GW will host HOBY conference

GW will host an eight-day conference promoting leadership among high school students later this month.

More than 300 high school sophomores will visit Foggy Bottom July 21 to attend the annual Hugh O’Brian Youth World Leadership Congress.

The World Leadership Congress, which was last held at GW in 1998, involves students from 40 countries around the world.

The purpose of the conference is to encourage critical thinking and social respect, as well as to promote democracy and America’s incentive system.

Students will hear and interact with panelists on topics related to leadership, technology and service in the 21st century. Speakers will include the assistant press secretary of the White House, CEOs of technology firms, college students involved with their universities and several members of Congress.

Each spring high schools across the United States have the opportunity to send a sophomore student to one of 90 Hugh O’Brian Youth regional conferences. At the conclusion of each regional HOBY conference, one male and one female student are selected to serve as ambassadors to the WLC.

All HOBY programs are funded entirely by the private sector through community donations and sponsorships. Students do not pay to participate. The organization interacts with more than 20,000 high school students each year.

The HOBY ambassadors are truly amazing students, said GW junior Elizabeth Cox, program coordinator for the WLC. They have performed well in school, and above and beyond the call of duty in their communities. They come from all different walks of life, and when these diverse students meet and interact with each other it is truly amazing to watch.

Brian Meshkin, a HOBY alumnus and co-CEO of Incubank, Inc., will speak about his recent dot-com success. Meshkin said that HOBY was a re-energizing experience in his life, helping him to channel his leadership capacities into his community.

I have a chance to give back to students who are in the same shoes I was in back in high school, Meshkin said. It’s a fantastic opportunity.

Other speakers include ABC News television anchor Sam Donaldson, who will give an insider’s perspective on D.C., and Dr. Michael B. Abbott, professor emeritus at the International Institute for Infrastructural Hydraulic and Environmental Engineering, who will speak about the unification of Europe. Rich Murphy, editor in chief of The GW Hatchet, will also speak at the conference.

Darren Wilstead, HOBY associate director of field services, said GW’s campus is a good location for the eight-day conference.

The WLC was so successful in 1998, Wilstead said. It is in the nation’s capital and we love it here. It works out especially well for the international kids, it’s a great introduction to the United States.

GW President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg said he is honored to be able to host the WLC on GW’s campus a second time.

This is an event which has been a lot of fun for the students and for the University, Trachtenberg said. We hope some of the students who come will like GW and consider it for their college,

HOBY was created in 1958 by legendary actor Hugh O’Brian, who is television’s Wyatt Earp.

The main idea of HOBY is to teach students not what to think, but how to think, Cox said. HOBY opens students’ eyes to all the possibilities in the world. It motivates them to go forth and give back to their communities.

O’Brian was influenced to create HOBY during the summer of 1958, while guest-starring in a circus in Manitoba. Humanitarian Dr. Albert Schweitzer sent a cable from Africa extending an invitation to O’Brian to join him.

O’Brian went to Africa, and spent nine days working with Schweitzer at his clinic complex, without running water or electricity and caring for patients, many with leprosy.

At the end of the nine days Schweitzer asked O’Brian, Hugh, what are you going to do with this? according to HOBY history.

Two weeks after his return, O’Brian began putting together a prototype seminar for young leaders. Since 1958 the HOBY program has grown from leadership seminars for sophomores in California to leadership seminars for students throughout the world.

Not only is he president, CEO and founder, but he plays an active role with the day-to-day decision making, Cox said.

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