A prominent proponent for the humane treatment of livestock for slaughter and a leading advocate for autistic communities. Grandin was one of the first individuals on the autism spectrum to document the insights she gained from her personal experience of autism. By being one of the first adults to publicly disclose that she was autistic, Temple Grandin helped to break down years of shame and stigma. During her high school years, Grandin invented the "Hug Box" device to calm those on the autism spectrum. Despite great difficulties, Grandin achieved considerable academic success. Grandin is well known for her work regarding animal welfare, neurology and philosophy. Owing to her unique way of thinking in photographic images, she was one of the first scientists to report that animals are sensitive to visual distractions and other environmental details that most people do not notice. She credits her extreme sensitivity to detail and environmental change for her insight into the minds of cattle and domesticated animals.
Desmond Doss (1919-2006)
Doss was a United States Army corporal who served as a combat medic with an infantry company in World War II. Doss refused to kill an enemy soldier or carry a weapon into combat because of his personal beliefs as a Seventh-day Adventist. His only weapons were his Bible and his faith in God. His refusal to carry a gun caused a lot of trouble among his fellow soldiers who viewed him with disdain and called him a misfit. Doss distinguished himself in the Battle of Okinawa when, as a lone soldier he disobeyed orders and charged back into the fire fight to rescue as many of his men as he could, before he either collapsed or died trying. His iron determination and unflagging courage resulted in at least 75 lives saved that day. Doss tried to rescue both American and Japanese soldiers.
Augusto (1933–2013) and Michaela Odone (1939 –2000)
Augusto and Michaela Odone were the parents of Lorenzo, a 5-year-old who he began acting oddly. Doctors eventually diagnosed him with adrenoleucodystrophy (ALD), a devastating genetic neurological disease of young boys that causes confusion, agitation, and eventually unresponsiveness and death within a few years. Doctors told his parents that no treatments existed and that Lorenzo was doomed. Unwilling to believe this, the Odones, neither of whom had medical training, became fixtures at the nearby library of the National Institutes of Health. Defying both doctors and families affected by ALD, they developed in 1986 a mixture of two cooking oils as a possible treatment for their son's devastating disease. This mixture has become known as Lorenzo's Oil and has ever since prevented the onset of ALD in two-thirds of susceptible boys who otherwise would surely have died from the disease. It was a breathtaking scientific achievement spearheaded by two laypeople. Thanks to his parents’ devotion, Lorenzo Odone lived until the age of 30.
Eva Mozes Kor (1934-2019)
A Romanian-born survivor of the Holocaust, author and inspirational speaker. During World War II, when she was six years old, she was sent with her twin sister, Miriam, and the rest of her family to the death camp Auschwitz. As twins, the small sisters immediately drew the attention of doctor Josef Mengele, who performed deadly laboratory experiments on the camp prisoners, and on children and twins in particular. While the rest of her family was killed, the two girls managed to survive. After years of therapeutic process, Mozes Kor realized that the only way for her to become free from her tragic past was forgiveness. As soon as she dared to make this step, she felt that the pain was lifted from her shoulders and that she was no longer a prisoner of Auschwitz. She publicly declared: “I, Eva Mozes Kor, a twin who survived Josef Mengele’s experiments in Auschwitz 50 years ago, hereby give amnesty to all Nazis who participated directly or indirectly in the murder of my family and millions of others.” She even approached the 96-year-old “bookkeeper of Auschwitz” in the courtroom, and publicly forgave him while hugging and kissing him. Eva Kor became a renowned American educator and author, who inspired many people to activate the power of forgiveness: “Every single one of you is very powerful. You have the power to forgive. No one can give it to you and no one can take it away.”
Antonia Brenner (1926-2013)
An American Roman Catholic religious sister and activist. She was raised in the exclusive community of Beverly Hills, California. First married at a young age, Brenner eventually raised seven children in two marriages. Not content with just raising a family, she was also heavily involved in charitable activities. After twenty-five years of marriage, and after most of her children were out of the house, she drastically changed her life. In a period of just a few years, she divorced, sold her home and possessions and began to serve full time the prisoners at La Mesa penitentiary in Tijuana, Mexico, and with permission to take private vows, she put on a religious habit. At the La Mesa penitentiary, she lived in a 10’ x 10’ concrete room with a cot as her bed, and with a Bible and Spanish dictionary nearby. Sister Antonia provided not only spiritual guidance to the guards and inmates, but continued to help with basic material comforts for prisoners. With encouragement from Bishops and other supporters, Sister Antonia initiated the process of forming a religious community. She condemned crime, but loved the sinners and the victims. As a result of her love and guidance, many who were imprisoned there have sought a better life.
Fred Rogers (1928-2003)
An American television personality. Rogers developed a show in 1968 that helped children build self-esteem, conquer their fears, and love others. Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood was the longest-running program on public television, lasting 33 years and finally ending its run in 2001. As a young man, Rogers noticed during television’s infancy how the new medium was being misused. “I went into television,” said Rogers, “because I thought there was some way of using this fabulous instrument to be of nurture to those who would watch and listen.” Rogers was an American icon of children’s education and a symbol of compassion and morality. He did not shy away from dealing with difficult issues of death and divorce but rather encouraged children to express their emotions in a healthy, constructive manner, often providing a simple answer to life’s hardships. To the very end of his life, Rogers encouraged people to love one another and to appreciate the deep connections all humans have with each other. Shortly before he died, he said, “Our world hangs like a magnificent jewel in the vastness of space. Every one of us is a part of that jewel, a facet of that jewel. And in the perspective of infinity, our differences are infinitesimal. We are intimately related.”
Helen Keller (1880-1968)
An American educator, activist and advocate for the blind and deaf. Stricken by an illness at the age of two, Keller was left blind and deaf. Beginning in 1887, Keller's teacher, Anne Sullivan, helped her make tremendous progress with her ability to communicate, and Keller went on to college, graduating in 1904. With the help of Sullivan, Keller wrote her first book, The Story of My Life. With the years, Keller overcame the adversity of being blind and deaf to become one of the 20th century's leading humanitarians. She became a well-known lecturer, sharing her experiences with audiences, and working on behalf of others living with disabilities. Throughout the first half of the 20th century, Keller tackled social and political issues, including women's suffrage, pacifism, birth control and socialism. In 1955, at age 75, Keller embarked on the longest and most grueling trip of her life: a 40,000-mile, five-month trek across Asia. Through her many speeches and appearances, she brought inspiration and encouragement to millions of people. During her remarkable life, Keller stood as a powerful example of how determination, hard work, and imagination can allow an individual to triumph over limitation. In her own words, “Self-pity is our worst enemy and if we yield to it, we can never do anything wise in this world.”
Srinivasa Ramanujan (1887-1920)
An Indian mathematician. Though he had almost no formal training in pure mathematics, he made substantial contributions to mathematical analysis, number theory, infinite series, and continued fractions, including solutions to mathematical problems then considered unsolvable. Ramanujan initially developed his own mathematical research in isolation. The great English mathematician, G. H. Hardy recognized Ramanujan's genius from a series of letters that Ramanujan sent to mathematicians at Cambridge in 1913. Like much of his writing, the letters contained a dizzying array of unique and difficult results, stated without much explanation or proof. Hardy commented that Ramanujan had produced groundbreaking new theorems, including some that "defeated me completely.” During his short life, Ramanujan independently compiled nearly 3,900 results. Nearly all his claims have now been proven correct. His notebooks—containing summaries of his published and unpublished results—have been analyzed and studied for decades since his death as a source of new mathematical ideas. A deeply religious Hindu, Ramanujan credited his substantial mathematical capacities to divinity, and said the mathematical knowledge he displayed was revealed to him by his family goddess Namagiri Thayar. He once said, "An equation for me has no meaning unless it expresses a thought of God." Unfortunately, his mathematical career was curtailed by health problems; he returned to India and died when he was only 32 years old.
Maximilian Kolbe (1894-1941)
A Polish Conventual Franciscan friar. He founded and supervised the monastery of Niepokalanów near Warsaw, while founding several other organizations and publications. After the outbreak of World War II, Kolbe was one of the few friars who remained in the monastery, where he organized a temporary hospital. After the town was captured by the Germans, he refused to sign the Deutsche Volksliste, which would have given him rights similar to those of German citizens, in exchange for recognizing his ethnic German ancestry. He continued work at his friary, where he and other friars provided shelter to refugees from Greater Poland, including 2,000 Jews whom he hid from German persecution in the Niepokalanów friary. The monastery continued to act as a publishing house, issuing a number of anti-Nazi German publications. In 1941, Kolbe was arrested by the Gestapo and was soon transferred to Auschwitz where he continued to act as a priest. At the end of July 1941, one prisoner escaped from the camp, prompting the deputy camp commander to pick ten men to starve to death in an underground bunker. When one of the selected men cried out, "My wife! My children!"Kolbe volunteered to take his place. Kolbe led the prisoners in prayer, calmly kneeling in the middle of the cell. After they had been starved and deprived of water for two weeks, only Kolbe remained alive. He was given a lethal injection of carbolic acid. Kolbe is said to have raised his left arm and calmly waited for the deadly injection.
Pia Klemp (1983 - )
A ship captain, animal and human rights activist and author from Germany. Between 2011 and 2017, she worked for the Sea Shepherdorganization to participate in many international operations to protect sea animals. With the emerging European migrant crisis since 2015, she switched to rescue ship operations in the Mediterranean Sea. She commanded two rescue ships in the Mediterranean Sea for the German NGOs Jugend Rettet and Sea-Watch. Her ships rescued about 14 thousand migrants from drowning. Klemp was responsible for the rescue of more than a thousand of them. One of her ships, the Iuventa, was seized by Italian authorities in 2017, who accuse her of cooperating with human traffickers and claim that many of those saved were at no imminent risk of death. If convicted, she faces 20 years in prison. Her newer ship, the Sea-Watch 3, was blocked by Maltese authorities for several months in 2018. Kelp blames not only the Italian government but what she sees as a failure of the European Union "to remember its avowed values: human rights, the right to life, to apply for asylum, and the duty of seafarers to rescue those in danger at sea."
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