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Beckman brings emotions high with motivational speech

December 3, 2019
CJ Eilers - Editor ( , Traer Star-Clipper

Joe Beckman could have been a star athlete in high school if his career had not been derailed before it even started. Instead, he took up the arts and eventually brought his speaking talents into the motivational speaking world with the mission of reclaiming human connection in a "SnapChat generation."

"I feel my talent is to recognize greatness in others and remind them it's inside of them," Beckman said. "That's how it all came together: an injury devastated my high school career, I went into a play and realized theatre was my gift. I joined an organization that allowed me to work with schools."

The Happy Caveman, as he is called, struck out on his own five years ago and began touring the nation with a message of positivity and human connection. When the opportunity arose for him to speak at a school in Iowa, North Tama got added to his list at the last minute. Students had little idea this was coming, including Emily Reese. She avoided the front row as to not draw attention. A simple high five from Beckman during the presentation changed her feelings towards the speaker.

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Joe Beckman provided a lively, engaging assembly for North Tama Jr/Sr high students.

"At first, I thought the assembly was going to be boring and I had a bad day on that day," Reese said. "I knew I have heard him speak two years ago, and he was funny. But I only remembered he said to look up."

Beckman intended had students look up and remain engaged with his talk using verbal cues, getting students up for some dancing, clapping, interruptions to keep their attention and kept their noses out of their phones.

"They are a few good choices away from being amazing and many have what it takes," Beckman said. "It's important for students to get off their phones and to look up and be with each other. Those are important messages."

While Beckman states he understands "plenty of good" can come out of social media, the lack of engagement between teenagers also creates problems. According to his presentation, 160,000 students are bullied daily because of lack of empathy and bad engagement. His presentation revealed startling faces such as the average age of depression being 14.5 years old and 5,400 teens attempt suicide a day. He related stories of people he had met and the mental struggles he faced, including his own daughter's depression that kept her in the house on some days.

"What really made me pay attention was his stories," Reese said. "I could relate to 'the blue haired girl' who reached out to him one day and his daughter. I felt like he was talking, not only to me, but about me, the more he talked, the more I felt welcome."

When the assembly was closing to an end, Beckman invited students to come up and talk to him. Reese found herself going up "without thinking about it" and embraced the speaker. She began to cry.

"He looked me in the eye and said with a pat on my shoulder, 'You are important, You matter, and You are special,'" Reese said. "He had an amazing smile and gave me a sticker and a hand shake. He was so nice to me and everyone else who I found going to him, he encouraged me to stand tall and be who I am, not who I have been pretending to be."

Other students shared came up to Beckman afterwards with personal stories. He spent what time he could talking and comforting them, yet realized he did not always have the right solutions. Yet listening may be just what a student may need.

"If I hear anything that brings up red flags, I make sure that person gets with an adult to have a follow-up conversation," Beckman said. "This was a strong crowd with great senior leadership. When they are bought into the message, everyone else is."

Students such as Reese and the many others who approached Beckman afterwards all learned at least one thing from the event: no one is alone.

"I enjoy the fact this work resonates with people," Beckman said. "These students coming up isn't a random thing. Kids and adults are hungry for messages like this."

To connect with Joe Beckman, follow him on Instagram and Twitter (joe_beckman). The Happy Caveman is based out of Minneapolis, MN.



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