Are you travel-obsessed? I know I am! I love traveling so much that I placed a plane on my grade-school charm bracelet and, to this day, trip tickets go on my bulletin board. Starting at the age of fourteen, I spent summers – on my own – at various locations across the globe training with ballet companies. I found that the best way to experience a new town was to learn about its history and culture before boarding the plane, immerse myself in the environment once there, and make friends with locals.
Two of the places I visited were the hometowns of great people whose passing we mourned in 2013. The third is someone whose home I wished I could have visited. Maybe someday that will happen, but today I want to honor him.
Nelson Mandela, a black man living in South Africa during the days of apartheid, had the courage to publicly state that he “cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities.” For 26 excruciating years he was imprisoned for expressing these beliefs, but he refused to let isolation and torture deter him. Mandela became the first president of a multiracial South African democracy.
2013 marked the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. He came from a wealthy, powerful Boston family, but crusaded for common people. One of his guiding principles was his assertion that, “If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.”
Margaret Thatcher was dismissed as merely a grocer’s daughter from Grantham, England. But she proved that success doesn’t depend on your family’s bottom line. The bottom line of her story was that she became her nation’s first female prime minister. When she entered office, England was in steep economic decline and deemed ineffective as a world leader. She reversed that and was instrumental in peaceably dismantling the Soviet Union, freeing the nations within its grip.