My Most Influential

I’m obsessed with Time Magazine’s annual list of the Most Influential People. It’s interesting to me to see who is considered influential enough to make the list. A lot of the choices are obvious-global statesmen, popular entertainers, and of course, Oprah Winfrey has made the list every year since it’s been published.

But what is it that makes people influential to the everyday person? Aside from close family and friends, what is it that makes a person look at someone else and say “He/She has mattered in my life.”

Apparently Time Magazine also hosts a gala for the 100 Most Influential. If given the chance, these are the people I would want to invite to a gala and honor as my most influential.

Education Reformers: Wendy Kopp, Steve Perry, Arne Duncan and Geoffrey Canada

First and foremost are the Education Reformers. I firmly believe that an education is the best gift that you can give anyone and that when given an education, children can break their way through any obstacle.
Wendy Kopp, founder and CEO of Teach for American dedicates her life to closing the achievement gap. Steve Perry challenges students from low income neighborhoods to push themselves towards excellence at Capital Prep where 100% of students not only graduate but also go on to 4-year colleges and universities. Arne Duncan has urged American school districts to be creative in combating low graduation rates and underperforming schools. Geoffrey Canada has revolutionized education in Harlem through the Harlem Children’s Zone by recognizing that it’s not just the teachers in the classroom who are responsible for the development of our youth. Without people such as Wendy Kopp, Steve Perry, Arne Duncan and Geoffrey Canada, American education could easily go down the drain, but with their effort and the efforts of those who are motivated by them, American children are ready to soar.

Leaders: Her Majesty Queen Rania of Jordan, Representative John Lewis, Nelson Mandela

I once read that after the deaths of John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy in the 60s, that “The willingness to follow and believe the (leaders) who stand before us has never been regained. We will never be able to love our leaders like that again…” I don’t think anyone can ever compare to MLK Jr. or the Kennedys, but we’ve reached an era where we can find some leaders who are worthy of being followed and loved. Queen Rania’s efforts to educate children, especially young girls is particularly fitting for a woman of her status. And I love how she describes herself as “a mum and a wife with a really cool day job.” You can’t get any realer than that. In considering great leaders, you cannot overlook John Lewis. During his inauguration, President Barack Obama passed a note to John Lewis that said “Because of you, John.” John Lewis was prepared for the persecution that he met in hundreds of sit-ins, and had it not been for his leadership back then in the civil rights movement and his leadership in Congress now, we wouldn’t enjoy so many of the rights we have today. Like John Lewis, Nelson Mandela has been a beacon of light for those who have been seen as “lesser humans.” When John Lewis stood up at his trial and said, “I have fought against black domination. I have fought against white domination. It is a cause for which, if need be, I am prepared to die.” It makes me wonder…what causes would our generation be willing to die for?

Thinkers: Melinda Gates, Michelle Obama, Jeffrey Sachs, Christiane Amanpour

In a world of mediocrity, it’s refreshing to have people who are willing to think outside of the box. I can’t even put myself in Melinda French Gates’s shoes. She was brilliant on her own and then she went on to marry one of the most successful businessmen ever. Along with her husband, she developed the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which changed the lives of millions of people worldwide. She is a visionary. Michelle Obama is in the Amazing Wives Club along with Melinda Gates, but she’s also in a class all her own. She’s married to the busiest man in the world yet she still insists on being “Mom-in-Chief” first while also being a supportive wife and a role model for millions of working women. I can’t say enough about Jeffrey Sachs. I’ve read some of his articles and can only describe him as one of the smartest men in the world. I seriously think that all world leaders need to have a summit where Jeffrey Sachs tells them how to handle their economies. In a world of spin and talking heads, Christiane Amanpour is one of the last true journalists who is willing to get into the middle of turmoil in order to get the story straight from the people who are telling them. Her global appeal makes the other side of the world seem a little bit closer and amplifies the voices of the people who may not have their stories told had it not been for her courage.

Entertainers: Julia Roberts, Coldplay, Jay Sean, Alicia Keys, Taylor Swift

I love being entertained, but I also admit that many of the actors, actresses and musicians out there are lacking in true talent. Fortunately, there are women like Julia Roberts who have remained true to her art. I’ll never forget her rant in Mona Lisa Smile about “the roles that (women) were born to fill” as she flipped through slides of the “modern American woman.” A lot of music today really sucks. (Why would I care about chicken noodle soup with a soda on the side?) But I love Coldplay. Who else can dream up lyrics like “Still my heart and hold my tongue” or “For some reason I can’t explain, I know St. Peter won’t call my name.” Ultimately, the band has made people actually listen to the words in a song and not just bop their heads to the beat. And Jay Sean…he’s so cute. But the point is that he’s not just a talented artist. He’s also a trailblazer, and he’s showing the world that music really knows no boundaries for people who are truly passionate about it. Alicia Keys brings back the soul of a woman in tunes like Superwoman. But through her music, she also has good times with girlfriends who are there to comfort her through heartache. What mother wouldn’t mind adding Taylor Swift to her daughter’s ipod? Aside from being musically talented, Taylor Swift has what so many other young artists don’t have: classic, wholesome values. I remember she once said “I don’t rebel. If I want to rebel, I do it through my music.” And who can argue with expressing oneself through music? As a person who believes that entertainment should have some kind of true artistic value to it, I sure can’t.

My future husband

So I guess it’s kinda impossible to invite someone that I don’t know to a gala, but if we’re talking about people who influence me, my future husband is one of them. True, I haven’t met him yet, and I’m not even 100% sure that he even exists, but sometimes I find myself thinking about him and the life we would eventually share together. And if this gala actually did happen one day, I can’t imagine wanting anyone else by my side.

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