Linda Clyde | Apr 11, 2018

Inspiring Celebrities Come to RootsTech 2018

Watch Keynote Addresses from 2018 Conference

Every year at RootsTech, attendees look forward to the daily celebrity keynoters, and the 2018 conference didn’t disappoint! Attendees heard from Steve Rockwood , CEO of FamilySearch International; Brandon Stanton, creator of Humans of New York; and Scott Hamilton, former Olympic figure skater. And on the final day, the host of the PBS series Finding Your Roots, Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr., split the general session with popular Mexican singer Natalia LaFourcade.

Steve Rockwood: Emotions, Connection, and Belonging

In the opening general session, Steve Rockwood centered his keynote address on the RootsTech 2018 conference theme of connection and belonging and emphasized the fact that “when we connect and belong to each other, we treat each other differently.” He went on to explain that “the emotions of joy, love, and purpose inherent with family history are universal. While the sciences and technology are great enablers, it is the powerful human emotions that make this all so engaging.” He added, “There’s never been a better time to be involved with family history.” Rockwood also reported that “people are engaging by the millions because they want to feel what it’s like to connect and belong.”

Brandon Stanton: Overcoming Fear, Following Your Dreams, and Listening to Others

When Brandon Stanton lost his job as a bond trader in Chicago seven years ago, he made a decision to begin spending time doing something that nourished him—photography. He moved to New York and started taking pictures of random people all over the city with the intent of creating a photographic census. His plans evolved as he began including the personal stories of individuals in his photos. Today, he has taken over 10,000 pictures of people all over the world, and millions of people follow his blog.

Stanton emphasized that participating in activities that nourish your soul shouldn’t be put off until tomorrow. He also stressed that in a world of selfies, selflessness is increasingly important and that listening to one another is something we should all do more of.

Scott Hamilton: Illness, Olympics, Cancer, Family, and Eternal Optimism

Scott Hamilton knows about trials. As a child he suffered for four years from an illness that doctors struggled to diagnose. But when he began skating, his health slowly started to improve. Then, while on the cusp of adulthood, he lost his mother to cancer. Years later, he repeatedly battled the dreaded disease himself. Hamilton’s experiences as an Olympic figure skating champion have informed only part of the valuable life lessons he’s learned and since shared with others. He’s discovered how to remain optimistic in the face of trials and spends much of his time teaching others how to do the same. Hamilton brought his eternal optimism to the RootsTech stage and reminded everyone who listened to his message of the importance of love, family, identity, and optimism.

Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr.: Family History Discovery Experiences

The well-respected Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr. brought with him the magic of the family history discovery experience by sharing clips from his hit television series Finding Your Roots. In his work, Gates pairs the science of DNA genetic genealogy with traditional family history research practices to offer individuals powerful insights into their family trees.

Gates also shared details about his own family tree and how a single word from his great-grandmother’s obituary reached out from the past to influence his childhood.

Natalia LaFourcade: Sharing Culture with the World through Song

Popular Mexican singer Natalia LaFourcade brought a warmth to the stage and smiles to attendees as she spoke about her career and sang a collection of her popular songs, including a special version of “Remember Me,” from Disney-Pixar’s movie Coco.

LaFourcade is proud of the opportunity she has had to take what has inspired her about her own country and culture and share it with the world. She was touched when she was presented with previously unknown details about her own family history, which included the French origin of her last name.

Every general session of RootsTech 2018 was meaningful and illustrated what family history is all about—making connections and feeling a sense of belonging. Plan to attend RootsTech 2019 (February 27–March 2) to enjoy another lineup of inspiring celebrity keynoters. Registration opens in September 2018.

Linda Clyde

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