There are many people who inspire me from various walks of life. Some are famous people who have changed the world for the better. Others reflect a more personal choice. If you would like to suggest people who have inspired you, please leave a comment.
I feel that it was the vision and determination of Mikhail Gorbachev which brought a peaceful end to the Cold War and a relatively peaceful end to the totalitarian Communist states in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.
It is one thing to believe in democracy, personal liberty and freedom of choice when you already live in a democracy. It is another to give up power, admit mistakes and bring about the necessary changes against powerful forces of opposition. When Gorbachev was elected Party Chairman in the early 1980s, there was nothing to suggest he would be any different to the previous leaders of the Soviet Union. Few, if any could have predicted within ten years, the collapse of Communism, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War. But, it was through Gorbachev’s Perestroika and Glasnost that this was momentous change was enabled.
True, other leaders played their part, but, it was Gorbachev who had to tackle the might of the Communist state and Soviet Armed Forces in changing the Soviet outlook.
There is an oft-repeated statement that a prophet is not honoured in his country. Nowhere is this more true than in the Soviet Union. But, without Gorbachev, the Soviet Union would probably still be an authoritarian State with prisoners of conscience languishing in gulags.
Mikhail Gorbachev was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991
Nelson Mandela became the epitome of the fight against the unjust and tyrannical apartheid system of South Africa. For the cause of creating an equal and fairer society, Nelson Mandela paid with an interminably long jail sentence. Yet, despite the injustice of going to jail for trying to overthrow apartheid, Nelson Mandela did not become embittered and revengeful. He left the way open to negotiations and with considerable skill helped bring about the end of apartheid and the first democratic elections base on universal suffrage.
Nelson Mandela has many good qualities, but, undoubtedly, his quality of forgiveness rates very highly. After oppressing the majority population for so many decades, the white population were fearful the black majority would take revenge. But, Mandela, sought to maintain a dignified stance, forgiving those who had so unjustly incarcerated him. True, South Africa still has significant problems with crime and inequality. But, both blacks and whites are in agreement, the nobility of Nelson Mandela helped to considerably improve the situation.
A politician, but also a man of great character and interests ranging from architecture to literature and religion. Thomas Jefferson was a polymath with an abiding enthusiasm for life. But, it is primarily in the political world that he left his mark. The Declaration of Independence was the collaboration of various authors, but, it was Jefferson who played a key role in synthesising and presenting the Declaration of Independence to Congress. The soul-stirring words have echoed throughout the world ever since.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with inherent and inalienable Rights; that among these, are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness”
– Thomas Jefferson Declaration of Independence 1776
Jefferson made other very significant contributions to the development of human rights and individual liberty. He sought to abolish slavery, though his attempt narrowly failed. Jefferson was successful in legislation the world’s first law on guaranteeing freedom of worship and religious beliefs. Jefferson was also a great patron of education.
Martin Luther King
Martin Luther King powerfully expressed the frustrations of a discriminated people, yet, he turned this frustration and sense of injustice into a positive message of hope. Clinging powerfully to his Christian ideal of non-violence and forgiveness, Martin Luther King was able to inspire both black and white in creating a more just and equitable society. Despite the fiercest criticism, suspicion and hatred, Martin Luther King played an invaluable role in making racial equality more of a reality, though he paid for it with his life – assassinated in 1968.
Sri Chinmoy was a global man of peace who inspired many projects to make a practical contribution to a more peaceful world. In 1987, he created the Sri Chinmoy Oneness-Home Run which has involved many people in taking part in a global relay run promoting the ideals of peace and harmony. Sri Chinmoy met with many world figures and representatives from different religious tradition to promote a message of religious tolerance and religious acceptance has helped create a much more tolerant and accepting world.
A noted poet, Sri Chinmoy elucidated how an individual could bring about his own inner peace and through changing yourself could change the world.
Joan of Arc
The story of Joan of Arc cannot fail to inspire. It is a story of courage, faith and triumph of the weak over the unjust.
Joan of Arc was a poor, illiterate peasant girl. Yet, through divine inspiration, she moved Kings and inspired a nation. Her tenacity was remarkable, especially given the prevailing attitude to women at the time. For her extraordinary courage and vision she created powerful enemies, and for her ‘crimes’ she was burnt at the stake. But, not before giving a powerful testament at her rigged trial. Her prophecy that France would be free in seven years came true after her death.
The life story of Joan of Arc wonderfully illustrates the prophetic words from the Sermon on the Mount
“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.”
On the outside, Sri Aurobindo is an enigma, an Indian nationalist jailed by the British, who then later threw his whole weight behind the British war effort in their fight against Hitler and fascism. Aurobindo was a poet, philosopher, politician, nationalist, and Seer. He renounced his involvement in politics to pursue the inner life. India lost a great leader of the independence but the world gained one of the great, thinkers and spiritual teachers of his generation. Of all his multifarious works, Savitri is an unparalleled epic with a series of mantric utterances, elucidating the eternal struggle of aspiring human life.
Swami Vivekananda was a character of tremendous vitality, enthusiasm and spiritual dynamism. He blended the best qualities of east and West – the peace and spirituality of India with the dynamism of the West. Vivekananda tirelessly worked to awaken his fellow Indians to improve their quality of life. He passionately argued for the alleviation of the dreadful poverty afflicting India. He tirelessly campaigned for better education, especially for women and windows. At the same time, he travelled to the West urging materially prosperous westerners to give more attention to the inner life. In India, he saw a material poverty, in American he saw a poverty of spirit.
Vivekananda’s crowning glory came at the World Parliament of Religion, Chicago, 1893. It was Vivekananda who electrified the audience with his clarion call for religious tolerance and mutual respect. Never before had the idea of religious harmony been so powerfully, expressed. It was a visionary statement, which helped to bring about a much greater sense of religious tolerance throughout the next century.
Never has a human figure generated such intense scrutiny. But, stripping away ideological preconceptions, we are left with a wonderful person who inspired a new and elevated view of life. Jesus Christ was born in an era of injustice, hypocrisy and materialistic hedonism. But, where he saw hatred, he taught love; where he experienced betrayal, he taught forgiveness. When he saw injustice, he extolled people to fight for truth and justice. He moved men, not through outer power, but, through touching their spirits and bringing their own conscience to the fore. Through history, his message may have been intentionally or unintentionally misunderstood by some. But for truth seekers and God-lovers, his life and teaching remain an immortal boon.
The Buddha taught the world the message of inner peace. He taught a path to overcome the suffering and griefs of the world. As a young man, he had every material comfort and wealth a prince could experience. But, contemplating the meaning of life, he felt ‘All that the world can give is too little.’ He renounced material wealth to dive deep within; seeking the real meaning of life. After years, of effort, he succeeded in realising the true Self, beyond name and form. The experience of Nirvana he then offered to the world, travelling tirelessly across the Indian subcontinent.
Mother Teresa epitomised a life dedicated to the service to others. Where we might see an ugly beggar or leper, she saw a fellow human being. Her sympathetic and oneness heart touched the lives of many and inspired others to look more kindly on the unfortunate. Received Nobel peace prize in 1979.
Jesse Owens epitomised great dignity in living through a racist world. Jesse Owens was a very modest figure, but, his athletic achievements were anything but modest. His ultimate triumph came in the 1936 Olympics. His four gold medals were the best antidote to the ugly racist propaganda of the Nazi regime.
1954, Helsinki was Emil Zatopek’s Olympics. Never before, and probably never again, will an athlete win gold in the 5,000, 10,000 and marathon. Emil Zatopek was a supreme athlete, who trained with an intensity and focus, rarely matched. His athletic achievements were legendary, but, Zatopek was also a man of great integrity. In the Prague spring of 1964, Zatopek paid for his integrity by being sent to work in a mine, after publicly supporting the Czech democratic movement.
Citation: Pettinger, Tejvan. “People who inspire me”, Oxford, UK www.biographyonline.net, 11th Feb 2013. Last updated 1 March 2018.
Inspirational people – People who made a difference in a positive way and left the world a better place. Includes Eleanor Roosevelt, Mother Teresa and Emil Zatopek.
People who fought for human/civil rights – People who campaigned for equality, civil rights and civil justice. Includes Abraham Lincoln, Harriet Tubman, Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks.
People of the Enlightenment (1650s to 1780s) The Enlightenment is a period which saw the growth in intellectual reason, individualism and a challenge to existing religious and political structures.