Real American role models
Brains Over Brawn
Hillary Clinton grew up in Chicago, Illinois, and went to Wellesley College and Yale Law School. Before getting involved in politics, she worked as an attorney, an assistant professor at the University of Arkansas School of Law, and a mom. While her husband, former President Bill Clinton, was the governor of Arkansas, she began her lifelong work as an advocate of health care and also focused on children and family issues. Then when she became the First Lady, she got health care for millions of kids through the Children’s Health Insurance Program, and she helped to fix America’s adoption and foster care systems. In 2000, Clinton became the only First Lady to be a U.S. senator, and she now acts as the Secretary of State.
Lesson Learned: Don’t be afraid to show your smarts, even if it means intimidating a few guys.
The Muse of Civil Rights
Born an African American woman in Missouri in 1928, Maya Angelou suffered a lot of discrimination, which inspired her to work for change and to become a civil rights activist. She became a single mother shortly after finishing high school, but by the time she was 26, she was out pursuing her passion for the arts by performing in the opera Porgy and Bess in Europe. Angelou lived in Ghana for a time, teaching at the University of Ghana’s School of Music and Drama, and upon returning to the states, wrote books and poems that made her famous all over the world. She was the first African American woman to write a successful movie script, and she has remained active in politics, having served on two presidential committees in recent years.
Lesson Learned: Find your own way to speak out about what inspires you, whether it’s through music, art or writing.
Kristi Yamaguchi stepped into the spotlight when she won the World Figure Skating Championships two years in a row and took home a gold medal from the 1992 Winter Olympics. She then became a professional skater for many years. At the same time, she decided to give back to the people around her by starting the Always Dream Foundation, which supports children’s activities that range from after-school mentoring programs to holiday celebrations at children’s shelters. Yamaguchi is now a member of four different halls of fame and was a winner on Dancing with the Stars in 2006.
Lesson Learned: No matter how good or bad things are going, look outside your own life and see how you can make a difference for others.
No Biz Like Showbiz
You’ve probably seen Oprah Winfrey on TV, either on her talk show or acting in movies. Now, she is a billionaire who owns more homes than you can count on one hand, but she wasn’t always that way. Her childhood was pretty rough, as she had to deal with molestation and was passed from one single parent to the other. She got her big break, though, when she was just 17 and landed a spot on the radio station WVOL. Then she quickly moved through the broadcasting industry until she became the first woman to produce and own her own talk show, which she used to promote good, healthy values. In 1993, Oprah championed the creation of a database of convicted child abusers in order to save others from the trauma she once endured, and today, she is one of the main philanthropists in the world.
Lesson Learned: Fight for your values, and don’t let circumstances or peer pressure make you give them up.
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