Bob McKinnon, Author of the NY Times Bestselling children’s book, THREE LITTLE ENGINES, (a modern retelling of the beloved "The Little Engine That Could"), is the Director of the Moving Up Media Lab, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to inspire Americans to reflect on who and what has contributed to where they end up in life.

He is the author of the Moving Up Mondays blog and the book Actions Speak Loudest: Keeping Our Promise for a Better World. His work has been featured in The New York Times, The Boston Globe, PBS, NPR, Fast Company, Esquire and the Huffington Post. He is also an adjunct professor at both the Parsons School of Design and the Colin Powell School of Civic and Global Leadership, where he teaches courses on social mobility and the American Dream.

In the spirit of Moving Up, here is Bob’s alternative bio: “Bob McKinnon is the son of Daytona Roth, a former bartender who raised three children largely by herself in various row houses in Chelsea, Massachusetts and trailers in rural Pennsylvania. He is a proud former recipient of food stamps, welfare, Medicaid, Pell grants, student loans and numerous other government benefits. His educational and professional success would not be possible without the kindness and efforts of countless teachers, mentors, social workers, non-profit professionals, friends, family and individuals – many of whom will never know their impact on his life.

Speech topics

"I think we can."

While the Little Engine that Could asked children to believe in themselves, (“I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.”), McKinnon’s new bestselling book, Three Little Engines, asks us to believe in AND help each other (“I think we can, I think we can.)


In this talk, McKinnon shares lessons, grounded in social science, that we can all take from this simple tale. From the power that comes when we reflect on our own journeys to how appreciating the different challenges other's face can inspire us to work together to get them “over the mountain” as well. 


Watch this segment from CBS Sunday Morning to learn more.

How did you end up here?

Can asking one simple question change the way we forever see our world? 

McKinnon takes you on his moving personal journey out of poverty to discover the surprising factors that influence who we become and the psychology behind how we see our own life. During this talk, you’ll be given the opportunity to find Your American Dream Score and reflect on the members of your own Dream Team who made your journey in life possible. 

The Secrets Of Our Success

The American Dream tells us that anyone who comes here can succeed if they just work hard enough. Yet while hard work can make the dream possible, it doesn’t always mean it’s probable. Learn what a growing body of evidence is revealing about why some people “make it” while others don’t. McKinnon’s surprising findings and stories will leave you rethinking what it takes to make our dreams come true.

Keeping Our Promise for a Better World

Every generation makes a commitment to see its children lead better lives than they have and to leave the world a better place than they had inherited. Yet today’s issues are combining to create the first generation of children expected to lead shorter, unhealthier and unhappier lives than their parents. So how do we get people to engage in creating a better world? In this talk, Bob will share inspiring stories and lessons learned from his experience collaborating with well known change makers like Nelson Mandela and Jimmy Carter as well as everyday heroes who “put their hands in the muck and mire to create something beautiful – a better outcome.”


Dig deep into your staff or team’s make-up with The American Dream Score. This research-driven assessment was designed by The Moving Up Media Lab and funded by the Ford Foundation and has already been used by more than 565,000 individuals. The brief tool examines the many people, experiences, systems, and institutions that have helped—or hindered—our path to where we are today. In this workshop, we will use these reflections to jump-start honest discussions about the role of inequality and opportunity in our lives and our work. 

Half-day & long-term programs available to help your team(s) understand and work with:

• Personal histories and the key experiences, influences and moments that have brought us where we are today

• The many facilitators and obstacles that factor into how we relate to our environment and how we work toward our goals

• Tools for recognizing the effects of past experiences on both one’s own and others reactions to present circumstance

• Methods for interacting skillfully and productively across diverse backgrounds

• Strategies for capitalizing on personal and group understanding to improve productivity and outcomes

Customizable program design around the assessment allows for targeted outcomes aligned to your organizational challenges, values or goals. Some possibilities include:

• Increased understanding of diversity within the team

• Better teamwork around obstacles and challenges

• Deeper appreciation for value and experiences of team and stakeholders

• Enhanced individual capacity to identify areas for growth and improvement

• Insight into recruitment/restructuring for a more diverse staff reflecting or different experiences, skill-sets, and attitudes.


Three Little Engines

A gorgeously illustrated, modern retelling of the classic The Little Engine That Could, sharing the timely message that everyone's journey is different, and that sometimes, success comes from a helping hand

Actions Speak Loudest: Keeping Our Promise for a Better World 

A collection of photos, one-thousand word essays, and calls to action on the compelling issues of our day, to leave the world a better place for the next generation.


Why do some people make it, while others don’t? How do the facts of our lives differ from our perception of it? And how does our psychology shape how we view ourselves and others?

Attribution, a podcast from Bob McKinnon & The Moving Up Media Lab, asks people from all walks of life to reflect on who and what has contributed to where they ended up. Each episode encourages viewers to feel a little more inspired, grateful, or supported than when you first hit play.


Moving Up Mondays

Monday morning reflections about life. Readers tell me it’s a great way to start their week, leaving them a little more inspired, grateful and supported. Which makes me feel - well - a little more inspired, grateful and supported. SUBSCRIBE HERE.

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