Claude Bailey on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
"Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is the person who gives me the strength and inspiration to help create a better world. No one else in history has so eloquently articulated why this country has a moral obligation to live up to its professed ideal that all men and women are created equal. Through his words and actions, he changed the way Black people are treated. His work and that of so many unnamed others laid the foundation for the struggle for equality not just for Black people but also women, the LGBTQ community, and other oppressed groups. I always remember one of his lesser-known quotes: 'We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.'"
"Rosa Parks’ refusal to give up her seat — as an African American woman — on a bus in a segregated, Jim Crow city that had been marked by white supremacist violence is one of the 20th century’s most glorious examples of moral courage. Ms. Parks’ insistence on equality, fairness, dignity and respect — values at the core of our country’s founding documents — started the Montgomery Bus Boycott and helped to spur an emerging Civil Rights Movement that continues today. Although we still have much work left to do, Ms. Parks is a reminder that extraordinary people who change the world can and do present themselves in the most ordinary moments, like riding a city bus."
Roger Meertins on Rosa Parks
Rosa Parks is my source of inspiration, reminding me that small acts of courage against oppression can trigger significant change. In that pivotal moment when she chose not to give up her seat, her strength and resolve inspired a movement that changed the world.
Dom Conde on Eleanor Roosevelt
"Known as the 'First Lady of the World' for her human rights achievements, Eleanor Roosevelt was an inspirational figure throughout her life. From being the first presidential spouse to hold her own press conferences to becoming the first chair of the Presidential Commission on the Status of Women in the Kennedy administration, she was a tireless advocate for women and minorities."
"Ruth Bader Ginsburg is an inspiration to me because of her fight for gender rights. At a time when it seemed there was little hope for such rights, she was wise enough to carry on the battle in a methodical way, often using instances of discrimination against men to demonstrate her point."
Katherine Dearing on Elena Kagan
"As the fourth female justice ever on the Supreme Court bench, Justice Elena Kagan has paved the way for many more women to achieve positions of judicial prominence. Her intelligent and accessible opinions, such as when she incorporated Spiderman puns into her Kimble v. Marvel ruling, appeal to the geek in all of us."
"St. John Paul II’s commitment to promoting religious freedom, bringing down the Iron Curtain, and protecting the most vulnerable inspires me to think about how to help others, to walk in others’ shoes, and to work to bring about justice in the world."
Belinda Vega on Justice Sonia Sotomayor
Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor inspires me every day to work hard and persevere. The daughter of Puerto Rican parents, she made history as the first Latinx justice, and she has also weighed in on a number of game-changing cases, such as Obergefell v. Hodges. In that historic decision, Justice Sotomayor, alongside Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Anthony Kennedy, Stephen Breyer, and Elena Kagan, voted to make same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states. She is a beacon of hope for me, because she shows that we still have warriors fighting for justice, equality, and love.
The story of lawyer, diplomat, and banker Hong Yen Chang is incredible. Through a New York state law titled "An Act for the Relief of Hong Yen Chang," he became the first lawyer of Chinese descent in the United States. New York admitted him to its bar after waiving the citizenship requirement, which Chang could not meet because of the Chinese Exclusion Act. California, however, refused to grant Chang a license, though it eventually corrected that error about 90 years after his death.
Lisa Gerstley on Stormé DeLarverie
Stormé DeLarverie, the iconic, African American butch lesbian who ignited the 1969 Stonewall Rebellion in New York, helped ease the journey to acceptance for subsequent LGBTQ generations. A talented entertainer, and influential (but very humble) civil rights activist, DeLarverie waited until 2008 to publicly confirm– at almost 90 years old– that she was indeed the previously-unidentified "Stonewall lesbian."
Jenn Reddien on Sylvia Mendez
I have always admired Sylvia Mendez and her parents for their bravery and persistence in fighting for school desegregation. By working to remove some of the barriers that denied minorities equal access to education, they helped pave the way for the pivotal Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education.