Olympian, WWII Hero to Speak at Dinner

Former Olympian and World War II hero Louis Zamperini will be the keynote speaker for the annual Most Inspiring Students Awards at 6 p.m. Thursday, May 29 at the Long Beach Hilton. Registration begins at 5 p.m. The evening of inspiring stories about local students who have beaten the odds is sponsored by the Long Beach Education Foundation. One student from each school in the Long Beach Unified School District is recognized at the event. As a world-class miler, Zamperini shook Hitler’s hand at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. He later became a World War II bombardier. In 1943, his B-24 crashed into the Pacific Ocean, where he found a raft amid the flaming wreckage and drifted 2,000 miles for 47 days. He made landfall only to find he was on Japanese soil. He was held captive in a Japanese prison camp for more than two years. Now 91 years old, Zamperini is known nationally as an inspirational speaker and has run more Olympic torch runs than any other former athlete. At the Most Inspiring Students event, he will place a gold medal over each honoree’s head. Masters of ceremony at the event will be Frank Mottek, news anchor for KNX 1070 Radio and KTLA-TV Channel 5; and Mike Murray, past president of the Foundation. The event’s theme is "A Jungle Book Evening,” featuring the Millikan Concert Choir. During the dinner, the Superintendent's Annual Distinguished Community Service Award also is given to individuals who have made a positive difference for local schools and students. The Most Inspiring Students recognized at the awards dinner represent one or more of the following qualities. Each winner: • is an inspiring example, • is unusually persistent, • makes a tremendous effort, • is an exemplary good citizen who is dedicated to serving the school or community, • could be described as a hero for overcoming adversity or circumstances that might have prevented a less determined student from succeeding, or • has made a dramatic improvement or turnaround. Proceeds of the event support the Long Beach Education Foundation charities with grants, school uniforms for students whose families cannot afford them, camperships to the Hi-Hill outdoor school, scholarships and other assistance. For reservations, call the Foundation at 997-8023. The donation is $100 per person or $1,000 for a table sponsorship. Please make checks payable to: Long Beach Education Foundation.