Influential People of the 21st Century
No matter how hard times get, we find stories of survival. These stories provide us with warmth and give us the strength to keep standing.
Chris Gardner (United States)
You may recognize the name from the 2006 motion picture, The Pursuit of Happyness, starring Will Smith. But Chris Gardner is the real life guy. In real life, Gardner struggled to make ends meet (barely making enough to keep a roof over his family’s heads). He had high ambitions (ranging from becoming a doctor to becoming a medical salesman). He learned many life lessons (as we all must). His own mother and father were not regular features in his everyday life as evidenced by his time spent in foster homes. But he persevered. Gardner gained a position as a trainee at an investment firm named Dean Witter. However, his paycheck was barely enough to make anything happen. He moved his young son from homeless shelter to church center and back again – and none of his co-workers had a clue. But in the end, he made it. And he made it big. Gardner sold his own brokerage firm in 2006 for a couple million dollars.
K’Naan (Somalia/United States/Canada)
This “dusty foot philosopher” was born in war-torn Somalia in 1978. When K’Naan was 13, his family escaped the war and moved to New York. K’Naan is a poet and a revolutionary. His raps are reflective and real. Although he raps about the fighting and corruption in his homeland, he brings light to important world issues with such wisdom and unity of mind. He has the ability to appeal to young people, which makes it a shame that the media doesn’t let him shine more.
Nelson Mandela (South Africa)
He was born Rolihlahla Mandela to a Thembu chief in South Africa. He joined the African National Congress and began practicing law. Mandela became progressively involved in the fight to end Apartheid (racial segregation in South Africa). Eventually, his voice became too strong. So the government had to stop it. They say that when rights are being taken, it is the opposing side, the journalists and the teachers who are imprisoned first. Mandela was put in jail for 27 years for the crime of treason. But they couldn’t stop him. When he was released, he regained his momentum and became South Africa’s first black president in 1994.
Reem Al Numery (Yemen)
Profiled by Time magazine in 2010, Reem Al Numery made it on the list of the world’s 100 most influential people. At just 12 years old, she revolted against her family in Yemen by refusing to marry her 30 year-old cousin. Although she was eventually forced to consummate their marriage, she never remained silent. She fought with her words and she fought with her heart. Eventually, Reem was allowed to divorce her husband. She remains a children’s rights activist and is pursuing her education. She has the courage of a 12 year-old girl, which is fierce enough to teach all adults that we can all do what Ghandi said – we can “be the change that we wish to see in the world.”