The defining quality of heroes quite probably is that they’d never describe themselves as heroes. These are folks who give selflessly of themselves for the betterment of their communities and their fellow man. And they’re never in it for the glory.
In our admittedly subjective search for the year’s most admirable folks, Newsmax found many exemplary acts and big hearts. But only a few made our list. Newsmax’s 2010 heroes roster represents the best examples of philanthropy, charity, military service, business excellence, public safety, government leadership, and community advocacy.
These heroes truly show how individual leadership, conviction, and courage lead to great things. For all of us.
. . . For her leadership of the Children’s Scholarship Fund
Especially in America’s inner cities, public schools often mean crowded classrooms, empty supply closets, and apathetic teachers. Private schools can be better, but usually are an option for only the wealthy. Enter the Children’s Scholarship Fund under the leadership of Darla Romfo. The group, which funds private-school tuitions for underprivileged children, has dispersed more than $400 million in scholarships to more than 110,000 low-income kids since 1998. The fund boasts graduation rates for its beneficiaries substantially higher than their public-school counterparts. Romfo, the fund’s president and chief operating officer, is an education advocate who once was legislative director for U.S. Sen. John Breaux, a conservative Democrat from Louisiana. Despite the challenges of raising money during a recession, Romfo vows to continue aggressive fundraising to ensure that children have a fighting chance at a good education.
Bill Clinton & George W. Bush
. . . For Haiti earthquake relief
Sitting presidents often call upon former chief executives to raise relief money in the wake of natural disasters. But when President Barack Obama enlisted rivals Bill Clinton and George W. Bush to raise funds for Haitian earthquake victims, the effort went beyond previous ex-presidential efforts. The Clinton-Bush Haiti Fund leveraged unprecedented political unity and bipartisanship to raise $50 million — most of it in $10 donations made via text message — to help nearly 3 million victims of the Jan. 12 quake that killed nearly 260,000 people and destroyed 300,000 buildings in the poor Caribbean nation.
. . . For transforming technology and simplifying our lives
There’s evidently no stopping this guy or his creations. In technology and business circles, 2010 will go down as the year of the Apple. This year the iPad became the vanguard of tablet computers, the iPhone 4 successfully shook off design flaws to become a best-seller, and Apple overtook Microsoft to become the world’s most valuable tech company. Amazing for a business threatened with extinction a decade ago. Credit for all this goes to CEO Steve Jobs, whose tyrannical focus on product esthetics generates fanatical enthusiasm among customers.
John Hope Bryant
. . . For his support of inner-city neighborhoods
Love Leadership is more than just a book on management. It’s a manifesto for bringing equality and justice to a world of fear, uncertainty, and doubt. John Hope Bryant’s message: Return to the golden rule and treat people fairly. Bryant works tirelessly to promote financial literacy, eradicate poverty, and spread economic opportunity. In 1992, the Los Angeles native founded Operation HOPE, a nonprofit group that teaches inner-city citizens basic financial skills. To date, the program has helped more than 1.2 million people. He also started the Silver Rights Movement, raising more than $900 million benefiting 70 major U.S. cities, South Africa, and most recently, Haiti.Â
Rev. Franklin Graham
. . . For being a consistent Christian voice
There may be no more fervent defender of the Christian faith — and critic of the radical Islamic agenda — than the Rev. Franklin Graham, son of the famed Evangelical minister, the Rev. Billy Graham, and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. When Sharif El-Gamal proposed building a 13-story Islamic community center and mosque two blocks from ground zero in Manhattan, Graham was one of the most vocal opponents. Graham is unapologetic about his views on radical Islam. He has professed great love for the Muslim people but has tremendous difficulty with those who use the Islamic religion to advance extremism and violence. As a result of holding fast to his view, even in the face of withering criticism from pro-Islamist groups, Graham remains a major force driving the debate over terrorism and religious extremism.
Gov. Jan Brewer
. . . For championing integrity on the border
Despite widespread criticism of Arizona’s tough new immigration laws, Republican Gov. Jan Brewer remains firmly behind efforts to allow police to check the immigration status of detainees. Brewer signed the bill into law in part as a response to drug violence spilling over the Mexican border into her state. The federal government and several advocacy groups have filed lawsuits to strike down the law, and 10 foreign governments have filed amicus briefs against the law. Brewer, a career politician who has been re-elected, also is fighting foreign participation in the legal battle.
. . . For getting kids to exercise
First lady Michelle Obama quickly has become a heavyweight among public influencers since arriving in the White House two years ago. She’s one of the most admired women in the world. She’s become an advocate for organic gardening, women’s rights, pay equity, military families, and goodwill ambassadors. Her most important cause, however, is fighting childhood obesity. More than one-quarter of American youths are either overweight or obese. The problem is leading to steady increases in childhood diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and other ailments. Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign encourages children to eat better and exercise. “I want to leave something behind that we can say, ‘Because of this time that this person spent here, this thing has changed.’ And my hope is that that’s going to be in the area of childhood obesity,” the first lady said of her efforts.
. . . For saving Ford Motor Company
A century ago, Henry Ford created the U.S. automotive industry. In 2010, Alan Mulally reinvented it for the better. When the Boeing veteran arrived at Ford in 2006, the legendary carmaker was in a death spiral. The place was a bastion of corporate gridlock, burning through its $21 billion cash reserves faster than it could conceive new products. Through sheer force of will, Mulally transformed Ford. It was the only American carmaker to reject a federal government bailout. Now it’s emerging from restructuring healthier and with more respected products. Even William Clay Ford Jr., the company’s chairman and great-grandson of Henry Ford, credits Mulally with making the changes that saved the company.
. . . For his ‘See-Something, Say-Something’ campaign
People may snicker at the ceaseless “See-Something, Say-Something” reminders on New York City subways, but Lance Orton dispenses that proactive advice to everyone following the failed Times Square bombing in May. Orton, a Vietnam veteran and T-shirt vendor in one of the city’s most visited, tourist-friendly spots, alerted police of a suspicious vehicle on 45th Street. Faisal Shahzad, a Pakistani-born U.S. citizen, left an SUV packed with explosives intending to kill scores of pedestrians. Orton’s decision prevented a tragedy, kicked off the manhunt that nabbed Shahzad, and reminded Americans that every citizen plays a role in the war on terror, and that one person can make a difference.
Dr. Greg Murphy
. . . For his medical work in Haiti
For more than 20 years, Dr. Greg Murphy has traveled to such far-flung destinations as Calcutta, Cairo, Nairobi, and Nicaragua doing missionary and medical relief work. But nothing prepared him for the devastation and despair he found in Haiti following January’s tragic earthquake. “I was moved to make that connection and do something,” says Murphy, a urologist and member of St. Peter’s Parish in Greenville, N.C. Murphy has since rallied a team of 13 other surgeons, doctors, nurses, and sports medical staff and organized a number of medical missions to save lives in a place he describes as “a cauldron of chaos.” “We all have very busy practices back home, but we’ve also felt the need deep inside us to [address] what we’ve seen here,” he tells NBC News.
QB Tim Tebow
. . . For walking the walk
Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow achieved much on the gridiron. He’s a Heisman Trophy winner from his days at the University of Florida. His college teams won BCS National Championships in 2007 and 2009, when he was known both as a dual-threat QB, and for the Bible verses on the black anti-glare patches under his eyes. But Tebow’s is a life that nearly didn’t happen. As explained in a controversial Super Bowl ad that Focus on the Family funded, Tim’s mom, Pam, ignored doctors’ suggestions that she abort her pregnancy because of an infection. Her choice gave Tim a shot at life, which he’s used continually to champion faith-inspired efforts such as his Tim Tebow Foundation that supports orphanages and youth programs worldwide.
Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta
. . . For uncommon valor
Medals of Honor aren’t won — they’re earned by “gallantry and intrepidity” beyond the call of duty. In the war on terror, only four have been awarded — all posthumously — until this year, when Salvatore Giunta became the first living service member to receive the medal since the Vietnam War. While on patrol in Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley, Sgt. Giunta’s eight-man patrol was ambushed by the Taliban. Despite being shot in the chest, he managed to repel enemy fighters, prevent a wounded comrade from being taken prisoner, and save the lives of two fellow soldiers. Giunta, 25, of Clinton, Iowa, remains in the Army, now stationed in Vicenza, Italy. His actions are a tribute to the courage of all Americans serving in harm’s way.
. . . For her role as an education reformer
To say Michelle Rhee was never the most popular educator in Washington, D.C., would be an understatement. During Rhee’s three years at the helm of the capital’s public school system, her public opinion ratings suffered as she took on the unions, slashed budgets, and fired 1,000 underperforming educators. Rhee is a passionate educator who forged a track record of improvements in student performance during her 20-year career as a teacher and administrator. Since 2007, Rhee’s reforms in Washington are credited with a 17 percent increase in student test scores and a graduation-rate hike of 3 percent. Rhee resigned her post in October to pursue other education opportunities closer to her fiancé, former NBA star and Sacramento, Calif., Mayor Kevin Johnson.
Sheriff Joe Arpaio
. . . For enforcing the law with no reservations
Sheriff Joe simply won’t back down, despite pressure from federal authorities. The Arizona lawman made famous for his tough approach to incarceration took on the challenge of enforcing Arizona’s crackdown on illegal immigration. Under Arpaio’s direction, deputies in Maricopa County have detained and arrested scores of suspected illegal immigrants and undocumented migrant workers. Washington hasn’t taken kindly to Arpaio’s tough tactics in the past, and federal officials have filed suit against him alleging civil rights violations. To what effect? Arpaio continues to discharge his duties with the zeal and vigor for which he has become known.
. . . For keeping America safe since 9/11
Robert Mueller’s résumé is a picture of military, legal, and civil service perfection. He’s been a federal prosecutor, U.S. attorney, and legal partner at famed firm Hale and Dorr. In 2001, his confirmation to head the FBI came just one week before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Since then, Mueller has been focused on terror threats, and his teams have broken up dozens of plots and terrorist cells. But Mueller never has been one to act rashly, even in the face of new threats. He opposed calls for new wiretapping laws until sufficient changes were made to safeguard citizen privacy. He defends the rights of ordinary Americans amid the temptation to clamp down on civil liberties, while still keeping the nation safe. Mueller is due to leave his FBI post next September. But his service stands as a testament to his love of country.
As originally published in Newsmax magazine.