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Motivational speaker to show swagger with UT campaign


John Henry Livingston displays his ‘Swagger Got It’ shirt as he talks about the Leadership with Swagger initiative during a news conference at the University of Toledo on Wednesday.

The Blade/Dave Zapotosky
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Swagger matters.

Pop singer Justin Bieber reportedly had a swagger coach who schooled him in the ways of cool. A Toyota commercial that dubbed its minivan the “swagger wagon” in a humorous rap went viral.

But who has swagger, and what exactly is it?

A recent student-developed University of Toledo marketing campaign attempts to define swagger as more than fresh style and a sauntering strut. The university teamed with a local motivational speaker to inspire area high school students to consider “swag” as “study, work, achieve, graduate.” Bottom line: Swagger is more confidence than clothing.

“It’s about your self-esteem, your self-awareness, and what makes you happy,” said Lawrence Burns, the university’s vice president of external affairs.

Mr. Burns taught a fall public relations class in which communications majors came up with marketing campaigns based on the swagger concept. The students’ marketing ideas correspond with multifaceted efforts by local motivational speaker John Henry Livingston, founder of the personal branding institute Whirlwind U. Officials discussed the Leadership with Swagger initiative at a Wednesday news conference.

Mr. Livingston runs leadership courses at 10 to 15 area middle and high schools using a program called Lifeplan. Students learn to identify risk factors, values, strengths, role models, and goals. Administrators from local schools, including Central Catholic, Scott, and Rogers high schools, identify students with leadership potential to participate in the multiweek program that culminates in an April 30 conference at the university. A couple hundred middle and high school students are expected to participate in the event, which will include area business leaders, this spring.

The leadership program is underwritten by sponsors and is offered at no cost to high schoolers. The University of Toledo provided $10,000 to help with the leadership outreach to local schools and organize the leadership conference, now in its fourth year.

Mr. Livingston encourages students to further their education and to consider the University of Toledo as a “strong option” for higher education. High school students who attend the conference also get exposed to the university campus, officials said.

Mr. Burns said the university’s involvement, however, is not just about enrolling future Rockets.

“I would love for them to come to UT, but most of all I would like them all to think about higher education and their future,” he said.

The university will use elements of the “swag” campaign developed by college students in a direct-from-high-school marketing campaign and at the upcoming conference, he said.

Contact Vanessa McCray at: or 419-724-6065.

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