Obion County Distinguished Speakers Foundation
The Obion County Distinguished Speakers Foundation has been designed to attract renowned guests that will be of great benefit to our rural community by enlightening us on national and international affairs. Each year the Union City Rotary Club brings to our small community high-profile, top notch speakers including former government officials, writers, humorists, leading businessmen and women as well as knowledgeable personalities. The speakers converse on topical subjects of national importance such as terrorism, the Palestinian problem, Afghanistan, the global economy, world issues, business and war among other topics.
The foundation's first speaker in 2003 was Robert C. McFarlane who worked for Henry Kissinger, President Ford and President Reagan. The 2004 speaker was Dr. David Kay, the former United States Weapons Inspector in Iraq. In 2005, the Club was entertained by Debra Fields of Mrs. Fields' Original Cookies. For the 2006 program, our Club was honored to have Captain Scott O'Grady as the distinguished speaker. In the summer of 1995, Captain O'Grady was shot down in his F-16 in the skies of Bosnia helping to enforce the NATO no-fly zone policy. He evaded capture in hostile territory and was rescued six days later by the United States Marines. We were pleased to welcome Mr. Jim Ellis to our event in 2007. Mr. Ellis' life story inspired Hollywood to create a movie based on him entitled PRIDE. This major motion picture depicted Ellis' quest to build a nationally recognized swim team in the inner-city of Philadelphia. It was our pleasure in 2008 to host Mrs. Linda Hooper and her moving Paper Clips Project. Her speech entitled "The Power of One," tells the moving story how the students behind The Paper Clips Project responded to what had been to them a completely unfamiliar chapter in human history - the Holocaust. Struggling to grasp the concept of six million Holocaust victims, the students decided to collect six million paper clips to better understand the extent of this crime against humanity. This amazing project would change the students, their teachers, their families and the entire town forever...and eventually, open the hearts and minds around the world as this remarkable story became an award-winning film entitled PAPER CLIPS. In 2010, Legendary racehorse jockey and Kentucky Derby winner Pat Day made his way to Union City. Hall of Famer Day, with over 8,800 victories in his career, provided intriguing insight into the life of a jockey and shared his personal testimony about how he found the right path after much searching. With over 41,000 starts in his 32 career, Mr. Day is truly a living legend of the sport. Additional speakers have included Vanderbilt professor Dr. Carol Swaim discussing empowerment, education and the political landscape of America. In 2015, Leigh Anne Tuohy visited Union City to discuss her life experience as being the legal guardian of eventual professional offensive lineman, Michael Oher. The movie BLIND SIDE was created based on her loving heart, strength and determination to give this young man an opportunity to succeed.
The Union City Rotary Club is the sponsor of this project. In order to give more recognition to academics, the academic top ten senior students from Union City, Obion County Central and South Fulton are invited to attend the speech. This program gives us insight into the world from cutting edge individuals.