Our Story

The Positive Speech Project is born…

I believe nothing in my life happens by coincidence.

In November 2016, three unrelated events happened to me that are going to change the course of history.

One. I picked up a book my 12th grade daughter had brought home from school, called Positive Word Power for Teens. It contained dozens of real-life scenarios, life lessons and “what if” questions to improve communication between teenagers.

Two. After the US Presidential elections, I spoke to two students at the University of Illinois – Urbana/Champaign. One student, Sam, told me that he was so shocked by the result he couldn’t go to class for 2 weeks and needed therapy. Another, Max, told me that he couldn’t share his conservative viewpoint to any of his friends on campus. These two students didn’t only have a difference of opinion.

They lived in different worlds. I realized how impossible it would be for these two students to communicate with each other. Even though they probably saw each other a few times a week, they might as well as have lived in different countries/ on different planet.

Three. In Sao Paulo, Brazil, I attended the first international summit of Olami, a global community of organizations for Jewish young adults. At the summit’s conclusion, the organizers announced a competition with a cash incentive for new student-led programs to inspire a new generation to achieve greatness.

I approached Max, a psychiatry major  , and asked if he’d be interested in devising a program run by students at the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana to improve communication.

“Yes!” he exclaimed and the Positive Speech Project was born.

PSP #1 to PSP #13

Max polled students and found a number eager to get involved. Using material from Positive Word Power for Teens, Max and his friend Yana developed a 6 module course to be held in a classroom on campus once a week for an hour. They recruited a group of their friends, offering them $100 to complete the course. Max and Yana earned $250 for their work as student leaders.

The best part of the program was that it was student run. Max and Yana understood their audience. The students felt comfortable to engage in discussion with each other. One module “Passive Aggressive Texting” was a big hit exploring the subtle implications of text communication. Graduates of the program then became leaders themselves and ran their own programs.

Six months later at the second Olami Summit in Spain and England, Yana presented the Positive Speech Project idea to judges who awarded prizes to various Olami regions. Positive Speech Project won the award for North America. More importantly, it meant additional funding to expand the program.

Positive Speech Programs were test run in other locations – Toronto, Madison, St. Louis. Following positive feedback on the results of the program, Olami offered additional funding. At that point, I hired, Adina Mayer, a U of I alum with a degree in education to run PSP. Positive Speech is something Adina is very passionate about.

She completely redesigned the curriculum and added a much more comprehensive leader training component. As a result, the 3 PSP programs (PSP #11, #12 and #13) run at U of I in the second semester of 2019 achieved better results in terms of student engagement and impact.

The Positive Speech Project is now ready for national and international roll-out. With comprehensive and relevant material, excellent training, minimal expense and an unlimited audience of young adults thirsting for positivity, PSP is ready to change the world for the good. Turn your speech around and turn the world into a better place. To find out how you can be a part of the PSP Revolution, click here.

— Zev Kahn, Founder of the Positive Speech Project