Wednesday, June 27, 2012

10 FAVORITES (60): Children of the World

Today's post is very special.  Not only is this the 60th 10 FAVORITES, but it falls on the 2nd Anniversary of this whole blog.  It feels like only yesterday that I began this endeavor with my 100 Favorite Movies of All-Time.  So to honor this special day, I wanted the subject of today's list to be something really special.  And when I think special, I feel it needs to be inspirational, poignant and (if its not asking too much!) moving.  That's when I came up with the idea to talk about some of the most moving stories in our culture: The Children that have made history and inspired millions.  Now, what do I mean when I say "The Children."  The criteria I used in compiling this list was very simple, but also very difficult to find.  I wanted the stories of Children (people under the age of 18) who changed the world and the culture.  I wanted stories of true courage and love from those so innocent and young in the face of overwhelming hardship.  With that said, I want to get on with the inspirational stories.  This week's 10 FAVORITES are:


The Last Emperor
When most people of this generation think of child Kings, they remember the scene in Bernardo Bertolucci's Oscar-winning epic The Last Emperor in which the title character (a little boy) runs through banners to the balcony of his palace.  Bertolucci's classic was based on the true life story of Puyi, who became Emperor of China at the age of 2.  He was forced to abdicate almost a decade later due to uprisings and rebellions within the country that eventually led to the Communist system that still currently runs China.

The Labor Advocate
At the age of 4, this young Pakistani boy was forced into slave labor in a carpet factory.  He eventually escaped and became the poster child and advocate against forced child labor.  Sadly in 1995, at the age of 12, Iqbal was murdered in a senseless act that some believe was orchestrated by pro-slave labor businessmen in Pakistan.

The Young Educator
Yet another young boy who became a poster child for activism; Ryan White, a teenager from a small town in Indiana, became the first notable AIDS victim.  The extraordinary thing about his story at the time (the 1980s) was that Ryan did not fit the stereotypical profile of someone with AIDS.  He spent the rest of his short lifetime educating the public about HIV and AIDS in a time when people needed educating.

The Little Ambassador
We've all heard the story about the little girl so frightened by the tensions of the Cold War that she wrote a letter to the head of the Soviet Union.  Some people think its a joke, but Samantha Smith made history in 1982 when she (at the age of 10) contacted Yuri Andropov and received a reply which included an invitation to Soviet Union.  She became America's "Goodwill Ambassador" and participated in peacemaking activities and meetings.  Tragically, she was killed in 1985 in a plane crash in New England.

The Angel
Mattie is known to most of the world as Oprah's special Angel.  He was a best-selling author, poet and philosopher who made friends with the likes of former President Jimmy Carter, Nelson Mandela and Ms. Winfrey herself.  He had been interviewed by everyone from Larry King to Barbara Walters.  He suffered from a rare from of Muscular Dystrophy that led to his death at the age of 14 in 2004.

The Little Equalizer
"Care for us and accept us — we are all human beings. We are normal. We have hands. We have feet. We can walk, we can talk, we have needs just like everyone else — don't be afraid of us — we are all the same!" - Nkosi Johnson, at the 13th International AIDS Conference
Nkosi was born with HIV/AIDS and he became an activist for the fair treatment of those with the disease when he was refused entry into a school outside Johannesburg.  He, with the help of his foster mother, founded Nkosi's Haven, a foundation that cared for HIV positive mothers and their children.  Nelson Mandela praised the child as "an icon of the struggle for life."

America's Original Peacekeeper
Despite what Disney would have you believe, Pocahontas was only about 12 when she saved the life of English settler John Smith.  Her actions led to a period in which she attempted to keep the peace between her Native tribe and the Virginia settlers.  She would later make her way to England and appear before King James I as a representative of the Natives encountered in America.  She married John Rolfe and had a son only to die before she was 30 in England where she is buried to this day.

The Brave Students
After the historic Supreme Court decision of Brown vs. the Board of Education where segregation in schools was deemed unconstitutional, Nine African-American students in Little Rock were brave enough to test that decision.  On September 4, 1957, protected by the National Guard, these Nine students made their way into Little Rock's Central High despite threats from many segregationist councils.  Ernest Green, Elizabeth Eckford, Terrence Roberts, Carlotta Walls LaNier, Minnijean Brown, Gloria Ray Karlmark, Thelma Mothershed, Melba Pattillo Beals and the late Jefferson Thomas should forever be commended and remembered for their staunch courage in the face of hatred.

The Young Militant
The French peasant girl who became a heroine during the Hundred Years' War has a story more famous than most other soldiers.  A devout Roman Catholic (like most French peasants), she believed that divine guidance led her join the French in fighting the English.  After a huge victory at Orleans, the teenager was later captured and sold to English where she was put on trial and martyred (burned at the stake) for her (supposed) "heresy."

Just a Girl and Her Diary
No child's story is more dramatic or more moving than that of Anne Frank.  This is the Holocaust story that has gone on into legend.  No one has not heard the name Anne Frank.  And no Diary has become more famous.  What moves most people about this young girl's life is that in a time where her world knew true evil (the Nazis), Anne still believed in the goodness in people.  Her quote will forever live in the hearts of those who were moved by her life: "In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart."

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