HUGH O’BRIAN YOUTH LEADERSHIP: HIS LASTING LEGACY
In 1958, Mr. O’Brian was privileged to spend nine inspirational days with the great humanitarian and 1952 Nobel Peace Prize Winner Dr. Albert Schweitzer at his clinic in Africa. Dr. Schweitzer’s strong belief that “the most important thing in education is to teach young people to think for themselves” impressed O’Brian. Upon his return to the United States, he put Schweitzer’s words into action by forming Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership (HOBY), a non-profit organization. Its format for motivation was simple: bring a select group of high school sophomores with demonstrated leadership abilities together with a group of distinguished leaders in business, education, government, and the professions, and let the two interact. Using a question-and-answer format, the young people selected to attend a HOBY Leadership Seminar held each spring in their state get a realistic look at what it takes to be a true leader, thus better enabling them “to think for themselves.”
Today HOBY offers multiple leadership development programs for high school students based on the Social Change Model of Leadership and incorporating community service. Community Leadership Workshops (CLeWs) are held each year locally for freshmen. HOBY State Leadership Seminars for sophomores are held throughout the United States every spring. The World Leadership Congress (WLC) for rising juniors is held each summer in July at a major university in the U.S. and invites students from around the world to participate. HOBY style programs are also conducted in Canada, China, South Korea, Hong Kong, Iraq, Mexico, the Philippines, Taiwan, Turkey and the United Kingdom. The cultural differences that exist between countries of the world are explored in friendship by the American students and their international counterparts when they come together at the WLC. The HOBY experience is truly an inspirational event of a lifetime for student leaders. The Advanced Leadership Academy for juniors and seniors launched in 2013, HOBY’s 55th anniversary year. HOBY boasts more than 400,000 alumni worldwide. Its alumni programs include international tour and service trips for high school and college students.
All HOBY programs are coordinated by volunteers, numbering more than 4,000 in the U.S. alone. Service organizations such as the Lions, Jaycees, Kiwanis, General Federation of Women’s Clubs, the National Management Association, and Optimists have contributed greatly to this volunteer effort over the decades.