Sunday, February 27, 2005

Heroes of Poetic Leanings

Ok, I have been on a bit of a list making kick of late. I like lists. What can I say. Today's list consists of the people of history and my universe that hold a place of greatness in my mind.

Lance Armstrong: Yes, there is no denying his failings, as he left his wife for a rock star after she endured the trials of in-vitro fertilization and he tends to be a bit full of himself at times. The fact remains that he should have died. Attribute his health to science and great doctors, but his strong will to live has rarely been matched. No one works harder at his trade than Lance and he has spent an equal amount of energy helping others with cancer through his Lance Armstrong Foundation. He is a role model to more cancer patients and survivors than can be counted; as can be easily seen by all the yellow "Livestrong " bracelets out there today.

Robert Kennedy: He was the moral compass in his brother's administration. Bobby led the push for civil rights in the south and saw the value of working with Martin Luther King. He was idolized in the Third World because of his compassion and open mind. His uncompromising principles made him a leading voice against organized crime and the corruption of J. Edgar Hoover. Those same principles made him a strong advocate in the battle against poverty. When King was assassinated, he single-handedly stopped a riot in Indianapolis when blacks everywhere else were in a justifiable state of fury. He is often viewed as the last politician who could have brought blacks and whites together.

Thomas Jefferson: The writer of the Declaration of Independence, the Notes on the State of Virginia and the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom. Governor, Secretary of State, Vice President, Ambassador to France, convention delegate, and, of course, President; a presidency that brought the Louisiana Purchase, defeat of the Barbary pirates, the abolishment of the slave trade (although he was a slave owner), and the reduction of the Revolutionary War debt. He was a scientist, gardener, philosopher, explorer, poet, architect, and much more. His last great achievement was the creation of the University of Virginia.

Nelson Mandela: His selflessness is without equal. His unwillingness to submit and compromise on principle almost unhuman. A brilliant lawyer, he became the heart and soul of a people by sacrificing his freedom in the fight against apartheid. At no point did he betray his countrymen in any form. He was unbreakable for nearly thirty years and brought down a government through his strength, courage and patience. Even in freedom, he never lost the trust of the people and stayed true to his ethics and morals.

Joel W., STP's dad: He was not just my dad, he was my best friend and role model. He tirelessly devoted virtually every free moment he had to his family or to community children. He coached sports, ran recreation leagues, paid poor kid's expenses, befriended every child in my town, and was first and foremost a teacher. He loved people. With the neighborhood kids, he played sports with us and snuck up from behind, pinched our calves and barked like a dog. It got us everytime. In a restaurant, he could small talk with every person at every table. A trip to 7-11 lasted three hours as whoever he ran into would spur a two hour chat. His good heart knew no limit and the love he gave was reflected in his death. The funeral home claimed to never have experienced such a large crowd, the car line to the cemetary lasted for miles and the letters poured in for months. Everything he was is everything I wish to be.

Malcolm X: It is easy to look at Malcolm X and see the firebrand who hated whites, claimed "the chickens had come home to roost" when JFK was killed and seemed to promote violence, but the reality of Malcolm X is much more than this surface image. A criminal in his youth, he educated himself and became a man of conviction and integrity. While others got wealthy in the Nation of Islam and were corrupted, Malcolm stayed true to the intentions of the organization. Devoted to his people, he promoted strength as the only way of self-defense against a society that was beating down blacks, physically and societally. What made Malcolm special, though, was his ability to grow beyond what he was the day before. Slowly, he realized that Elijah Mohammad was corrupt, so he broke away and remained faithful to a righteous cause. He began to understand that many whites were not devils and genuinely were allies in the fight for equality. Near his death he was drawing closer to Martin Luther King and more moderate elements, both black and white. He was never satisfied; always seeking out new information and increased knowledge so that he could become a more complete person. He changed from Malcolm Little to Malcolm X to El-Hajj Malik al-Shabbazz in more then simply name.

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