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Tuesday, May 1, 2007

My 10 Living Heroes

Ryan Hreljac (born 1991) is a Canadian boy who, at the age of six, began raising money for the world's most needy, and has since raised over $1.5 million for water projects in Africa.

In January of 1998, at the age of 6, Ryan's grade one teacher led a lesson in which she talked about the plight of people in Africa who were without water and had to walk for kilometers every day just to fetch drinkable water. Ryan then decided to raise the money to drill a well, the value of about $70, and did extra chores to earn the money. Since then Ryan has set up the Ryan's Well foundation, and received the Order of Ontario for his work in 2003.

Jimmy Carter, Jr. (born October 1, 1924) was the 39th President of the United States from 1977 to 1981, and the Nobel Peace laureate of 2002. Prior to becoming president, Carter served two terms in the Georgia Senate, and was the 76th Governor of Georgia from 1971 to 1975.

Carter's presidency saw the creation of two cabinet-level departments: the Department of Energy and the Department of Education. He established a national energy policy, removed price controls from domestic petroleum production, and advocated for less American reliance on foreign oil sources. He bolstered the Social Security system by introducing a staggered increase in the payroll tax. In foreign affairs, Carter pursued the Camp David Accords, the Panama Canal Treaties, and the second round of the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks. He explicitly identified the support of basic human rights as a critical component of American foreign policy. The final year of his term was dominated by the Iran hostage crisis, during which the United States struggled to rescue diplomats and American citizens held hostage in Tehran. Carter lost the 1980 presidential election to Republican Ronald Reagan.

After leaving office, Carter founded the Carter Center to promote global health, democracy and human rights. He has traveled extensively to monitor international elections, conduct peace negotiations and establish relief efforts. In 1982, President Jimmy Carter and former First Lady Rosalynn Carter founded The Carter Center, in partnership with Emory University, which is committed to advancing human rights and alleviating unnecessary human suffering.

Warren Edward Buffett (b. August 30, 1930, Omaha, Nebraska) is an American investor, businessman and philanthropist.

Buffett has amassed an enormous fortune from astute investments, particularly through the company Berkshire Hathaway, of which he is the largest shareholder and CEO. With an estimated current net worth of around US$52 billion, he was ranked by Forbes as the third-richest person in the world as of April 2007, behind Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and telecom magnate Carlos Slim.

In June 2006, he made a commitment to give away his fortune to charity, with 83% of it going to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The donation amounts to approximately $30 billion. Buffett's donation is said to be the largest in U.S. history. At the time of the announcement the donation was enough to more than double the size of the foundation.

Despite his immense wealth, Buffett is famous for his unpretentious and frugal lifestyle. When he spent $9.7 million of Berkshire's funds on a corporate jet in 1989, he jokingly named it "The Indefensible" because of his past criticisms of such purchases by other CEOs. He continues to live in the same house in the central Dundee neighborhood of Omaha, Nebraska that he bought in 1958 for $31,500 (although he also owned a more expensive home in Laguna Beach, California which he sold in 2004).

His 2006 annual salary of about $100,000 is tiny by the standards of senior executive remuneration in other comparable companies. In an interview on CNBC, he mentioned that his annual salary is equal to the price of the Berkshire Hathaway Class A share price. CEOs in S&P 500 constituent companies averaged about $9 million compensation in 2003.

Tom Brown, Jr.
was born on January 29, 1950 in Toms River, New Jersey, USA. He graduated from Toms River High School in 1968, but from the age of seven he was schooled in the arts of tracking, wilderness survival and awareness by an Apache elder and scout named Grandfather, or Stalking Wolf. Stalking Wolf died when Brown was 17. For the next ten years, Brown lived almost exclusively in the wilderness of the United States using few manufactured tools to survive.

When Tom Brown left the wilderness he had come to know so well, he set out to find people who were interested in the finely-honed skills he had developed through so much direct experience with the elements and nature. He met with little success, but eventually he was called on to locate a missing person, and since then he has been widely known as "the Tracker".

Building upon this reputation, Brown developed his profession as a full-time tracker by locating lost persons, dangerous animals and fugitives from the law. Brown's first book (The Tracker, published in 1978) chronicles these experiences. Reader's Digest ran a condensed version of the story and printed information about Brown's new Tracker School.

Today Tom Brown's Tracking, Nature and Wilderness Survival School is the largest school of its kind. The school teaches people from all over the world and from all walks of life who share an interest in learning the simplicity of an utterly natural way of living.

Miep Gies (born February 15, 1909, Vienna, Austria) is one of the Dutch citizens who hid Anne Frank and her family from the Nazis during World War II. She discovered and preserved Anne's diary after Anne Frank's arrest and deportation.

Born Hermine Santrouschitz, she was evacuated to Leiden in the Netherlands from Vienna in December 1920 to escape the food shortages caused by the end of World War I, and moved with her foster family to Amsterdam in 1922. There she met Otto Frank when she applied for the post of temporary secretary in his spice company, Opekta, in 1933. She initially ran the Complaints and Information desk in Opekta, and was eventually promoted to a more general administrative role. She became a close friend of his family as did Jan Gies, whom she married on July 16, 1941 after she refused to join a Nazi women's association and was threatened with deportation back to Austria. Her knowledge of Dutch and German helped assimilate the Frank family into life in the Netherlands and Miep and Jan became regular guests at the Franks' home.

With her husband, and her colleagues Victor Kugler, Johannes Kleiman and Bep Voskuijl, Miep Gies helped hide Edith and Otto Frank, their daughters Margot and Anne, Hermann and Auguste van Pels, their son Peter and Fritz Pfeffer in the sealed-off back rooms of the company's office building on Amsterdam's Prinsengracht from July 1942 until August 4, 1944. In theory, Miep and the other helpers could have been shot if caught hiding Jews, as that was a constant and very real threat. In practice, however, those caught hiding Jews were more commonly sentenced to 4-6 months of hard labor. On the morning of August 4th, 1944, an anonymous informant tipped off the Gestapo, and all those in hiding, as well as Victor Kugler and Johannes Kleiman, were arrested. Three separate criminal investigations, that took place after the war, all failed to pinpoint exactly who the informant was.

After the raid on the hiding place (she was not held by the Gestapo), Miep found the discarded diaries of Anne Frank and saved them for Anne's return, storing them in a desk drawer. Once the war was over and it was confirmed that Anne had perished in Bergen-Belsen, in Germany, Gies handed the collection of papers and notebooks that made up the diary to the sole survivor from the Secret Annexe, Anne's father, Otto Frank, who arranged for the book's publication in 1947. Miep did not read the diaries herself before turning them over to Otto Frank, and later remarked that if she had, she would have had to destroy them because of the amount of incriminating information in them. She was, however, persuaded by Otto Frank to read Anne's diary after the second printing of the book.

Once the book was published and widely translated, Miep and Jan became almost celebrity figures in the Netherlands and their courage was recognized with awards from several international organizations, including the Raoul Wallenberg Award for Bravery and the Righteous Among the Nations award. In 1994 Miep received the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany, in 1995 the Yad Vashem medal, and in 1997 she was knighted by Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands.

Miep Gies currently lives in the Dutch province of Noord-Holland.

Edward Norton Lorenz (born 1917) is an American mathematician and meteorologist, and an early pioneer of the chaos theory. He invented the strange attractor notion and coined the term butterfly effect.

Lorenz built a mathematical model of the way air moves around in the atmosphere.

As Lorenz studied weather patterns he began to realize that the weather did not always change as predicted. Minute variations in the initial values of variables in his three variable computer weather model (c. 1960) would result in grossly divergent weather patterns. This sensitive dependence on initial conditions came to be known as the butterfly effect.

Lorenz went on to explore the underlying mathematics and published his conclusions in a seminal work titled Deterministic Nonperiodic Flow, in which he described a relatively simple system of equations that resulted in a pattern of infinite complexity, the Lorenz attractor.
Lorenz still comes to his office on the 16th floor of the Green Building most days each week.

Aubyn Burnside at 11-year-old heard about how many children in foster care programs are forced to carry their belongings in garbage bags because they cannot afford suitcases, she was shocked and saddened. "I thought they must feel like garbage themselves," she said. So, Aubyn founded Suitcases for Kids, dedicating herself to ensuring that every child in foster care would have a bag of his or her own.

In the beginning, Aubyn spent her time making posters and local speeches in her community of Hickory, North Carolina. "In January of 1995, I expected to start seeing some donations of suitcases. I figured people would be getting new luggage as Christmas gifts, and in turn would get rid of their old luggage."

But for three weeks, she received nothing. Determined not to give up, Aubyn and her mother visited the Salvation Army, and purchased 31 suitcases for $15. This helped launch her organization and eventually donor suitcases started arriving in mass quantities.

Six years later, Aubyn has collected over 25,000 suitcases, and her charity has chapters in every state and in over ten foreign countries. She has been recognized in the National Geographic Hall of Fame, inducted into the National Caring Institute in Washington, D.C., and received an award from Prudential for spirit in her community.

Dr. David C. Korten is an author and leader in the global resistance against corporate globalization. He is probably best known as the founder of the People-Centered Development Forum and author of the book When Corporations Rule the World. Korten received an M.B.A. and Ph. D. from the Stanford University Graduate School of Business. He served in the Vietnam War as a captain in the United States Air Force. After the war, Dr. Korten spent some time as a visiting professor at the Harvard University Graduate School of Business and later spent many years working with the U.S. Agency for International Development in Asia. Having become disillusioned with the current US efforts to combat poverty, inequality, and other problems in developing nations, he joined with others in 1990 to found the People-Centered Development Forum where he serves as president. Dr. Korten is also co-founder and board chair of Positive Futures Network, publishers of YES! A Journal of Positive Futures, a quarterly magazine, a board member of the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies, and an associate of the International Forum on Globalization.

Korten also used two models to describe man's relationship with Earth — the "Cowboy" and "Spaceship" models. According to the cowboy model, most people view the Earth having plenty of resources to support the human race and believe that these resources are constantly being renewed. In reality, says Korten, the earth is more like a space capsule in that resources are much more limited and steps must be taken to renew them actively.

He is a signatory to the 9/11 Truth Statement.

Rudy Giuliani (born May 28, 1944) is an American lawyer, prosecutor, businessman, and Republican politician from the state of New York.

Giulani became a popular figure as a United States Attorney prosecuting medium/high-profile cases, including cases against organized crime and the tax evader Marc Rich. He served two terms as Mayor of New York City (1994–2001), during which time he was credited by many with initiating improvements in the city's quality of life and with a massive reduction in crime that would by 2005 make New York City the country's safest major city." Others, however, criticized him as divisive and authoritarian and disputed his role in reducing crime. He gained notoriety for his use of the "perp walk" as a prosecutorial tool. He then gained national attention for his appearances in the media during and after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center that led him to be named Time's 2001 Person of the Year and be knighted by Queen Elizabeth II. His high media profile in the days following the attacks earned him the nickname "America's Mayor."

Since leaving office as mayor, Giuliani has found considerable success in the private sector. He founded Giuliani Partners, a security consulting business, acquired Giuliani Capital Advisors (later sold), an investment banking firm, and joined the Bracewell & Giuliani law firm, which changed its name when he became a named partner. In February 2007 Giuliani filed a statement of candidacy for the Republican nomination for the 2008 presidential campaign. Most polls in early 2007 showed him as the leading candidate for the nomination.

Alice Waters (born 28 April 1944 in Chatham, New Jersey), one of the best-known and most influential American chefs since the 1970s, is credited with single-handedly creating a culinary revolution in America. She is the founder and co-owner of Chez Panisse, the original "California Cuisine" restaurant in Berkeley, California, as well as the informal Cafe Fanny in West Berkeley. A champion of locally-grown and fresh ingredients, she has been credited with creating and developing California cuisine and has written or co-written several books on the subject, including the influential Chez Panisse Cooking (written with then-chef Paul Bertolli). She has also promoted organic and small farm products heavily in her restaurants, in her books, and in her Edible Schoolyard program in the public schools. Her ideas for "edible education" have been introduced into the entire Berkeley school system, and with the current crisis in childhood obesity, have attracted the attention of the national media.

Waters advocates eating locally produced foods that are in season, because she believes that the international shipment of mass-produced food is both harmful to the environment and produces an inferior product for the consumer.