The State of the State Conference
The Keynote Speakers for the 18th Annual Conference include:
Matt Roloff is best known for starting in the hit TLC reality show 'Little People, Big World'. In over 225 episodes, tens of millions of people around the world have followed the lives and challenges of Matt and his family at their home in Oregon, but there is more to Matt Roloff's story than the TV Show and being a devoted husband and father of four children.
Matt operates a successful family farm, has authored two books, was a top salesman for Fortune 500 companies, and currently owns a manufacturing company specializing in mobility equipment designed for little people. He has served as national President of Little People of America and has since co-founded a non-profit organization that supports little people across the nation. Matt has also made three humanitarian trips to the Middle East to facilitate life saving medical efforts for little people in Iraq.
Aside from Matt's entrepreneurial success and celebrity, it's his personal story that has truly inspired so many. He has viewed the social stigmas and physical limitations of being a dwarf not as obstacles but as opportunities, helping him strive in a world not always welcoming. He is a big thinker and an even bigger dreamer who has crafted ways to work around those challenges and move forward to achieve his goal of living an extraordinary life.
Baldemar Velásquez is the President and Founder of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC), AFL-CIO, a union of migrant farmworkers in the eastern United States. Baldemar is a highly respected national and international leader not only in the farm labor movement, but also in the Latino and immigrant rights movements.
Baldemar was born in 1947, and grew up in a migrant farmworker family based in the Rio Grande valley of Texas. Every year, the family would migrate to the Midwest and other regions to work in the fields planting, weeding, and harvesting crops. They traveled in trucks and old cars, and often lived in barns and converted chicken coops. The family eventually settled in Ohio, and Baldemar worked in the fields seasonally through his high school years to help support the family. He continued his education and received a BA in Sociology from Bluffton College in 1969, the first member of his family to graduate from college.
Incensed by the injustices suffered by his family and other farmworkers, Baldemar founded the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC) in 1967. The basic issue was the right of farmworkers to have their own voice in the conditions that affect their lives. He began organizing migrant and seasonal farmworkers in Northwest Ohio, living on bare necessities and on occasion being arrested for leafleting in migrant labor camps.
Baldemar's vision and convictions continue to drive the efforts of FLOC in winning justice for migrant workers. He has become a recognized grass-roots leader and diplomat in the farm labor movement, immigrant rights movement, and social justice movements in the U.S. and around the world.