Martha LaGuardia-Kotite photo frame

Martha LaGuardia-Kotite

Keynote Speaker, Award-winning Author
Captain U.S. Coast Guard (ret.)

Speaking Events

Martha will be speaking before 1,000+ students, veterans, teachers and parents at the annual Ruckel Middle School Veteran's Day tribute.

Where? Ruckel Middle School
When? November 7, 2019

Inspire. Innovate. Engage. Influence.

Martha will help guide professionals to pursue excellence, navigate change with leadership, confidence and clarity. She will offer helpful strategies, tactics and tools on how to adapt and manage career choices.

When? October 20-22, 2019
Where? San Diego, California

I am honored to serve as co-chair of the 2020 Joint Women's Leadership Symposium (JWLS), an annual symposium and the largest gathering of women in uniform in the nation.

Where? TBA
Theme: TBA

Martha LaGuardia-Kotite

Motivational Speaker

A graduate of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy and Harvard University, Martha served 29-years in the U.S. Coast Guard at sea and ashore. She rose to the senior officer rank of captain, earning many personal and team awards. An experienced motivational speaker for corporations including GE, Jacobs Engineering, a top pharmaceutical company, colleges, schools and leadership symposiums, she also worked in New York, New York in public relations & as a spokesperson for clients like IBM. Martha lead the Coast Guard’s development of emergency crisis management liaisons and deployed on scene for significant national events like the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and numerous catastrophic hurricanes including Sandy and Maria. Hand-picked by the Commandant, she worked in Washington, D.C. as the Commandant’s Press Secretary and served at sea on a cutter sailing the Pacific Ocean and as executive officer of a patrol boat patrolling the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea. Martha resides in Florida with her family.

Motivational speaker: empowers and inspires corporate leaders, students, and teams. Keynote speaker for national and regional events and leadership symposiums- let’s fire them up!

Martha LaGuardia-Kotite US Coast Guard Retirement Keynote Speaker
Martha LaGuardia-Kotite Speaking at TEDxDAU
Martha LaGuardia-Kotite Motivational Speaker

Suggested Topics

Martha’s presentations include these topics or a customized one:

We possess the unique opportunity to improve the quality of our life and make a difference for others and our world by striving for what we can be. Martha shares insights from her career in the U.S. Coast Guard and “sea stories” from her interviews with top leaders to help drive personal, business and cultural change. Facing our fears & taking risks requires courage. This inspiring presentation is relatable to audiences of all ages and phases. In 45-minutes, participants will rise up renewed and ready to: Believe Beyond. Lead Beyond and also know their own Dream Beyond… following four steps to seize it! Discover your beyond and have fun!

Martha LaGuardia-Kotite Changint Tomorrow by Seizing Today - Keynote Speaker

Martha is an experienced leader building teams in the Coast Guard at sea and ashore and in the corporate environment while working in New York City. Her presentation will give your team the insights to be ready to work through a crisis, identify goals for long term success while giving them tips to take the next step with courage.

Martha inspires audiences with her own “sea stories” and leadership insights from her interviews with inspirational change-makers, adding well placed humor to describe leadership lessons, tips and overcoming adversity from the deck plates to working with the White House. A maverick, she is an example of how to make positive change happen and earn respect in a male dominated military where women are 15% of the force.

Author of the award-winning book, So Others May Live: Coast Guard Rescue Swimmers Saving Lives, Defying Death, she published four other books on leadership, role-model women in the military and a collection of STEM stories for younger audiences.

Martha LaGuardia-Kotite US Coast Guard Retirement Keynote Speaker

Fostering unity and equality are active conversations in diversity and inclusion offices, by faculty, among students, military and business leaders. Yet in 2019, we’re still not there! I’ve learned behaviors I witnessed 30 years ago on my ship as one of the first two women assigned, are still taking place today. Achieving equity and unity across generations requires an understanding of the roots of inequality. Actions and accountability are still needed to change inappropriate, commonplace cultural or institutional norms and policies which support discrimination. Refining our awareness of practices, policies, comments & gestures is one of the first steps to stand-up to insensitive harassment and discrimination. In this presentation, I will talk about how we use our personal norms and policies for the good and sometimes, inadvertently perhaps, for the detriment or disparagement of others who are not like us because of their sex, color, age or beliefs. Hear about issues and steps to incorporate inclusiveness while improving business practices and culture. I have faith that small actions of equity and acceptance of others, mavericks, people who don’t look like our “norm” or talk like “us” or are from “that generation” can have positive consequences for teams, businesses, our military and our own happiness and fulfillment. I will help your audience build awareness. We will take a small step for change. Imagine, cumulatively, how many miles will be walked for progress.

U.S. Coast Guard Rescue Swimmers Group PhotoU.S. Coast Guard Women Group Photo

A seemingly unremarkable, tiny animal, the coral, is declining all around the world’s oceans. Martha brings this reef creature into the light and focus as an example of why the coral’s decline directly relates to the ocean’s health and eventually the impact on communities who are sustained by them. She shares stories and illustrates how people are taking action to help the corals rebuild reefs and preserve sensitive marine ecosystems. By building awareness, this presentation will enable audiences to realize the danger of human impacts and improve the health of the ocean. We can win one for the corals who build our ocean’s forests.

Shark over Reef - Image by National Geographic Photo by National Geographic

From her own experience with the loss of a loved one due to suicide and her work producing and directing a suicide prevention training video for the military, Martha can testify as to why the aftermath matters. Building awareness of the aftermath she believes will build prevention. Trained in Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST), Martha’s mission since she experienced the aftermath of suicide as a teenager has driven her to publically speak about her loss and what she has learned in an effort to eliminate suicide as a consideration. Suicide is a permanent action for a temporary situation.

Faced with adversity, we all feel afraid. Martha provides insights to avoid paralysis that prevents productive responses. She shares insights on how to build solutions to bring to the fight in business or in life. Utilizing her own experiences working through the chaos of a national crisis, helping build solutions, she provides insights on leading teams and individuals.

Certified as Type 1, the most complex Incident Command System level for a national incident, Liaison Officer and Public Information Officer, her experience working with corporations, state and local leaders brings value to this presentation.

Hand-picked to serve as the US Coast Guard Commandant’s Press Secretary in Washington D.C., Martha worked as a Coast Guard spokesperson with the White House, Department of Homeland Security and international media through the bookends of this assignment: the Haitian earthquake in 2010 and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. From this experience and her work at sea on two ships or during major national disasters like Hurricane Sandy’s strike on the Northeast seaboard and the triple Gulf Coast hurricanes of 2017, Martha knows that being resilient and working through the aftermath of a crisis is the only option for success in any business.

Nationally certified and experienced managing major disasters and incidents of the highest level (Type 1) as a Public Information Officer and Liaison Officer, Martha responded to the aftermath and destruction of national disasters including hurricanes Irma/Maria, Sandy, Katrina and the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Exxon Valdez Oil Spill in Alaska.

She brings her experience working and leading with teams at the national, state and local level to audiences to help your team optimize their performance.

Keynote Motivational Speaker Martha LaGuardia-Kotite Resilient Crisis Management

“The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.” – Apple’s Think Different commercial, 1997

Who are the most successful innovators of our time? Many would put Steve Jobs near the top of the list. When he was 21, he co-founded Apple Computer with his high school classmate in his parent’s garage. The effects of his legacy continue today. He’s an example of the amazing things women and men can do when they use their imagination and creativity while mixing art with technology. For this presentation, I tell the stories of women and men featured in my book, Innovators Rock Stars of STEMM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Medicine and Math) to illustrate how they found rewarding careers, in one case, without a college degree. Each were driven to find a better way. Each scientist took a spark – an idea- and shaped it into reality. And sometimes, even changed the way we live and think.

  • Why we should talk: I deliver life-changing stories. I create relatable presentations enriched by hard-earned wisdom and my belief that no matter your age or experience, we can be bold; we can achieve our daring dreams or mission, having fun along the way.
  • What I can do for you: I like making a difference, helping people overcome their fears, take risks to achieve their bigger dreams by giving them tools to discover their own beyond. This is a great way to spend the day.
  • Ready to go: Achieving a senior officer rank in the U.S. Coast Guard taught me a thing or two about getting along with people from all sorts of places and points of view, managing their different leadership styles and, being always ready to go, even if it meant deploying for a national disaster or shipboard patrol – that said, I can travel to work with your team or be your speaker.


To say that I was inspired and motivated from last week's Joint Women’s Leadership Symposium is such an understatement. Like we briefly discussed, it was amazing hearing stories from go-getters and achievers, like yourself, who have experienced setbacks but bounced back and conquered more than their expectations prior to said setback. Attending JWLS gave me a further burning desire to center myself around people that are smarter and that might not exactly look, walk, talk, or act like me. Folks that that will encourage me to reach for the stars and change my visions of where I want to be into realities. I've also set an intention upon coming back to Columbus to return the favor and build up those around me, because you don't build a strong team by tearing others down.

Keep on being you as you inspire the younger generations (like myself) to carry on your legacy. I noticed how you interacted with folks as you were waiting on your flight and let me say this: "Character is treating those that can do nothing for you with the utmost dignity and respect." I try to live my live based on this virtue, but I fall short a lot. Seeing someone like yourself emulating this is just amazing. Thank you!

Nicoletter Hallmark

Thank you for your powerful and moving presentation at TEDxDAU. Your personal story was the perfect vehicle for your message. Empowerment is indeed a decisive edge. I know you put a hug amount of work into preparing for that day. I hope it was as rewarding for you as it was inspirational for the audience.

Jim Woolsey
President at Defense Acquisition University Alexandria, VA

I met Captain LaGuardia Kotite in my role as TEDxDAU producer and master coach. Over the course of 10 training weeks, as one of the 12 inaugural TEDxDAU speakers, Martha, a published author of 5 books and inspiring speaker, brought forth impressive passion, humility, commitment, and leadership. Her authentic and moving TED talk, though her story and those of 3 other remarkable women leaders in the military, inspired over 250 members of a live audience, plus hundreds more online to foster diversity and to rise in support others to reach their own potential!
Thank you, Martha!

Marina Theodotou, EdD, LSSBB
Culture Change Doer. TEDxDAU Producer

In the crowded field of motivational speakers, Martha LaGuardia-Kotite stands above the rest because of her genuine passion and courage. Pulling from her own experiences, facing one’s fears by taking the steps to move forward and breakthrough any barrier, Martha has realized new heights. In doing so, she is a positive role model for entrepreneurs, innovators, and women looking to achieve their bigger dream. In my role as TEDx program manager I was looking for an exceptional speaker to add to our lineup on “Decisive Edge” focusing in on empowerment. Featured on national news networks, an award-winning author, Martha was my number one choice to be part of the inaugural TEDxDAU at the Defense Acquisition University. Martha shined as an inspiration to both men and women, with her engaging TEDxDAU Talk, receiving overwhelmingly positive comments and feedback. If you are looking for a high impact keynote speaker who will bring your attendees to an emotional crescendo, it is without hesitation I recommend Martha as your best choice!

Patrice (PJ) Jackson
TEDx Program Manager, Influencer, Difference Maker, Author

Martha LaGuardia Kotite is an exceptional author and speaker who brings her passion and mastery of storytelling to each project she undertakes. She has the uncommon ability to tackle grand themes with unforgettable human details that take readers and audiences into the moment while opening their minds to the big picture. I enthusiastically recommend Martha's books and encourage anyone looking for a dynamic speaker to get her onto their stage.

Jeff Carter
Director of Corporate Communications, Defense Finance and Accounting Service

…In addition, Martha has dynamic oratory skills, that clearly captivates an audience in the same manner as she does in her writings. A true patriot - outstanding person, and someone who has served her country with pride and professionalism in the U.S. Coast Guard Reserve. I would recommend her for any position of responsibility, as well as any opportunity for her to speak in forums, conferences and workshops on any topic.

Vince Patton
Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard, ret., Senior VP for Leadership Development NewDay USA

If you have not had the honor of hearing her speak, you have missed the proverbial "Coast Guard Boat". She will have you on your feet celebrating her story and the stories of those she has served with. She is a "hero" in every sense of the word! She doesn't act like a hero or trumpet her accomplishments. She doesn't have to. Martha is captivating and her humility and her courage. She is an inspiration to every person at every level in life! If your corporation or organization is in the market for the most dynamic speaker of our time, Martha LaGuardia Kotite is your Keynote!

Lauren Veach
Manager, Tiara Project

Personally and since 2014, I have witnessed Captain LaGuardia-Kotite’s talent as a motivational, inspirational speaker, comfortable and captivating on both the large stage such as Joint Women’s Leadership Symposium with over 800 veterans or on the corporate and training environments or breakout rooms. A collaborative leader, Martha is highly respected and she was asked to Chair the symposium, leading us through a vacancy and transition of planning team to great success. Captain LaGuardia-Kotite served as the Symposium Committee Chair in Norfolk, VA. The positive reception from that Symposium resulted in many of the same attendees returning the next year. The Assistant Commissioner of the Canadian Coast Guard was so impressed by last year’s Symposium, she requested our assistance in holding a similar event in Canada.

John Dittmer
VI Sea Service Leadership Association, VP

As a freelance journalist and author, Martha's writing continuously covers topics with an emotional connection and a detailed eye. Her works are insightful and indicative of her love for the military, her country, and her fellow citizens and their stories.

This same passion portrayed through her writing can be equally witnessed through her dynamic speaking skills. She is enthusiastic and expressive about her works and dedicated to enlightening others on the subjects that she presents.

Through her writing or speaking, know that with Martha you will get indepth coverage on the subject matter illuminated in a manner which is detailed, emotional, and heart-felt. It is unquestionable to me that this is her true passion.

Kim Guedry
Ceveal Solutions CEO

Long before Martha wrote her books, she was an inspiration to me and others at TSI, a large New York PR agency where we both worked. Her shining spirit, strong ethics, and open, warm nature made it clear to us that she was going places. It’s wonderful to see all she's done with her talents.

Gary Baker
Global Communications Director at The Hackett Group

I had the privilege of meeting Martha several years ago at the U.S. Coast Guard base in Portland, Oregon where she came to give a talk on her book, "So Others May Live" on Coast Guard Rescue Swimmers. As the wife of a Coast Guard Rescue Swimmer, I was thrilled that someone had at last written a book that paid tribute to these courageous Guardians who risk their lives to save others. ….

Not only is Martha a fine writer, researcher, and public speaker, but she also proudly served as the U.S. Coast Guard Commandant's Press Secretary. I am honored to be acquainted with Martha and I have the highest regard for her.

Amy Goodpaster Strebe
Author, Editor and Historian

Thank you so much for a wonderful memorial service last night at my church!
I wanted so badly to say thank you and to introduce my daughter to you- she is 15 1/2. You are a true inspiration for young women to strive to be like you! You are a true patriot. Thank you for all you do! Including and not limited to raising children. Your family and children are very blessed to have you in their lives!

New Life Church CT (9/11 Keynote Event)

You made us laugh, you made us cry, you gave me a renewed sense of hope.

T.J. Joncy

Incredible! You hooked me from the start and I was a little sad when it was over! I wanted to hear more!!

Sara Carrillo

Sometimes with daily activities and schedules, you forget your value and worth and abilities. Listening to Martha is a reminder to remember your power, your potential and your purpose.

Tiffany Morrell

Your rendition, coupled with the images on the screen behind you really transported me. Even though the pictures were obviously not taken at the time of the rescue, it was easy to mentally consolidate the two to make me feel like I was a witness.

Kevin Muckerheide
Emerald Coast Theatre Company Story Teller Series Event

Appreciated the passion of and factual presentation - difficult to add passion to fact - you nailed it!

Jan Wallace
Emerald Coast Theatre Company Story Teller Series Event

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Martha's Books

Featured Articles

Triumph Gulf Coast Board Is On A Diversification Mission

Triumph Gulf Coast Board Is On A Diversification Mission

  By Martha J. LaGuardia-Kotite   “This is the single largest pool of money in Florida’s history designed to diversify...
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Martha LaGuardia-Kotite on The Kristof Lewis Podcast!

Martha LaGuardia-Kotite on The Kristof Lewis Podcast!

  You can also listen to the podcast here:
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The Ocean’s Forests – How We Can Win One for the Corals and Why We Need to Care

The Ocean’s Forests – How We Can Win One for the Corals and Why We Need to Care

BY MARTHA J. LAGUARDIA-KOTITE After graduating from college, Todd Barber and his father nearly died crossing the Atlantic, from Miami...
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Cover Story: Community Groups Take On Human Trafficking Along the Emerald Coast

Cover Story: Community Groups Take On Human Trafficking Along the Emerald Coast

By Martha J. LaGuardia-Kotite The 12-year old girl came from a troubled home where she suffered abuse at the hands of...
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Boston Globe Cover Story – Chatham Lighthouse hitting the big screen

Boston Globe Cover Story – Chatham Lighthouse hitting the big screen

By Martha LaGuardia-Kotite | GLOBE CORRESPONDENT -- OCTOBER 16, 2012 CHATHAM — A few steps from Chatham Lighthouse, on the...
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