, house of worship or club is looking for a speaker, and if your community has people who are hungry and people who didn’t know that they could help end that hunger, we should talk.  Check out the speaker page and then email us at mailto:[email protected].

All that pent-up energy that couldn’t be released while I was in school has finally found an outlet.

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