Inspirational World Leaders
"As a rock star, I have two instincts, I want to have fun, and I want to change the world. I have a chance to do both."
- Bono, lead singer of U2
What makes a person inspirational?
To inspire - to influence, move, or guide
There are many leaders in our world who have inspired generations of people to take action for various causes. From religious figures such as Mahatma Gandhi and Mother Teresa; to political leaders such as Hillary Clinton, Nelson Mandela, and Princess Diana; and celebrities such as Angelina Jolie, Oprah Winfrey, and Bono. People from diverse backgrounds have proven that it is possible to use one's unique skills and talents in order to change the world.
These people have initiated movements to help better the lives of many and have dedicated a big part of their own lives to support causes they feel passionate about.
In this newsletter, find out how some inspirational leaders have taken it upon themselves to work towards global causes... and discover what can YOU take away from their actions!
Queen Rania Al-Abdullah of Jordan
"It's an honor and a privilege to have that chance to make a difference -- a qualitative difference in people's lives - and it's my responsibility to make the most out of that opportunity."
Queen Rania Al Abdullah was not born into nobility. In 1970, she was born in Kuwait to Palestinian refugee parents. Rania attended primary school in Kuwait and earned a degree in business from the American University in Cairo. It wasn't until she graduated from university that Rania went to Jordan, where she initially pursued a career in banking. She met the Jordanian king in 1993 at a dinner party and they were married a few months later. Her position as Queen of Jordan has empowered her to become a global advocate for education, social development, and economic opportunities for all.
In the past few years she has:
- led a discussion forum focusing on youth employment in the Arab world. During this session, she advised leaders from the business community to develop sustainable solutions in order to “bridg[e] the gap between school and work."
- promoted cross-cultural dialogue. been a part of UNICEF's Global Leadership Initiative.
- focused her work in Jordan on increasing the caliber and quality of education for all Jordanian children.
- advocated for global education while abroad and has asked for world leaders to fulfill their commitments towards the second Millennium Development Goals and Universal Primary Education.
What you can take away from her actions!
- One of the most important things you can do to promote a cause is ADVOCATE. Just as Queen Rania travels the world petitioning country leaders for change, ask your representatives to support legislation regarding climate change, child exploitation, poverty, or any other issue you feel strongly about! Writing letters to your congressmen and women can pave the way for more global action.
- Educate yourself as well as others! Learning is key in everything that you do and can really help open new doors for you and your peers. Globally, roughly one billion people are illiterate (two-thirds of which are women and girls), so if you can read and write, celebrate your knowledge and independent thoughts!
Nicholas D. Kristof
"A little bit of attention can go a long way."
Mini Bio: Nicholas Kristof grew up on a sheep and cherry farm in Oregon. He graduated from Harvard University and later studied law at Oxford University, Arabic in Cairo, and Chinese in Taipei. During college, Kristof began backpacking around Africa and Asia, writing articles to cover his expenses. Today, he is an award winning journalist for the New York Times and co-author of the powerful book Half the Sky. His book and his columns are focused on global health, poverty, and gender issues in the developing world.
In his lifetime, he has:
- spent many years traveling around the world and covering development issues, such as health, education, sex trafficking and civil war.
- lived on four continents, reported on six, and traveled to more than 140 countries, plus all 50 states, every Chinese province and every main Japanese island.
- had experiences with malaria, mobs, and an African airplane crash.
- since 2004 he has written dozens of columns about Darfur and visited the area ten times.
What you can take away from his story!
- If you like writing, write! If you like photography, take photos! Follow your passion and it can lead to greater things! Nicholas Kristof kicked off his journalism career simply by backpacking and writing about his experiences, and you could do the same.
- Especially in today's web-centered society it is so easy to start a blog, create a web album, and reach out beyond the borders of your own community.
- Travel! Study abroad! If you have the chance to see new places and meet new people, do it. Seeing the world is the best way to understand global issues and to experience how everyday life is all around the globe!
“Remember, if you ever need a helping hand, it's at the end of your arm, as you get older, remember you have another hand: The first is to help yourself, the second is to help others.”
Audrey Hepburn, best known for her roles in movies such as My Fair Lady, Breakfast at Tiffany's and Roman Holiday, was also an active humanitarian. Audrey was born in Belgium, but lived in England and Holland throughout World War II. Although she found herself in films, Audrey never forgot what her life was like as a child during the Second World War, and made a constant effort to promote goodwill. Shortly after a highly publicized 1992 "mission of mercy" to famine and war-torn Somalia, she died of colon cancer at the early age of 63.
During her life, Audrey:
- devoted her energy to working with UNICEF.
- went on over 50 field missions that were often risky as well as physically and emotionally demanding. Through these trips, Audrey learned first hand about the plight of poor and displaced children in countries all over the world.
- was determined to raise awareness and monetary funds, so she applied her first-hand knowledge to inform Special Assemblies at the U.N., shared details with various Press Associations, and lobbied on behalf of children to World Parliaments.
- In 1994, the Audrey Hepburn Children's Fund, a non-profit organization, was created in New York to continue Audrey’s international appeals on behalf of ill-treated and suffering children around the world.
- To date, the Audrey Hepburn Memorial Fund at UNICEF has raised over one million dollars for educational programs in Eritrea, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Sudan and Somalia.
What you can take away from her actions!
- Volunteer! One of the best ways to really understand an issue is to immerse yourself in it.
- Devote yourself to a cause. Leaders like Audrey use their dedication and passion to work towards issues such as global poverty or public health.
- Try new things and push yourself!
The Founders of Invisible Children
"It's frightening that this war has now grown into an international crisis. We need to respond with an international body of activists to increase the visibility of this conflict and end Joseph Kony's reign of terror.” -- Jason Russell, co-founder of Invisible Children
In 2003, Jason Russell, Laren Poole, and Bobby Bailey -- the co-founders and filmmakers behind Invisible Children embarked on a trip that started an international phenomenon. These three young filmmakers from Southern California traveled to Uganda, and what began as a simple film-making adventure developed into something much greater when they discovered a tragedy that disgusted and inspired them...a conflict where children were used as both weapons and victims of war. After returning to the U.S., they created the documentary "Invisible Children: Rough Cut," a film that exposed the tragic realities of northern Uganda's night commuters and child soldiers.
What they have accomplished:
- Their film was originally only shown to friends and family, but has now been seen by millions of people.
- The overwhelming response to their documentary has been, "How can I help?" And to answer this question, the non-profit Invisible Children, Inc. was created, giving compassionate individuals an effective way to respond to the situation.
- The "Rough Cut" documentary has now been updated, and their projects in the U.S. and Uganda have expanded.
- They have made so many people aware of the issue of child soldiers, and this awareness and advocacy led to the passing of the 2009 LRA (Lord's Resistance Army) Bill in the United States.
What you can take away from their story!
- Their story goes to show just how three young students can actually bring about a real, concrete change and inspire so many to take action against an issue.
- Even if you just have a few cameras and some friends, document issues in your own community! You don't have to travel far to make a difference.
What you can do!
Learn More!: There are many other inspirational figures in this world besides the ones described. Do a Google search to find out how other influential leaders got their start!
Inspire Others!: While you may not (yet) have the authority of a Queen, front a popular rock band, or have the backing of a nationally acclaimed newspaper, the underlying theme of many of these success stories is commitment to and passion for an issue. You all have strong voices and great enthusiasm that can be used to support and empower others. Do what you love (whether it be film making, acting, music, art, writing, sports, or politics) and your drive will lead you to do wonderful things.
Donate!: To one of Plan's initiatives so that children all around the world can have the opportunity to become great leaders, too.
Volunteer!: Volunteer in your community or around the world! To really understand the issues in our world, one of the best ways is to get firsthand experience.
Join!: Learn more about YUGA and how to create your own YUGA group! YUGA is a great way to meet new people and talk with others about issues affecting the world today. You and your friends are the future, and by being aware of world matters, you will help to make a better future.