Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.
-Martin Luther King, Jr.
We idolize each hero or heroine for a multitude of reasons. In most cases it is simply because we are honoring their personal struggle to over come some form of monumental adversity to achieve their goal. Yes, that is an over simplification and yet, in most cases that really all there is to it!
In my own life, I personally have many, many heroes. People that inspire me to be better and live up to my greatest potential.
Angelou is best known for her series of seven autobiographies, which focus on her childhood and early adult experiences. The first, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969), tells of her life up to the age of 17 and brought her international recognition and acclaim.
She became a poet and writer after a series of occupations as a young adult, including fry cook, sex worker, nightclub dancer and performer, cast member of the opera Porgy and Bess, coordinator for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and journalist in Egypt and Ghana during the decolonization of Africa. She was an actor, writer, director, and producer of plays, movies, and public television programs. In 1982, she earned the first lifetime Reynolds Professorship of American Studies at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. She was active in the Civil Rights movement and worked with Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X. Beginning in the 1990s, she made around 80 appearances a year on the lecture circuit, something she continued into her eighties. In 1993, Angelou recited her poem “On the Pulse of Morning” (1993) at President Bill Clinton’s inauguration, making her the first poet to make an inaugural recitation since Robert Frost at President John F. Kennedy’s inauguration in 1961.
With the publication of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Angelou publicly discussed aspects of her personal life. She was respected as a spokesperson for black people and women, and her works have been considered a defense of Black culture. Attempts have been made to ban her books from some U.S. libraries, but her works are widely used in schools and universities worldwide. Angelou’s major works have been labeled as autobiographical fiction, but many critics have characterized them as autobiographies. She made a deliberate attempt to challenge the common structure of the autobiography by critiquing, changing, and expanding the genre. Her books center on themes such as racism, identity, family, and travel.
The woman behind the popular Harry Potter series was a single mother living on welfare when she wrote the first book of the series. She was rejected by 12 different publishers before selling her book for a measly $4000. The work was an international hit and Rowling went on to write 6 more books for the series, which sold into the hundreds of millions of dollars, and was adapted into a huge blockbuster film franchise. Rowling is now the 13th wealthiest person in Britain, even wealthier than the Queen. Although she has said that she does not plan to write any more books to add to the Harry Potter series, she has written a few short stories and is working on a Harry Potter-related book.
Malala Yousafzai is a Pakistani advocate for girls education and the youngest-ever Nobel Prize laureate. In 2009, when Malala was just eleven she began blogging about life under the Taliban, speaking out directly against their threats to close girls’ schools. (Pakistan has the second highest number of children out of school and two-thirds of them are female.)
The blog on BBC Urdu garnered international attention while also making her the target of death threats. In October 2012, a gunman shot her and two other girls as they were coming home from school. Malala survived the attack and in 2013 published an autobiography, I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban.
In October 2014, Yousafzai received the Nobel Peace Prize, along with Indian children’s rights activist Kailash Satyarthi.
Earl Nightingale (March 12, 1921 – March 28, 1989) was an American radio personality, writer, speaker, and author, dealing mostly on the subjects of human character development, motivation, excellence and meaningful existence; so named as the “Dean of Personal Development.” Earl was the author of The Strangest Secret, which economist Terry Savage has called “…One of the greatest motivational books of all time“.