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20. Five people of the same gender you admire

I have listed five well-known women below though I could have named a dozen family and friends who I admire and whose daily lives inspire me as well.

1. Ellen Degeneres: I don’t put Ellen first because I admire her most, but rather because she might seem like a “lightweight” compared to my other choices. She is not. I admire Ellen for her great story telling, her ability to laugh at herself, her generous spirit and the leadership role she took years ago when she used her role on her television show as the backdrop for disclosing her sexual orientation. It was a significant move and created a shift in people’s perceptions and more importantly misconceptions about the LGBT community. Ellen’s current show never fails to make me laugh. And laughing is good! While other talk show hosts seem to not like being upstaged by their guests, Degeneres seems to prefer it. Most importantly, she uses her celebrity for good, not evil.

2. Naomi Klein – this woman amazes me with her intellect, her insight, her passion and the breadth of her knowledge about a myriad of issues around the world. Klein writes and speaks in a way that is accessible to a broader base of people therefore creating a pathway for dispensing knowledge and information which has allowed me to actually grasp some of what is really going on in the world. She recently became a mother and that will undoubtedly deepen her convictions to stand up and create change.

3. Aung San Suu Kyi: the personal sacrifices made by Suu Kyi for the people of Burma were tremendous and I know that I could never have made the same choices. The strength and depth of her convictions seem to be part of her DNA. Her non-violent approach to change did help her to ultimately prevail, although the region’s need for support from the west also played a large part in her ability to rejoin society in a tangible way.

4. Jane Goodall: on the website for TED talks, they describe Goodall as “the woman who redefined man” and the person who “changed our perceptions of primates, people and the connection between the two”. She is now speaking out as a humanitarian and conservationist. Her intimate knowledge of how the environment impacts species and how humans effect the environment makes her an expert in these fields.

5. Arundhati Roy: I discovered Roy’s work recently and immediately connected to her for the simple reason that much of her work has drawn criticism for the fact that her passion often overtakes her knowledge on subjects that she writes about. I don’t find that a negative. Roy is an activist and prominent in the anti-globalization movement. Like Klein, Roy speaks out for issues in areas beyond the borders of her own country of India.

I found this quote from Roy:

To love. To be loved. To never forget your own insignificance. To never get used to the unspeakable violence and the vulgar disparity of life around you. To seek joy in the saddest places. To pursue beauty to its lair. To never simplify what is complicated or complicate what is simple. To respect strength, never power. Above all, to watch. To try and understand. To never look away. And never, never, to forget.