Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of February 3, 2003
Hear your spiritual call -- and respond
By MSGR. JIM LISANTE
Not long ago, I met a man whose life proved just how powerful one person's influence and inspiration can be. Actor Hugh O'Brian was born Hugh Krampe in Rochester, N.Y. During the Second World War, O'Brian became the youngest drill instructor in the history of the U. S. Marine Corps.
After the war, O'Brian moved to California to begin his acting career. He admits that this choice had more to do with his good looks than any special talent. Following roles in a number of movies, especially Westerns, O'Brian got that break all actors hope for. He became the lead in a popular TV series called The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp. It ran for six seasons and was avidly watched by the American public.
Folks liked its realism; Earp dressed in the actual style of the period, something few other Westerns did. More to the point, he portrayed a hero and man of right judgment, something Americans yearned for in the 1950s.
With success, popularity and money, O'Brian seemed to have had it made. But deep inside, he wanted something more. Then came an invitation that changed Hugh O'Brian's life forever.
Dr. Albert Schweitzer was a world-renowned humanitarian, the winner of the 1952 Nobel Peace Prize. Decades before, he had given up his comfortable life in Europe to offer his medical skills to poor people in a remote region of Africa.
Through mutual friends, Hugh O'Brian was invited to go to Africa and spend nine days with Schweitzer. They were, for O'Brian, days of inspiration and new direction. In the witness of this noble doctor, O'Brian realized what he'd been missing in life. He had so much, but he'd given back very little. Now he knew his life purpose: to make a difference for others.
In 1958, he founded the Hugh O'Brian Youth Leadership organization (HOBY). His decision was based on Schweitzer's admonition that, "the most important thing in education is to teach young people to think for themselves."
O'Brian used his many resources to make HOBY a way to cultivate leaders for generations to come. His mission was clear: "to seek out, recognize and develop leadership potential commencing with high school sophomores, and to encourage and prepare the next generation of civic and corporate leadership for America's future."
And so he has. Through O'Brian's efforts, thousands of young adults have learned important leadership skills. These have included education in public speaking, help in clarifying values of real merit, and learning how to stand against peer pressure.
The result of this leadership training? In 2001 alone, this non-profit youth organization educated over 2,000 teen ambassadors. They, in turn, contributed over 200,000 hours to 11,500 community service projects. Moving beyond America, seminars were also held in Canada, Mexico, Israel and Hong Kong.
Hugh O'Brian, a vital 77-year-old, was recently a guest on our Christopher Closeup television program. While he appreciates his great good fortune in movies and television, he, nonetheless, credits the ability to shape the leadership skills of young people as his most important life experience.
And his inspiration came from Schweitzer, who taught him that what we do for others is infinitely more important than the things we own, or the popularity we enjoy, or the success the world may applaud.
It's amazing what can be done when we truly believe giving is more important than getting. That belief, put into action, can do more good for more people than we can ever really know.
(For a free copy of the Christopher News Note, Being a Good Neighbour, write: The Christophers, 12 East 48 St., New York, NY, 10017; or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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