Paul Rieckhoff is one of the most dynamic media and political leaders and social entrepreneurs in America. A national thought leader and recognized and respected media and political fixture for over 20 years, Rieckhoff is most well known as the Founder and CEO of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA)–the groundbreaking first and largest organization of Post-9/11 veterans in America (where he continues serve as Vice Chairman of the Board) that transformed the national landscape for veterans, led the historic passage of The New GI Bill, the VOW to Hire Heroes Act, the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention Act, the repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell”, and held decades of Presidents and members of Congress accountable. After 15 impactful years of leading IAVA, in 2019, Rieckhoff shifted fully into media and launched his newest big idea and became Founder and President of Righteous Media–a disruptive and independent new media company. He is the host of the Righteous Media’s flagship show, Independent Americans with Paul Rieckhoff–which now has over 250 episodes, 2M downloads and featured diverse guests ranging from Stephen Colbert to Admiral Mike Mullen to Pete Buttigeig to Sarah Jessica Parker to Susan Rice to Meghan McCain. Rieckhoff is Producer for all Righteous shows, content and campaigns, has produced 6 films and served as Creative Consultant and contributor for Vice TV’s While the Rest of Us Die.
A sought-after National Security and Politics Analyst and expert on American culture, Rieckhoff has weekly television segments on both NewsNation and MSNBC’s Deadline White House with Nicolle Wallace. He is a former professor of Political Science at Amherst College where he created and taught a seminar titled “Understanding 9/11: And on the 20th anniversary, preparing for the next 9/11, theAuthor of Chasing Ghosts: Failures and Facades in Iraq: A Soldier’s Perspective, a regular writer for CNN.com, MSNBC and and others, a frequent public speaker, and a nationally-recognized authority on leadership, team-building, social entrepreneurship, war, the modern military, politics, new media, pop culture, and veterans affairs.
A gritty former high school football coach, Army Infantry Officer, and 9/11 First Responder-turned Washington insider, social entrepreneur, and media powerhouse, Rieckhoff is a working-class success story who never forgets where he comes from.
He is the grandson of immigrants and the son and grandson of veterans. His dad worked for a power company for 43 years and his mom as a psychiatric nurse for kids. His brother is a truck mechanic in the South Bronx. These connections power his perspective as voice of inspiration, hope, humor, and practical life-lessons, forged from his experiences on the battlefields of Iraq, in the halls of Congress, and on the airwaves of cable TV for the last decade and a half.
He’s built a world-renowned social impact organization that began in his studio apartment with only his personal credit card and a MySpace page that grew to over 500,000 members and landed his face on the cover of TIME Magazine. Always at the forefront of American history for the last 15 years, Rieckhoff is a voice for the voiceless, often sharing riveting stories he’s witnessed from Ground Zero on the day of 9/11, to the streets of Baghdad during the Iraq War, to phone calls from vets contemplating suicide at 2AM, to fierce meetings inside the White House battling with three Presidents. He’s been fearlessly leading America during some of our most important times, and created multi-million dollar advertising campaigns and impactful partnerships with companies ranging from Google to Southwest Airlines to Uber.
Prolific and fun on social media, Rieckhoff is a sought-after public speaker and moderator who’s drawn audiences in communities ranging from the Pentagon to Wall Street to Silicon Valley. He regularly testifies before Congress, is often seen on broadcast and cable and has appeared on hundreds of television and radio shows – ranging from Real Time with Bill Maher to The Colbert Report to Meet The Press to The Kelly File. He’s led IAVA’s groundbreaking efforts to reform the Veterans Affairs Department, pass the New GI Bill, fight veterans suicide, and repeal “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” while forging creative partnerships with Lady Gaga, Linkin Park, and NASCAR driver Cale Conley.
Rieckhoff has also produced four documentary films (Warrior Champions, Reserved to Fight, Jerebek and When I Came Home) and acted in “The Green Zone” starring Matt Damon. Rieckhoff has personally trained thousands of veteran leaders to be “changemakers” in their communities, and inspired millions worldwide to get involved, take action, and make positive change. Rieckhoff’s mantra is “adapt, improvise, and overcome,” He and IAVA showed the world how American ingenuity, leadership, and innovation can still improve our society and create movements for change.
In August 2011, Rieckhoff appeared on the cover of TIME magazine. He is an Ashoka Fellow, and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. Rieckhoff’s honors include: GQ’s “50 Most Powerful People in D.C.,” Esquire magazine’s “America’s Best and Brightest,” Rolling Stone’s “The Quiet Ones: 12 Leaders Who Get Things Done,” Penthouse Magazine’s Annual “Badass List,” The Hill’s “Top Lobbyists: Grassroots” for 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, and Task & Purpose named Rieckhoff to it’s “Mighty 25 Veterans Poised to Make a Difference.”
In 2014, Rieckhoff was selected for a “Teddy Award” by TIME Magazine for his political courage in demanding VA reform throughout years of scandal. Political guru Joe Klein wrote, “Paul Rieckhoff of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America has been an edgy, controversial figure in recent years, a creative critic of the Department of Veterans Affairs. The revelation of widespread corruption and incompetence in the VA, and the dismissal of Secretary Eric Shinseki, proved the value of Rieckhoff’s persistence. His willingness to take flak for his brothers and sisters in arms merits a Teddy.”
In December 2014, Task and Purpose named Rieckhoff to it’s “Mighty 25 Veterans Poised to Make a Difference” writing, “Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America marked a decade of existence in 2014, and the organization is showing no signs of slowing down going into next year. Under the leadership of the well-networked and media-savvy founder Paul Rieckhoff, IAVA championed the Clay Hunt SAV Act – legislation designed to combat the veteran suicide rate….”
In 2016, Rieckhoff was elected to the New York State Senate Veteran’s Hall of Fame for distinguishing himself both in military and civilian life.
He has also served at the Karl Lowenstein Distinguished Visiting Lecturer in the Political Science Department at Amherst College, where he designed and taught a class on the 20th anniversary of 9/11, titled Understanding 9/11.
He’s seen a lot.
He has a lot to say.
And he’s just getting started.
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