Highlighted Speakers

Mercedes Ramirez Johnson 

Willard R. Daggett, Ed.D. 

MercedesIn 1995, Mercedes Ramirez Johnson narrowly survived a commercial airplane crash that killed 160 people, including her parents. As one of only four survivors of this tragedy, she vowed that she would make her second chance at life count…and that she has – not only for herself, but also for the tens of thousands of people who have heard her story and her message.

Transformational, passionate, inspiring and genuine. That is how clients and audiences describe Mercedes and her programs. Many speakers who have overcome great adversity are deeply inspiring, but rarely offer their audiences more than momentary motivation. Content-driven presenters provide practical advice, but are often short on inspiration. Mercedes offers both. Weaving workable solutions throughout an emotionally compelling story, she touches people’s hearts and minds. Her proprietary Second Chance Living™ concept, an innovative mindset and approach with a proven track record, offers participants a blueprint for change along with specific tools they can use immediately in their professional and personal endeavors. In addition, her message that experience is no guarantee is having a tangible and powerful impact on safety initiatives and programs across the country.

Before becoming a speaker, Mercedes spent nearly a decade in high-level sales in the pharmaceutical and medical software industries. A record-breaking, multimillion-dollar producer, she became the youngest female and sole Latino account executive at Cerner Corporation. As a result, she understands the challenges and opportunities today’s professionals face and has both the capability and the credibility to cross professional, generational, gender and ethnic gaps to connect with people from all backgrounds and levels.

Mercedes, her husband and their children reside in the Dallas, Texas and are dedicated to philanthropic support for the National MPS Society — an organization that provides research grants and support to families living with terminally ill children.


Bill's drive to lead educational reform started in the classroom over 50 years ago. His experience as a teacher, a local administrator, and a director with the New York State Education Department revealed how necessary it was that we start preparing our children for the future, instead of maintaining the stagnant systems of education of the past. He has committed himself for the past several decades to revitalizing PreK–12 systems across the world by challenging our assumptions about the purposes, benefits, and effectiveness of current practices. In establishing the International Center for Leadership in Education, he has been able to leverage the experience and skills of a passionate community of educational leaders to help him in this effort. Together, using research-driven methodologies, they have inspired and enabled thousands of schools and districts to improve culture, teaching practices, and student achievement.

His work and ICLE’s work will not be done until our public school systems can effectively improve outcomes for all students. This is especially close to his heart. His daughter, Audrey, struggles with a neurological disorder. Learning disabilities like Audrey’s, if not addressed in our schools, affect the opportunities of millions of students. Bills owes so much to Wildwood Programs in upstate New York, where Audrey receives the attention she needs to be the best she can be.

When not crisscrossing the globe, you can find Bill volunteering at Wildwood with his wife, Bonnie.