As a youngster, I had many heroes, idols, and role models. They included past Presidents, movie cowboys, rock singers, sports icons, astronauts, and many historical figures we read about in school. Remembering the very long list of people I looked up to during my childhood, I couldn’t help but wonder about today’s generation and who they might consider worthy of their respect and admiration. Based on what I see on TV, hear on the radio, find on the Internet, and view on magazine covers and newspapers, the list is very slim. Think about it: Rock stars on the way to rehab or prison, sports stars on drugs or in jail, politicians creating new scandals daily as they prove to be everything but leaders. I began to wonder if today’s young people had anyone left to look up to.
Then my spirit was renewed as I reviewed USA TODAY‘s most recent “Commemorative Top 25 List.” For weeks now, I’ve suggested that you check out the Monday editions of USA TODAY as they offer a different list each week to celebrate their 25th Anniversary. You can find their full-page specials in the paper or online every week from now until September.
This week’s feature focused on 25 very special people who have inspired us over the last 25 years. They made us care, cheer, and even cry. Our lives were enriched by these special people who moved us in so many ways. Most of these people were famous, but some were very ordinary folks who found themselves in extraordinary situations. Many became accidental leaders, even heroes. Most will live on in our memories forever. I’ve listed those 25 people below, but I recommend you check out the article itself for greater details as to why each is so very special. Here’s still another article in the series that is certainly worthy of a family discussion after dinner tonight. There are far too few of those taking place in this country at a time when we need them more than ever before. Why not do what you can to change that trend?
Lives of Indelible Impact
- 9/11 heroes … passengers, police officers, firefighters, citizens, medical personnel, etc.
- Nelson Mandela … South African President, Nobel Peace Prize winner, activist.
- Princess Diana … the “people’s princess.”
- Space shuttle Challenger astronauts … seven who died in 1986.
- Lance Armstrong … seven-time winner of the Tour de France.
- Christopher and Dana Reeve … Superman and his Lois Lane who lobbied for spinal cord injuries.
- Pope John Paul II … first Polish Pope who crusaded for many causes.
- Ryan White … HIV victim who became a positive symbol of the illness worldwide. Died at 13 from a blood product used to treat his hemophilla.
- Man at Tiananmen Square … Unarmed, he stood down tanks at pro-democracy protests in China.
- Mother Teresa … Nobel Peace Prize-winning nun who touched the world.
- Oprah Winfrey … from poverty to riches, her own TV show, books, movies, and TV studio.
- Terry Schiavo … whose controversial death prompted greater use of living wills.
- Michael J. Fox … TV and movie star who started a foundation to lobby for more research on Parkinson’s disease and embryonic stem cells.
- Arthur Ashe … African American who won three Grand Slam titles in the white world of tennis. Spoke for AIDS sufferers worldwide. Finally died of AIDS from bad blood transfusion.
- U.S. Women’s Soccer Team (1999) … won World Cup title on U.S. soil, energizing girls in sports.
- Megan Kanka and Jessica Lunsford …whose tragic deaths led to Congress passing laws that require sex offenders to be registered.
- Mattie Stepanek … spokesperson for Muscular Dystrophy who started writing poetry at three and died at 13 after publishing five books, three of which were best sellers.
- Bono … U2 lead singer and activist for Africa, trade, debt relief, and AIDS awareness.
- Pat Tillman … who gave up a multimillion dollar pro football contract to join the Army after 9/11. Died in combat after serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.
- Muhammad Ali … Three-time World Heavyweight Champion. Suffering from Parkinson’s, he champions humanitarian causes such as poverty relief and hunger.
- Steve Irwin … The Crocodile Hunter from Australia who starred on TV and in movies.
- Jessica McClure … Fell into a well at 18 months. Freed from an 8-inch-wide-pipe by rescuers after 58 hours.
- “Baby M” … first child of a surrogate mother. Legal battle ensued. Today a college student.
- Matthew Shepard … gay 21-year-old college student who died of a hate crime in 1998.
- Elian Gonzalez … 5 year old who escaped Cuba and survived on an inner tube to reach the U.S.
Your children and grandchildren will probably hear little or nothing about these people who contributed to our history in many different ways. Take a minute and tell them what you remember about each situation.