Motivational Speaker / Software Engineer, Ottawa, ON. Born: Ottawa, ON.
Rachel Décoste is a motivational speaker and software engineer who grew up in Orléans (Ottawa suburb). She is fluently trilingual (French, English and Spanish). She holds a Bachelor in Computer Science from the University of Guelph, where Canada’s first-ever Black MP, Lincoln Alexander handed her her degree in a gesture that would later prove portentous.
Rachel gained a level of notoriety when she became the first person of colour to run for a federal Liberal nomination in Ottawa-Orléans, coming within 10 votes of victory. She has since become a notable community activist, benefiting multiple organizations including the Black Canadian Scholarship Fund, Big Brothers Big Sisters Ottawa and the Famous 5 Foundation, to name a few. She then garnered national attention for being a member of (then) Senator Barack Obama’s election team, where she worked remotely during the primaries and on the ground in Michigan and Pennsylvania. Following Obama’s election, Rachel led an “Obama Welcoming Brigade” to coordinate the public’s welcome of President Obama in his first foreign visit in Ottawa Feb 2008.
She was thrown into the national spotlight again in January 2010, following the devastating earthquake in Haiti. She joined forces with an acquaintance to organize the first fundraiser for Haiti Relief only 48 hours after the quake, raising almost $10,000. Rachel has since, and continues, to be a voice for Haitian-Canadians seeking to reunite with their family members in this ongoing crisis.
Rachel, a published poet, has been a community activist since her youth, engaging in letter-writing campaigns to push for change in issues close to her heart: working with the Children’s Aid Society to mentor foster children, volunteering to assist in the care of seniors at a local residence, and participating in the community effort to save the Montfort Hospital, among many other activities.
Honours: Named in Ottawa Life Magazine as one of the “Top 50 People” in the Nation’s capital; received Volunteer Appreciation Award for her efforts with the Black Canadian Scholarship Fund; was chosen among seven Canadian leaders of Haitian decent to meet with the Prime Minister in his office to discuss Canada’s ongoing role in the crisis in Haiti (Jan. 2010); profiled in a 2008 Sway Magazine article entitled, “Who is Canada’s Next Obama?”. (Quote from article: “She may not be a household name, but Rachel Décoste is a political force.”)
Community: Was involved with the Famous 5 Foundation’s inaugural year in Ottawa; traveled abroad to provide aid to people in need in Peru and Bolivia; helped with a drive to send literature to a library in Haiti; assisted in founding a new school in rural Haiti under the patronage of former Deputy Prime Minister the Honourable Sheila Copps; current Board member, Montfort Hospital Board.
Not a book, but a poem. I’m going to say Maya Angelou’s poem, “And Still I Rise”
by Maya Angelou.
Favourite quote? “A vaincre sans péril, on triomphe sans gloire.” – Pierre Corneille (in 1637)
Given the chance, what would you love to do that you haven’t done yet? I don’t really tend to live my life looking back, nor fretting over regrets. If there is something I’ve dreamt of doing, I just do it at the first opportunity!
Who inspires you? My parents, who came to Canada with nothing but a suitcase full of dreams and the strength and perseverance to rebuild their lives from scratch. Literally the “American Dream” – except in a better country. LOL! And former Governor General Michaëlle Jean.