Past Speakers

J.C. Watts

2018

The Hon.J.C.Watts, Jr.was elected to the U.S.Congress from the fourth district of Oklahoma in 1994.During his congressional term, he was elected by his peers to serve as chairman of the Republican Conference, the fourth-ranking leadership position in the majority party in the U.S.House of Representatives.

Watts earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Oklahoma, where he quarterbacked for the Sooners.He led his team to two consecutive Big Eight Championships and Orange Bowl victories.In 1990, he was elected to the Oklahoma State Corporation Commission and became chairman before running for Congress.

Since his time in Congress, Watts has served in a variety of other roles, including chairman of J.C.Watts Companies, a multi-industry holding company headquartered in Washington, D.C., with operations in Texas and Oklahoma.He was appointed president and CEO of Feed the Children and serves on the board of directors of Dillard’s Department Stores and as chairman of The Charles Colson Task Force on Federal Corrections.

In addition, Watts is a two-time author, a frequent guest on national and international news shows, and has been widely quoted in major newspaper articles, both in the United States and abroad.His most recent book, “Dig Deep: 7 Truths to Finding the Strength Within,” was published in 2016.

Archie Manning

2017

When people think of Archie Manning, they think football. Manning attended the University of Mississippi where he was named an All-American Quarterback. As a quarterback for the New Orleans Saints, he set passing records and played in two Pro Bowls before concluding his career in 1985. But Manning’s appeal transcends his athletic achievements. He currently serves in public relations and consulting capacities for several local, regional and national companies. He is an owner of Manning’s, a sports-themed restaurant on Fulton Street in New Orleans, and is active in a wide variety of charitable and civic causes.

Manning and his wife, Olivia, have three sons, Cooper, Peyton and Eli. The Sugar Bowl has created the Manning Award to go to the nation’s best college quarterback in honor of the Mannings’ college football accomplishments.

Bill Bennett

2016

William J.Bennett is one of America’s most respected voices on cultural, political and education issues.

Over the course of his professional life, in education, government and the private sector, Bennett has succeeded in a trifecta of American institutions.He is an award-winning professor and was the Secretary of Education under former President Ronald Reagan.He also served as the director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy under former President George H.W.Bush.Bennett is the author of more than 24 books, including “America the Strong: Conservative Ideas to Spark the Next Generation” and two New York Times Best-Sellers, and he is the former host of the nationally ranked syndicated radio show, “Morning in America.”

In his various roles, Bennett is perceived—even by his adversaries—as a man of strong, reasoned convictions who speaks candidly, eloquently and honestly about some of the most important issues of our time.Thanks to his government positions, his writings and speeches, and thousands of media appearances, Bennett has extraordinary influence on America’s political and social landscape.

Dana Perino

2015

Dana Perino is a journalist, former White House press secretary, Fox News contributor and co-host of the top-rated cable news program, “The Five.”

Perino served seven years during the administration of President George W.Bush and became the White House press secretary, representing the leader of the free world during a tumultuous time in America’s history.

After President Bush left office, Perino traveled to South Africa to volunteer at Living Hope, a faith-based organization that helps people affected by HIV and AIDS.When she returned to the U.S., she was appointed to the Broadcasting Board of Governors by President Barack Obama.Perino is also a political commentator on the Fox News Channel and a regular co-host on “The Five.”

Perino’s first book “And the Good News Is… Lessons and Advice from the Bright Side” was released on April 21, 2015, and is a New York Times Best-Seller.

Dan Rooney

2014

Major Dan Rooney is a veteran F-16 Fighter pilot, PGA professional and author of A Patriot’s Calling: Living Life Between Fear and Faith. He was a top graduate of his F-16 training class, received two Top Gun awards and a Spirit of Attack award, and served three tours in Iraq. At the Masters Invitational he was honored for his contributions to golf, receiving the PGA’s first Patriot Award.

In 2007, Major Rooney focused on giving back. He founded the Folds of Honor Foundation, a non-profit organization providing financial support to the spouses and children of disabled or fallen soldiers. Since its inception, the foundation has raised over $22 million.

For his outstanding service in this regard, President George W. Bush awarded him the Presidential Volunteer Service Award in 2008.

Cal Ripken Jr.

2013

Born in Havre de Grace, Maryland on August 24, 1960 to Cal Sr. and Violet Ripken, Cal Ripken, Jr. grew up to become one of the best left-side infielders in baseball history: at 6’4″ and 225 lbs, he pioneered the way for the taller and larger shortstop. Today his name is synonymous with perseverance, character and integrity.

Ripken was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in the second round of the 1978 Major League Baseball Draft and made his major league debut on August 10, 1981. Ripken is most well-known for becoming baseball’s “Ironman” by breaking Lou Gehrig’s “unbreakable” record for consecutive games played. On September 6, 1995, Ripken played in his 2,131st consecutive game, breaking the 56-year-old record. His streak ended voluntarily at 2,632 games. Later, baseball fans voted his record-breaking streak as the “Most Memorable Moment” in MLB history.

Since retiring from the game in 2001, Ripken has become a best-selling author, an inspirational public speaker, studio analyst for MLB playoffs on TBS and CEO of Ripken Baseball, Inc., whose goal is to grow the love of baseball from a more grassroots level.

Ripken has always placed a strong emphasis on giving back to the community. In 2001 he and his family established the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation in memory of the family’s patriarch. The foundation works throughout the country serving America’s most distressed communities.

Ripken married his wife of 26 years, the former Kelly Geer, in 1987. They have two children, Rachel and Ryan.

Dr. Ben Carson

2012

Benjamin S. Carson, Sr., M.D. is a full professor of neurosurgery, oncology, plastic surgery and pediatrics at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. He has received countless accolades, including over 60 honorary doctorate degrees, over 100 awards and citations, membership in the President’s Council on Bioethics, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the nation. As a child, he dreamed of becoming a doctor; today, he is a world-renowned physician and scientist.

Carson’s tumultuous childhood further exemplifies his achievements. He was raised in a single-parent home and faced extreme poverty, poor grades and his own lack of discipline and drive. It seemed that even a high school diploma was unlikely for young Ben. But through the steady encouragement of his mother, Sonya, and his own perseverance, Benjamin never lost sight of his dream, and is one of today’s most renowned physicians.

Dr. Carson has pioneered the area of pediatric surgery. In 1987 he performed the first and only successful separation of craniopagus (Siamese) twins, and later succeeded in the first placement of an intrauterine shunt for a hydrocephalic twin.

He has used his tremendous success to finance several charitable efforts, including his Carson Scholars Fund, which operates in 45 states and has awarded over $4.5 million to more than 4,500 scholars. Carson is also co-founder of Angels of the OR, Inc., an organization that provides financial assistance to neurosurgery patients.

In 2001, the Library of Congress selected Dr. Carson as one of its 89 “Living Legends.” During the same year, CNN and TIME magazine named him one of the nation’s 20 foremost physicians and scientists.

He was written six books which relay his personal wisdom and insight: THINK BIG, Take the Risk: Learning to Identify, Choose and Live with Acceptable Risk, The Big Picture, Gifted Hands, which was made into an award-winning film of the same name, and America the Beautiful: Rediscovering What Made This Nation Great.

Dr. Carson has been married to his wife, Candy, for over 30 years, and still serves as Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, as well as one of the nation’s most inspirational public speakers. 

Mike Huckabee

2011

Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee is the host of the number one-rated weekend hit “Huckabee” on the Fox News Channel, the author of nine books, the most recent being “ A Simple Government,” and a former candidate for the Republican nomination for President in 2008.

After an early career in broadcasting and advertising, he spent twelve years as an minister and denominational leader, while also serving as president of the Arkansas Southern Baptist State Convention. Huckabee led rapidly-growing congregations in Pine Bluff and Texarkana. It was during this time that he gained deep insight into the problems faced by individuals and families, preparing him well for a future of leadership.

Huckabee first was elected lieutenant governor in a 1993 special election and was elected to a full four-year term in 1994. When his predecessor resigned, Huckabee became governor in July 1996—at that time, one of the youngest governors in the country. Huckabee was elected to a full four-year term as governor in 1998 and again in 2002.

As governor from 1996–2007, Huckabee was recognized nationally for his leadership: Governing Magazine named him as one of its ‘Public Officials of the Year’ for 2005, Time Magazine honored him as one of the five best governors in America, and later in the same year, Huckabee received the American Association of Retired Person’s Impact Award. He served as the Chairman of the prestigious National Governors Association as well as the Education Commission of the States and the Interstate Oil and Gas Commission.

Huckabee, 55, is an avid musician and is bass player in his rock-n-roll band, Capitol Offense, which has opened for many artists, as well as playing for two presidential inauguration balls and two Republican National Conventions. He is featured each week in the musical segment of his Fox show with the Fox house band, “The Little Rockers.”

His hobbies include hunting, fishing, running, and music. He was named one of the 25 most influential people for conservation by Outdoor Life magazine, and has was named as Man of the Year by the American Sportfishing Association in 1997.

The former governor and his wife, Janet, live in Florida and still spend part of their time in Arkansas. They have three grown children: John Mark, David and Sarah. 

Tony Dungy

2010

Tony Dungy is a household name among football fans. He started playing the game at an early age and had success at many levels. He played his college football at the University of Minnesota where he played quarterback. Fresh out of college he signed as a free agent with the Pittsburgh Steelers where he played the defensive back position. Following his playing days, he began his coaching career where he ended it at the pinnacle of the sport; Head Coach of the Indianapolis Colts 2007 Super Bowl Champions. But this is only part of the story.

Since retiring from coaching, Tony has become a best selling author with his books Quiet Strength, Uncommon: Finding Your Path to Significance, and his latest book just published last month, The Mentor Leader. In addition to his public speaking, he is also a color analyst for NBC on their NFL broadcast. He is a very busy man indeed.

Those are the things he does but they do not define who he is. The best part of his story is that he is a man of strong conviction and his faith permeates everything he does. It has been said that if you want to find a leader, see who is being followed. Tony is such a man and is a worthy example to people of all generations. He is a true leader of men but his leadership skills reach far beyond the football field.

He is a leader at home as a loving husband to his wife Lauren and as a father to six children. He is a leader in his church and he is a leader in his community (The Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Athletes in Action, Mentors for Life, Big Brothers, Big Sisters, Boys and Girls Clubs, the Prison Crusade Ministry, All Pro Dad, Basket of Hope, the Dungy Family Foundation and Family First to name a few.)

Dan Cathy

2009

Dan T. Cathy is president of Chick-fil-A, one of the nation’s largest family owned businesses. Dan represents the second generation of leadership for this Atlanta-based chicken restaurant chain founded by his father, S. Truett Cathy. Eager to incorporate his own skills and talents into the business, Dan has taken an unconventional—yet personally and professionally rewarding—approach to Chick-fil-A leadership. Since 2001, Dan has served as president and COO of Chick-fil-A, Inc. He has challenged himself to uphold Chick-fil-A’s effort to provide genuine, heartfelt hospitality, and ensure that customers have an exceptional dining experience. In his quest to provide customers with “2nd Mile Service” (exceeding even the highest expectations of a typical fast-food restaurant), Dan has defined a special role for himself—humbly saying, “I work in customer service.”

Dan spends the majority of his time traveling to the chain’s growing family of restaurants and interacting with Chick-fil-A’s committed team of operators and team members. He frequently speaks from coast-to-coast before diverse groups such as the Maximum Impact National Simulcast, many local business Chambers and leadership groups, universities, colleges, and churches, and is a regular speaker on the Life Perspectives radio show. Dan is renowned for sharing his ethics- and service-based principles of leadership and success.

John Maxwell

2008

John C. Maxwell is an internationally recognized leadership expert, speaker, and author who has sold over 14 million books. His organizations have trained more than 2 million leaders worldwide. Dr. Maxwell is the founder of EQUIP and INJOY Stewardship Services. Every year he speaks to Fortune 500 companies, international government leaders, and audiences as diverse as the United States Military Academy at West Point, the National Football League, and ambassadors at the United Nations. A New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Business Week best-selling author, Maxwell was named the World’s Top Leadership Guru by Leadershipgurus.net. He was also one of only 25 authors and artists named to Amazon.com’s 10th Anniversary Hall of Fame. Three of his books, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, Developing the Leader Within You, and The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader have each sold over a million copies.