NCLS 2024 lineup sets focus on ‘valuing human conditions’

  • Published
  • By Randy Roughton U.S. Air Force Academy Strategic Communications
  • U.S. Air Force Academy Strategic Communications

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo.– The 31st annual National Character and Leadership Symposium will offer speakers ranging from air and space pioneers and activists to Olympic and paraplegic athletes.

The NCLS 2024 lineup includes five-time Olympic gold medalist Missy Franklin; Equal Justice Initiative founder and executive director Bryan Stevenson; the Space X Polaris Dawn crew; United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby; paraplegic athlete Timothy Alexander; and Center for Character and Leadership Development assistant professor Dr. Kimberly Dickman and her brother, U.S. Navy SEAL and retired Chief Warrant Officer 3 Anthony Dickman.

Valuing Human Conditions, Cultures and Societies

NCLS 2024 will return to the U.S. Air Force Academy Feb. 21-23. The symposium is an annual world-class professional development event on character and leadership. This year’s event will focus on Valuing Human Conditions, Cultures and Societies with the tagline: Embrace Culture. Embrace People.

“Our team has done a great job of bringing in a variety of different perspectives,” said CCLD Director Col. Kurt Wendt. “NCLS connects participants with powerful speakers from all walks of life in presentations and discussion sessions to encourage reflection and motivate personal action.”

Missy Franklin

Franklin is a former competitive swimmer and five-time Olympic gold medalist. She formerly held the world record in the 200-meter backstroke and world record in the 4×100 meter medley relay as a U.S. national swim team member. Franklin retired from swimming Dec. 19, 2018. She is an ambassador for the USA Swimming Foundation and a spokesperson for Saving Lives is Always in Season, a national campaign to increase drowning prevention nationwide. Franklin is the author of “Relentless Spirit: The Unconventional Raising of a Champion.”

Bryan Stevenson

Bryan Stevenson, the Equal Justice Initiative founder and executive director, led the human rights organization to win major legal challenges eliminating excessive and unfair sentencing, exonerating innocent death row prisoners, confronting abuse of the incarcerated and the mentally ill and aiding children prosecuted as adults. Stevenson initiated major anti-poverty and anti-discrimination efforts that challenge inequality in America. He led the creation of two highly acclaimed cultural sites that opened in 2018—the Legacy Museum and the National Memorial for Peace and Justice. These new national landmark institutions chronicle the legacy of slavery, lynching and racial segregation and the connection to mass incarceration and contemporary issues of racial bias.

SpaceX Polaris Dawn crew

In early 2024, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket will launch the Polaris Dawn mission from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The Polaris crew will spend up to five days in orbit. At NCLS, the SpaceX Polaris Dawn crew will discuss how the lessons learned from space exploration can be applied to promote cultural understanding and cooperation on Earth. This moderated discussion will be an opportunity for audiences to learn about the importance of valuing human conditions, cultures and societies in the context of space exploration and beyond.

Read about the crew of Polaris Dawn taking the AM-490 training at the Academy.

Scott Kirby

Kirby, a 1989 Academy graduate, is the chief executive officer of United Airlines. He served as the company’s president from 2016-20 and was responsible for United’s operations, marketing, sales, alliances, network planning and revenue management. As president, he played a pivotal role in enabling United’s cultural transformation and executing the company’s strategic growth plan.

Timothy Alexander

In high school in Birmingham, Alabama, Alexander was the state’s eighth-ranked football player until an automobile accident in 2006, left him paralyzed from the neck down. While pursuing a double major in Criminal Justice and Communication Management at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, he became the first paraplegic to receive a football scholarship. Alexander is now a growth mindset inspirational speaker dedicated to motivating and inspiring others and the character coach for UAB football and women’s basketball. He travels across the country sharing his story of resiliency to motivate and inspire student-athletes. As an Emmy Award winner, minister, keynote speaker and a John Maxwell Certification Program graduate, Alexander has been recognized for his leadership and perseverance. Alexander inspires others with his message of hope and determination and is dedicated to making a significant difference in the lives of those around him.

Dr. Kimberly Dickman and Anthony Dickman

As a CCLD assistant professor, Dickman educates and motivates people and organizations on leadership development, healthy relationships and violence prevention. She specializes in emotional intelligence, positive connections and compassion. Dickman was the Academy’s sexual assault prevention and response analyst for four years. Previously, she was the Air Force chief of training and development at the Pentagon.

Dickman will speak at NCLS with her brother, U.S. Navy Seal and retired Chief Warrant Officer 3 Anthony Dickman who served on active duty from 1991-2021. His military experience included leadership roles, such as pilot, sniper, SEAL operator, assaulter and breacher, combat assault dog team leader and special warfare training officer in charge within three different SEAL teams and in special warfare training and development units.

Development opportunities for active-duty service members

In addition to the main sessions, NCLS provides cadets and other attendees opportunities to interact with speakers in smaller, more personal sessions and workshops. Several speakers will also record cadet-sponsored podcast sessions for The Polaris Hall Podcast.

The symposium can benefit people beyond the Academy, especially active-duty service members, Wendt said.

“Developing leaders of character applies across the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Space Force,” Wendt said. “Our nation needs leaders of character. While NCLS may be a cadet-driven event, there is something for everyone, including our active-duty members, who can gain a much greater understanding of embracing culture, empowering people and how that makes us better people and better leaders.”

Active-duty members can find information and inspiration throughout the NCLS lineup, along with those from other services and civilian organizations, said Senior Master Sgt. Patrick Hunt, CCLD senior enlisted leader.

“NCLS allows the U.S. Air Force Academy to be the North Star for that Leader of Character Framework,” Hunt said. “It is a framework that can be used in anybody’s organization, team, school and life.”

Registration opens Jan. 3

The NCLS 2024 theme, “Valuing Human Conditions, Cultures, and Societies,” explores the complexities of being human and examines the qualities exemplified by admirable citizens and leaders. Events are scheduled Feb. 21-23, 2024, with registration opening Jan. 3. Embrace Culture. Empower People. #NCLS2024.

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