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Four Star Debate: Developing Leaders with General Tommy Franks


Stillwater NewsPress - Silas Allen

Former OSU softball player is featured speaker at debate camp in Jordan

STILLWATER, Okla. — A former Oklahoma State University softball pitcher is finding a new purpose after retiring from professional softball.

Michele Smith pitched for the OSU Cowgirls from 1985-1989. After leaving OSU, Smith played professional softball for 16 years in Japan. She also represented the U.S. in the 1996 and 2000 Summer Olympics, winning gold medals in each. She retired from professional softball in 2008.

Lately, though, Smith has been working in an entirely different field. Smith recently returned from Amman, Jordan, where she served as a featured speaker and guest judge for Four Star Debate: Developing Leaders with Gen. Tommy Franks.

The debate program took place at the King’s Academy in Amman. Smith returned to her home in Florida earlier this week.

The program is sponsored by the Gen. Tommy Franks Leadership Institute. During the program, 24 American students were partnered with 24 Jordanian students for a debate tournament. The topic for the tournament was whether the U.S. should support a comprehensive peace agreement between Israel and Palestine.

Smith said she became involved with the institute while working for Musco Sports Lighting, an athletic lighting company based in Oskaloosa, Iowa. The president of the company had become acquainted with Franks during his time on the National Parks Foundation Board of Trustees, and had been involved in the institute. He suggested Smith look into working with Franks’ program.

Smith said she has been impressed with the program’s level of interest in the area. The members of the institute are dedicated to leaving a positive impact in Jordan, she said.

“They are very vested in the communities they’re working in,” she said.

During her speech, Smith said she spoke about the challenges and responsibilities of leadership. She said she thought her presence in Jordan as a female athlete probably had a great impact, as well.

Smith said her time at OSU both as an athlete and a student prepared her well for later roles as a leader, and taught her the importance of leadership.

“When you’re given a gift, it’s a responsibility to serve others and give back,” she said.

Brian Bush, the executive director of leadership and liberty at Oklahoma Christian University, said he was impressed with Smith’s speech during the event. The university is a major partner in the institute. Bush, also a speaker at the event, said Smith served as a reminder of the power of hard work and dedication.

“She is proof that our students that hard work and determination can conquer anything that comes in their way and help them reach new heights as individuals and as leaders,” Bush said.

Smith said watching Jordanian and American students work together during the program was especially rewarding. It reminded her of the commonality between the two cultures, she said. Once, while watching a pair of students work, Smith said she had a difficult time telling which was the American student and which was Jordanian.

“It was definitely an epiphany moment,” she said.

The visit was Smith’s fourth to Amman. She said she has consistently been impressed by the students in the program. The students in the program are rising high school juniors and seniors. Smith said serving as a guest judge allowed her a chance to see them at work.

“I was really impressed with the kids,” she said.

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