Melvin R. Laird
Laird Youth Leadership Foundation
The theme for the April 21, 2008 Laird Youth Leadership Day at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point (UWSP) was "With Honor: Melvin Laird in War, Peace and Politics". The keynote speaker was James Bradley, author of "Flags of Our Fathers". UWSP experienced an overwhelming response to this year’s conference. Wisconsin’s high school students are looking forward to another enlightening Laird Youth Leadership Day. For more information, go to the UW-Stevens Point Web site.
Laird Youth Leadership Day originated over forty years ago at UWSP by the Laird Youth Leadership Foundation (LYLF). During Laird’s nine terms in Congress, the LYLF sponsored leadership conferences and college scholarships. These biennial programs continued throughout Laird’s government service - over four years as Secretary of Defense, then as Counsellor to the President, and now as Senior Counsellor with The Reader’s Digest Association, Inc.
This youth program was initiated to bring together recognized federal, state, and local experts for a one-day conference with two junior and two sophomore student delegates from each of the one hundred high schools located in Laird’s former Wisconsin Congressional District. Following the conference, these student delegates report back to their student bodies, service clubs and other organizations.
Because of the unanimous positive response to the experience gained from all conference participants, this event has been continued through the years. The conference includes symposiums lead by nationally-respected resource leaders. Recent conferences have expanded the base of students to include high schools from all over central and northern Wisconsin, which coincides with the major drawing area for UWSP’s enrollment. In addition, the LYLF has granted over 400 college scholarships to outstanding high school students. Laird has financed this program through personal contributions and with speaking honorariums received over the years.
Senator John Warner, Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, delivered an outstanding address at the 2003 conference. Other distinguished Americans who have addressed past conferences include former President Gerald Ford, Henry Kissinger, Governor Tommy Thompson, HEW Secretaries Donna Shalala, John Gardner, Wilbur Cohen and Elliot Richardson, as well as Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson and Justice Ann Walsh Bradley, John Deutch, Elizabeth Dole, Shirley Hufstedler, Lamar Alexander, Dr. Lou Sullivan, and Dr. Fred Wesbrook.