The Hugh O'Brian Story
Beginnings in an African Jungle
In the summer of 1958, actor Hugh O’Brian received the invitation that would change his life. O’Brian, then 33, had already made a name for himself as an actor portraying the legendary lawman Wyatt Earp on television and appearing in numerous films when a cable arrived from French Equatorial Africa. The cable reported that Dr. Albert Schweitzer would welcome him at any time for a visit.
O’Brian had long admired the German doctor-missionary-theologian-musician. “I'd read so much about him,” O’Brian reflects. “He was a great humanitarian who could have done anything he wanted in the world, and there he was in the middle of Africa taking care of people.” Within two weeks O’Brian was on his way, by commercial airliner, bush plane and canoe, to the famed hospital that Schweitzer had founded in 1913 on the banks of the Ogooue River in Lambarene.
There he was met by a very old man with a huge, white walrus mustache, wearing white pants, shirt and pith helmet. “That was his uniform,” says O’Brian, recalling his first sighting of Schweitzer. The actor spent nine days at the clinic complex where Schweitzer and volunteer doctors and nurses, working without electricity or running water, cared for patients including many with leprosy. O’Brian spent his days assisting the volunteers in the hospital and his nights with Dr. Schweitzer discussing global peace and world politics.
Dr. Albert Schweitzer
Schweitzer, then 83, who had received the 1952 Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts in behalf of the “Brotherhood of Nations,” was concerned about global peace prospects and was impressed that the young American had taken the time to visit him. The doctor led the actor through history over those evenings. Schweitzer was convinced that the United States was the only country in the world with the ability to bring about peace.
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. “He said the United States must take a leadership role,” O'Brian recounts, “or we are a lost civilization.” 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 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.
The Launch of HOBY Texas North
From 1958 to 1967, HOBY leadership programs took place each year in Los Angeles. 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) which is now held annually.
In an effort to reach more young leaders, three and four-day seminars were instituted in 1977. Delaware, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island became the first states to hold HOBY Leadership Seminars in their states and in 1978 HOBY Texas North was founded. Since then, HOBY’s influence has expanded worldwide with programs in Canada, Mexico, Israel, China, Taiwan, Korea, Bolivia, Argentina and more.
Since 1978, HOBY Texas North has served the region by inviting local high school sophomores to our annual seminar and encouraging these students to not only discover themselves as leaders, but to also give back to their communities. We have grown to be one of the top sites in the country, growing over 38% in just the last four years.
During our programs, we strive to teach young men and women not WHAT to think, but more importantly HOW to think. Our curriculum is based on the "Social Change Model", focusing on an individual's personal responsibility and commitment to lead, a person's ability to lead with a group, and a person's impact on society. We accomplish this with the help of dedicated alumni, volunteers and local leaders in business, education, science & technology, government and other fields. We have developed and introduced innovative programs that are used across the country and our alumni have attended both the World Leadership Congress and the new HOBY Advanced Leadership Academy.
At the end of each seminar, we challenge every one of our alumni to complete 100 community service hours each year. In the last five years alone, HOBY Texas North alumni have logged over 37,500 hours with a donated value of over $750,000. We have forged partnerships with organizations like Big Brothers Big Sisters, Teach for America and Magdaleno Leadership to improve our reach and find as diverse a population of leaders as possible. Our alumni have gone on to launch non profits, lead companies, run for office, attend West Point and join the Peace Corps - each finding their unique place and way to lead.