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Be Inspired to Greatness

All of us have the desire to do truly great things with our lives. BIG is about believing that you have what it takes to accomplish whatever you set your mind to achieve.

BIG 2010 Keynote Speaker

Inspiration for the film, “The Pursuit of Happyness”


Christopher Gardner is the head of his own successful brokerage firm, living the life he had always dreamed of. His path to this extraordinary success took a series of extraordinary turns. Just 20 years ago, Gardner was homeless, trying to support his son as a single parent.

Always hard-working and tenacious, a series of circumstances in the early 1980’s left Gardner homeless in San Francisco and the sole guardian of his toddler son. Unwilling to give up Chris Jr., or his dream of financial independence, Gardner started at the bottom. Without connections or a college degree, he earned a spot in the Dean Witter Reynolds training program. Often spending his nights in a church shelter or the bathroom at a Bay Area Rapid Transit station in Oakland, Gardner was the sole trainee offered a job at Dean Witter Reynolds in 1981. He spent 1983-1987 at Bear Stearns & Co., where he became a top earner, and then in 1987, he founded the brokerage firm Gardner Rich LLC. in Chicago.

Gardner’s first book, The Pursuit of Happyness, is an account of his life story and was released in June 2006. Columbia Pictures has also completed production on a feature film based on Gardner’s rags-to-riches tale. The blockbuster film starring Will Smith as Gardner was released in December 2006.

Currently, Gardner reaches out to many programs serving the homeless, donating time and assistance. He also serves are a board member of the National Fatherhood Initiative, whose mission is to improve the well-being of children by increasing the proportion of children growing up with involved, responsible, and committed fathers. Gardner was the recipient of the group’s Father of the Year Award in 2002.

Gardner’s extraordinary story illustrates the nurturing and sustaining power of positive role models. He proudly acknowledges those who guided him — a mother who kept him grounded and uncles who served in the military. Gardner’s belief in himself and his dreams, along with his refusal to give in to self-doubt, inspires audiences.