ESSENCE Festival 2014: Meet the ESSENCE Empowerment Hall of Fame Speakers

In celebration of our 20th annual gathering this 4th of July weekend, we look back at some of the speakers whose presence at the ESSENCE Festival has inspired millions.

ESSENCE.COM Apr, 29, 2014

1 of 7

Before he was elected President of the United States, then-Senator Obama made the trip to the Superdome in 2007 to deliver his electrifying message of hope for America’s future. The stadium was full of promise for the possibility of America’s first Black president.

2 of 7

The nine-time Grammy Award-winner has performed on the Festival’s main stage more times than any other artist, but she switched up her act in 2006 when she delivered a keynote address on the importance of working toward spiritual wholeness.

3 of 7

The gorgeous, barrier-breaking beauty icon is a living testament to owning whatever makes you unique. On the Empowerment stage in 2009, Latifah encouraged us to love ourselves 
without reserve.

4 of 7

In 2007, when she was campaigning to be the Democratic nominee for the next year’s presidential election, Clinton made it a point to stop at the Essence Festival. The former secretary of state addressed the audience about her desire to focus on the rebuilding of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast region.

5 of 7

Edelman has spent more than 30 years fighting for policies and legislation that protect children. In 2007, the Children’s Defense Fund founder delivered a heartfelt speech about the importance of saving kids’ futures through education.

6 of 7

In July 2005, one month before Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, Johnson took to the Empowerment stage and gave a prescient speech about building wealth despite the odds.

7 of 7

Cosby’s seminar drew one of the largest crowds at the Festival’s 2010 Empowerment Experience. He spoke out about teen pregnancy, gun violence and education.