United States Air Force Academy

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Tim Ballard

CEO Operation Underground Railroad

Speaker Bio

Light in the Darkness

Different stories and examples on how serving others offers the light to help navigate through the darkness and evil that is evident when working to eradicate slavery and trafficking.


Dr. Bill Barker

Executive Director, Global Honors Institute, Gordon College

Speaker Bio

Death, Destruction, & Dignity: Leading in a Beautiful But Broken World

From the natural beauty of the land, sky, and sea to acts of heroism and human kindness, there is much to admire in every place and culture. Most people recognize the splendor of our world.  Unfortunately, from extreme poverty and malnutrition to sex trafficking and war crimes, we also understand firsthand its pains and problems. How does one lead with a concern for human dignity in this beautiful but broken context? What are the essential tenets of leadership for navigating the tension between fighting against injustice while also living with kindness and tolerance? Dr. Barker uses his extensive and multi-faceted global experiences to articulate real-world principles for effective leadership. He winsomely contends that when these practical steps are applied, leaders are effective, missions are accomplished, and the dignity of others is recognized and honored.


General Charles Q. Brown, Jr.

Chief of Staff of the Air Force

Speaker Bio

Senior Leader Discussion Panel

Please join our senior leaders for a panel discussion where cadets will present questions on current military topics for our leaders to answer with an emphasis on Ethics and Respect for Human Dignity.


Kathy Buckley

Hearing-Impaired Comedienne

Speaker Bio

No Labels, No Limits

You want to get the most out of your life.

There is nothing like an inspirational story to get people back on the right path to appreciating life. I never thought that sharing my life challenges would make such an impact on so many. As a Keynote speaker them laughing one minute and crying the next. Known as America’s first Hearing Impaired comedian, I have over come more obstacles in my first thirty years than most people in a life time. School for retardation, molestation, being run over by a jeep, to beating cancer twice. And still find the joys of living life, it’s the simple things. I speak from the heart and I challenge all to find their own individuality and to embrace it whole heartily.  Sharing with people the important, of true communication, the gift of Choice, and how to use to it wisely, changing our vocabulary for the positive. Respect for other but most importantly for yourself. Life is a gift and that there are NO Limits as to what we can possibly do with our lives. So you want to get the most out of your life learn the true meaning of forgiveness and be free to love yourself as well as to receive the love of others.


Benjamin S. Carson, SR. M.D.

Founder and Chairman, American Cornerstone Institute

Speaker Bio

America The Beautiful: Rediscovering What Made This Nation Great

Based on his 2012 book, Dr. Ben Carson explores the critical historical characteristics of America that led to her rise to the pinnacle of nations almost overnight. Although some mistakes were made, Dr. Carson explores how we learn from them and questions if we are ready to discard our unique, but uplifting attributes for the sake of political correctness? The values and principles that produced outstanding characteristics like, honesty, compassion, hard work, innovation and decency are at least as important today as they were when our nation was born. There are many great things about America that should be celebrated and Dr. Carson shows us all how to use our God-given talents to improve our lives, our communities, our nation, and our world. He believes that America’s best days are still ahead, but to get there, as a nation we must address tough issues facing our country.


Loretta Claiborne

Chief Inspiration Officer for Special Olympics, Inc.

Speaker Bio

I Have A Voice

Loretta will share her personal story of growing up as a black female with an intellectual disability and how through her faith, inner-strength, and sheer determination to survive, she beat the odds. Loretta discovered that by using her feet, rather than her fists, she could escape the bullying and discrimination. Loretta carries with her a heartfelt message of hope and tolerance for all people around the world and has changed the lives of tens of thousands whom she has met. “Find an opportunity and seize it”, she says. “Be the best you can be, and never let anyone doubt you.”


Shannon Sedgwick Davis

CEO, Bridgeway Foundation

Speaker Bio


Brigadier General Michael R. Drowley

Commander, 57th Wing, Nellis AFB

Speaker Bio

Leading in Combat

Leadership under the pressure of combat is what Brig Gen Michael “Johnny Bravo” Drowley will be sharing at this year’s NCLS. AUSAFA alumnus and command pilot with over 2400 fighter hours in the A-10, including more than 200 combat hours, he draws upon a wealth of personal experiences and AFCENT war stories. His powerful stories paint the importance and consequences of decisions made under pressure.


Annette Gordon-Reed

Professor of History, Faculty of Arts & Sciences, Harvard University

Speaker Bio

On Juneteenth: The Essential Story of ‘Freedom Day’ and Its Importance to American History

There is perhaps no one more qualified than Pulitzer-Prize winning historian Annette Gordon-Reed to tell the sweeping story of Juneteenth. In her searing new book, the Texas native chronicles both the state, and the country’s, long road to Juneteenth—and the many hardships that African-Americans have endured in the century since, from Jim Crow and beyond.

Gordon-Reed expertly weaves together her own family’s chronicle—she is a descendent of enslaved people brought to Texas as early as the 1820s—alongside the wider context of American history. It is this combination of poignant personal anecdotes and powerfully demonstrative facts that make Gordon-Reed’s account so vital, stirring, and eloquent.

On Juneteenth is both an essential account and a stark reminder that the fight for equality is exigent and ongoing. This meaningful and personal talk, based on the book, breathes new life into the historical events that have led us to this moment—and illuminates a new path forward.


Miguel Lugo

Community Relations & Head of Security, Homeboy Industries

Speaker Bio

Homeboy Industries and Re-entry

Homeboy Industries provides hope, training, and support to formerly gang-involved and previously incarcerated people, allowing them to redirect their lives and become contributing members of our community. As graduates of the organization’s re-entry programs and services, our job is to see people and meet them where they’re at. In that we are a trauma informed organization we’ve taken our leadership skills learned while incarcerated and utilized those skills in a positive light to help build relationships and communities.


Garry Powers

Onsite Mentor and Peer Navigator, Homeboy Industries

Speaker Bio

Homeboy Industries and Re-entry

Joining Miguel Lugo for his lecture will be Garry Powers, also from Homeboy Industries.


Abigail G. Manning

Founder, Create Awareness…Change Lives, Inc.

Speaker Bio

True Story: Rags to Riches through Radar and Respect

Abigail shares a motivational “rags to riches” story of a dirt-poor boy (her father) who wanted more from life. Self-empowerment takeaways are derived from his inspiring fight for dignity, inclusion, respect, and success as he faced hardships, cultural bias, bullying, and exclusion. A powerful tale of how he joined the Air Force, learned about radar, and founded a financially successful computer corporation. Like all impactful stories, there were significant stumbling blocks along the way and there is an unexpected reveal on the generational importance of living and leading with TRUST. Truth. Respect. Unity. Safety. Transparency.


Dr. Christian B. Miller

A. C. Professor of Philosophy, Wake Forest University

Speaker Bio

Honesty: What Is It, Are Most People Honest, and How Can We Grow in Honesty?

Honesty is clearly an important virtue, but very little has been written about it in recent decades despite a number of cheating and lying scandals. I will begin by clarifying what honesty is, with a focus on its behavioral and motivational dimensions. Then we will turn to the more empirical question of whether most people are in fact honest, drawing on recent psychological research. Finally, we can begin to consider some ways to grow and foster this neglected virtue.


Simon Sinek

Author & Inspirational Speaker

Speaker Bio

Love You, Brother 

Simon Sinek joins this session virtually, to sit down with his longtime friend BGen “Johnny Bravo” Drowley, in a continuation of their ongoing discussions on leadership and friendship. They talk about the challenges of leading people in situations where there are no right answers, and no perfect leaders. Sharing personal stories from their own ethical development, the two friends share strategies they use to stay grounded in their “why,” and reflect on their view of what it means to be a leader of character in the real world.


George Takei

Japanese-American Actor & Author

Speaker Bio

Cadet Wing Kickoff 

Mr. Takei will open NCLS for the cadet wing and USAFA-internal audiences only as our featured author from the One Book One USAFA program. The program aims to create a shared cultural experience at a military installation and Mr. Takei’s book “They Called Us Enemy” was featured this year. He will share from his experiences as a young child in the Japanese-American internment camps in the US in World War II and inspire audiences to prioritize respecting human dignity in everything they do.

This speaking engagement will not be made available to the public.


General Jacqueline Van Ovost, USAF

Commander, US Transportation Command

Speaker Bio

Fireside Chat with General Jacqueline Van Ovost, Commander, US Transportation Command

Join C1C Kayla Steiner, an aspiring pilot and member of the class of 2022 as she speaks with General Van Ovost about her career – from USAFA cadet to becoming the first woman to lead the US Transportation Command.  General Van Ovost’s inclusive approach to leadership will help audiences understand how leaders of character and dignity are critical to ensuring every voice is heard and tough problems are solved.


Charlene Wheeless

Expert on topics such as cultural competence, diversity and inclusion, cross-cultural leveraging, and interpersonal communication

Speaker Bio

Lessons from Being Invisible

In “Lessons from Being Invisible,” Charlene takes the audience on her journey from adversity to rising through the ranks to become the first Black female (fill in the blank), and the challenges and triumphs of getting there. Drawing from personal experiences, Charlene is an open book about climbing the corporate ladder, shattering the glass ceiling, and hitting the concrete wall, which is unique to people of color. She shares with the audience strategies she’s learned along the way that helped enable her success, overcome a three-year battle with cancer, her transformative experience of Post Traumatic Growth. With anecdotes around her power mantras, “It’s Choice, Not Chance that Changes Your Life” and “Just 7 Seconds of Courage”, Charlene brings to life her debut book, “You are Enough! Reclaiming Your Career and Your Life with Purpose, Passion and Unapologetic Authenticity.” Lessons from Being Invisible have important lessons for men and women on the journey to be leadership champions for everyone.


Robert L. Woodson, Sr.

President, The Woodson Center

Speaker Bio

Why I Am a Proud Black Patriot

A proud black patriot and veteran of the U. S. Air Force, Robert L. Woodson, Sr. reveals how service in the military played a vital role in his character development. He shares how the principles of self-determination, personal responsibility, and perseverance have guided him in his life choices and helped him prevail over the challenges of oppression, opposition, and denial of opportunity. His achievements were based on the values and principles of our nation’s founding. Woodson is a living example of how to succeed when life deals you a losing hand. He is inspired by Booker T. Washington’s quote, “Character, not circumstances, makes the man.”


12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year

Senior Master Sgt. Marcus D. Banks, Pacific Air Forces 

Tech. Sgt. Christopher M. Bennett, Air Education and Training Command 

Tech. Sgt. Justin D. Bennett, U.S. Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa 

Tech. Sgt. Kelli A. Floyd, Air Combat Command 

Staff Sgt. Valerie M. Graw, Air Force Materiel Command 

Staff Sgt. Colleen F. Mitchell, Air Force District of Washington 

Senior Airman Giovanni Pacheco, Airman Support U.S. Space Force 

Staff Sgt. Kristy L. Riley, Air Force Reserve Command 

Staff Sgt. Alex M. Sandmann, Air Force Global Strike Command 

Senior Master Sgt. Mark R. Schneider II, Air National Guard 

Senior Airman Jamonica M. Smith, Air Mobility Command 

Master Sgt. Hannah E. Walters, Air Force Special Operations Command 


AIRCREW PANEL:
C-17 crew members who participated in Operation Allies Refuge

Join us as we hear how Ethics and Respect for Human Dignity played a role in the air and on the ground during Operation Allies Refuge. We will discuss both the strategic and tactical aspects of these historic missions. Our panelists are:

Lt Col Alex Pelbath

Speaker Bio


Captain Mark E. Lawson

Speaker Bio


Captain Jasmine G. Leyro

Speaker Bio


Captain Hannah Swysgood

Speaker Bio