In the summer of 1958, Hugh O’Brian received the invitation that would change his life forever. At the time, O’Brian had already made a name for himself as an actor portraying the legendary lawman Wyatt Earp on television and appearing in numerous films. When he received a cable from Dr. Albert Schweitzer welcoming him to French Equatorial Africa for a visit, he did not hesitate to accept. O’Brian had long admired the German doctor-missionary-theologian-musician, and within two weeks he arrived at Dr. Schweitzer’s remote hospital complex in Africa. During his visit, O’Brian spent his days assisting the volunteers in the hospital and his nights with Dr. Schweitzer discussing global peace and world politics. During their discussions, Dr. Schweitzer told O’Brian that he felt “The most important thing in education is to teach young people to think for themselves,” which O’Brian would never forget.
After an inspiring nine days, O’Brian prepared to return to America. Before saying goodbye, Dr. Schweitzer took O’Brian’s hand and asked, “Hugh, what are you going to do with this?” It was these words combined with his unforgettable visit that compelled Hugh O’Brian to form Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership (HOBY). Two weeks after returning from his 1958 visit to Africa, O’Brian put together a prototype seminar for young leaders.
From 1958 to 1967, leadership seminars took place in Los Angeles for sophomores from California. In 1968 the scope of the HOBY program grew to include national and international participants which led to the expanded eight-day global leadership seminar called the World Leadership Congress (WLC) held annually. In an effort to include more students nationwide, three-day and four-day HOBY Leadership Seminars were instituted in 1977 in which high schools throughout the country may nominate a sophomore to attend a HOBY seminar in their state.
Five decades later, HOBY is still inspiring young people all over the world to develop their leadership and critical-thinking skills to achieve their highest potential. Currently, more than 9,000 tenth graders, representing almost as many high schools nationwide, attend HOBY Leadership Seminars each year. These seminars are run by over 4,000 volunteers with community leaders, business executives, educators, and parents involved in every seminar. Each seminar strives to follow the HOBY motto of teaching students, “how to think, not what to think,” thus ensuring that Dr. Schweitzer’s hope for young people lives on.