Named one of America's top ten speakers, Coffee is considered by many of his audiences to be their most memorable presenter. His stories stir emotions as he makes them relevant to the audience. His is not a story of Vietnam, but one of human survival, which reaffirms the invincibility of the human spirit.
Sharing insights derived from his seven years as a POW in North Vietnam and his unique experiences since his release, he plants the seed of hope that we can go beyond mere survival and emerge from our adversities tougher and more capable of mastering change, achieving success, and finding greater meaning in life.
In early 1966, while flying combat missions over North Vietnam, Captain Gerald Coffee's aircraft was downed by enemy fire. He parachuted safely but was captured immediately. For the next seven years Coffee served as a Prisoner of War in the Communist prisons of North Vietnam. After his return in early 1973, Coffee earned a Masters Degree in Political Science, graduated from the National War College, and commanded his own aircraft squadron. His last Naval assignment was in Public Affairs on the staff of the Commander in Chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet in Hawaii. Gerald Coffee retired from active duty in August of 1985.
Captain Gerald Coffee has shared his message with hundreds of thousands of people over the past few years, speaking to the leading professional, business, and service organizations in America and around the world.
Gerald Coffee travels from United States
Topic SynopsesBeyond Survival
Captain Coffee gives a moving account of his incredible experience from capture to ultimate release. His faith - in himself, others, his country, and his God - was the key to turning an unbelievably difficult, potentially devastating experience into an opportunity for personal growth. Captain Gerald Coffee is an inspiring example of the power of the human spirit to survive and triumph over the most adverse circumstances. His story conveys a positive message that we each have the potential to survive any ordeal, overcome any obstacle, achieve any goal. After hearing him, those in the audience will look at their challenges and adversities in a totally different way.
Captain Coffee uses 'tap code' to personalise his message. Prisoners were forbidden from communicating with each other, so they employed the centuries old prisoners tap code based on this alphabet matrix to tap out covert messages to each other on the walls of their cells. Captain Coffee demonstrates tap code to illustrate the importance of communication, both in prison as well as in corporate and personal lives.
His message focusses on...
Communication: 'Prisoners weren't allowed to communicate, but we still found ways to do it. We created a new language. Tap Code. It consisted of five rows of five letters each. By tapping on our cell walls, we passed information, poetry, even learned new languages.'
Leadership: 'We kept faith in the leadership of our senior officers, who taught us that commitment, courage and character really count. In solitary, I learned that leadership starts with self knowledge and understanding, accountability, and integrity.'
Mastering change: 'I suddenly found myself thrust into a totally foreign, hostile environment with no source of strength except that which I found within me. Ultimately, that was enough.'
Teamwork: 'Our motto in prison was simple: Unity Over Self. Our very survival depended on it. It was based upon faith in and loyalty to one another. Unity over self... not a bad corporate motto.'
Humour: 'My first shower was in a dank, converted cell with water dripping down from a rusty pipe. Totally dejected, I looked up to let the water splash on my face and saw the words scratched on the wall by another POW before me: 'Smile, you're on Candid Camera.''
Overcoming Adversity: 'I walked several miles a day in my tiny cell - three steps and a turn. I vowed to find the purpose in my adversity and pain and come home better, tougher, and stronger in every way. Our mission in prison was to not just survive, but go beyond survival and return with honor.'
Captain Coffee has addressed virtually every kind of audience representing every age group and walk of life. Whether a national or multi-national corporation, a trade or professional association, a government agency or military installation, a local club or student assembly, his message has universal appeal.
The length of his keynote is flexible to meet the needs of the program, with one hour the optimum length. Extended sessions allow time for questions and answers.
Specific benefits include...
- Individual and organizational self-esteem and awareness;
- Courageous yet flexible leadership under stress;
- Organization loyalty through pride and professionalism;
- Reaffirmation of our intuitive sense of ethics and values; and
- Reordering of priorities from a fresh perspective.
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