The World Leaders Forum Inspirational Series featuring actor, director, and producer Edward James Olmos was held Monday, August 22, at Judson University in Elgin.
More than 400 attendees came to Judson’s Herrick Chapel to hear Olmos speak. Olmos is best known for his roles as Lieutenant Martin “Marty Castillo” in “Miami Vice” (1984–1989) and has appeared in countless movie and TV roles during his 50-year career. He spoke about the value of the arts, the power of diligence in practicing your craft daily, and the importance of teachers within our community.
With humor and grace, Olmos related how early in his life, he believed that he would have a career in baseball because of his success with the game. But then Olmos shifted his focus when he discovered rock and roll in 1960 and worked diligently to become a rock musician where he was successful and worked the Sunset Strip in LA. Then he attended East LA Community College and discovered his passion for acting. Olmos said the key to his success in each pursuit was practicing his craft seven days a week.
“I disciplined myself to do the things I loved to do even when I didn’t feel like doing the things I loved to do,” Olmos said as he encouraged the audience to work hard at their passion to become great.
As he described his groundbreaking work in the film industry, Olmos recounted his early roles in “Zoot Suit,” “Blade Runner,” “Miami Vice” and “Battlestar Galactica,” where he created unique and iconic characters. Nominated for a Tony award and three Emmy awards, Olmos received an Emmy for his work in “Miami Vice,” and two Golden Globe Awards for “Miami Vice” and “The Burning Season.” Olmos said he was the first and only Mexican-American who has was nominated for an Academy Award.
“We must do better,” he said noting that the Latino population faces many discriminatory challenges despite being a dominating population in the United States. He encouraged the audience to work to see and experience the beauty of other cultures and to rise above stereotypes.
This Inspiration Series was hosted for the first time by Jacqueline Ruiz, an entrepreneur, author, and Latina pilot. She asked Olmos where he finds inspiration. He responded that he is inspired by his work as a director and producer to create new opportunities for other Latino artists and filmmakers to tell their stories through film.
Rick Najera, an award-winning screenwriter, sketch comedian, and author, also joined the conversation. Najera was the lynchpin to connecting Olmos with Ruiz and coming to speak at the Inspiration Series. Olmos is godfather to Najera’s daughters and the two friends are close enough that they are like family. In fact, just seven days ago, Olmos was with Najera when he was in the hospital having brain surgery.
The three guests talked about the importance of telling your story, honoring the people you love, and finding ways to include all people, Mexican and white people, to help build an America where eventually prejudice will fall away “because we are looking at people.”
Najera was presented with a Communion Champion award for igniting the flame of inspiration. Mark Vargas ’04, chair of the World Leaders Forum board, presented Olmos with an antique Elgin watch. Proceeds from this event will fund leadership, entrepreneurship, diversity, and RISE program scholarships for students at Judson University. A special VIP event was held 5:30 p.m. at another location on campus.
About the World Leaders Forum Inspiration Series
This event marked the return of the Inspirational Series after a five-year break. With Olmos as the featured guest, this is the fourth Inspirational Series event and the first developed and hosted in partnership with Jacqueline Ruiz. Previous speakers at the event have been Magician Jim Munroe in 2017, Olympic Champion Mary Lou Retton in 2016, and Inspirational Speaker Nick Vujicic in 2015.