Mohandas K Gandhi
The Mahatma (“Great Soul”) is one of those personally deeply flawed people who changed and evolved during their lives, and went to achieve great things – not just the independence of India, the independence of India in a way that demonstrated the potential for nonviolence, and put spirituality into a prominent position. Gandhi was also inspired by others, and it can be useful to look at the people who inspire those who inspire us for instance, here and here.Nelson Mandela
Another person who evolved during his life – I view this sort of change as “growing into their role”. Particularly notable for me for because of his work towards the healing of South Africa after the end of apartheid.Abraham Lincoln
If Lincoln had not been assassinated, I am of the view that the USA would have been healed in much the same way that Mandela attempted to do for South Africa, and the USA and the world would have been much better places as a result.Eleanor RooseveltDr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
I listed this great woman here initially because of her role in framing the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, but I have subsequently found out more about her active civil rights role during her husband's Presidency.
Not only a great activist and well deserving of the Nobel Peace Prize, but someone who blessed us with inspirational writing.Betty William and Mairead Maguire
Who played a major role in bringing peace to Northern Ireland, and who were awarded a Nobel Peace Prize as a result.Dag Hammarskjold
A key United Nations Secretary-General, who invented “preventative diplomacy” (negotiations to prevent conflict), “shuttle diplomacy” (negotiations to end a conflict), classical “peace-keeping” (troops to monitor a cease-fire and implement peace agreements) and a UN “political presence” in conflict areas (to try to stop conflict from re-erupting).
A US lawyer and Associate Justice renowned for his progressive focus, including social justice and privacy.
Who developed the famous “brown eyes, blue eyes” exercise after the assassination of Dr King, and has done an incredible amount of activism.The main reason I have included her here is, however, the following quote:
Females, get over 'cute'. Get competent. Get trained. Get capable. Get over 'cute'. And those of you who are called Patty and Debby and Suzy, get over that. Because we use those names to infantalise females – we keep females in their 'little girl' state by the names we use for them. Get over it. If you want to be taken seriously, get serious.
Sally Goldner and Julie Peters
Human rights advocates in my home town who I am very pleased to know. Sally is a particular friend of mine, going back to the days when we co-convenors of TransGender Victoria. For more on Sally, see here, here and here. Julie, drawing on her experience of having stood for election in all three levels of government, gave us a great deal of guidance in those days (described by Sally here, here and here), and had set the scene for our work with her own incredible work (as had many others before her). I’ve lost contact with Julie: I hope she has successfully got her artists retreat going in country Victoria :)
Steve Biko and Donald Woods
Steve Biko is listed here for his founding of the Black Consciousness Movement. From the point of view of growth, raising consciousness is always crucial, and this movement was central to not seeking the end of apartheid from the white point of view of how society should be, but from a point of view that saw black culture and worldview as being inherently valuable, worthy and a valid way of assessing such changes and ways of being (apologies for the clumsy wording).
Mr Biko's friend Donald Woods is listed here not for the work he did on informing the world about Mr Biko, but for the changes he made as a human being as a result of his contact with Mr Biko: he went from someone who, according to the film "Cry Freedom", wrote some rubbish about "black terrorism", to being an informed and articulate advocate for the end of apartheid.
The White Helmets
Also known as the Syrian Civil Defence
Irena saved 2,500 Jewish children in Warsaw during World War Part Two by placing them with non-Jewish families. I was particularly impressed that she recorded details so she could reunite children with their families (or any survivors from their families) after the war.
Herman Hesse is a German writer whose writings did much to improve my awareness of spiritual matters. His last novel led to him received a Nobel Prize for Literature, but he is also listed here for his opposition to the rise of aggression and anti-Semitism (Hesse's wife was Jewish) in Germany in the 1930s (he was living in Switzerland, and helped other writers escape Hitler's Germany, apparently).
Monsieur Ollivier is a French businessman who negotiated the release of several sets of hostages, and was elevated to the grade of Grand Officer of the Order of Good Hope by South African president Nelson Mandela for his role in ending apartheid. I learned of his activities in a documentary called "Plot for Peace".
James B. Donovan
I learned of Mr Donovan's work securing the release of various sets of hostages from the film "Bridge of Spies".
Milan C. Miskovsky
I’ve found out that James Donovan was actually helped by a CIA lawyer, Milan C. Miskovsky, who later investigated riots in 1967, and “concluded that the United States was transitioning into two separate societies, one black and the other white, and that the societies were inherently unequal”;
John F Kennedy
JFK stumbled through the Cuban Missile Crisis, but showed elements of greatness, in my view, in his management of that event. Along with his brother, I consider he was flawed on civil rights, but I think he would have got there on that issue, had he lived.Bishop Desmond Tutu
My first exposure to (retired) Bishop Tutu was reading accounts of him saving a man from necklacing during the apartheid era. He has continued to impress, including when I heard him speak when he visited Melbourne in the 1980s.
White Rose, Helmuth James Graf von Moltke and Hans Oster
The White Rose was a German resistance movement of mostly young people - University students and their philosophy professor - during World War Part Two. Despite knowing that they would almost certainly die, they undertook a campaign of distributing leaflets and graffiti opposing Hitler's regime in 1942 and 1943.
Helmuth James Graf von Moltke was a jurist who, during that terrible war, attempted to get Germany to comply with the Geneva Convention and the Hague Convention, let people in Resistance movements know what he knew about the concentration camps, contacted the British to try to work with them, and was a member of a resistance group which, amongst others things, discussed post-war possibilities including an early version of a European Union. In a view that was prescient of recent Hydra problems, von Moltke actually opposed assassinating Hitler, although on the grounds that it may turn Hitler into a martyr.
Hans Oster, initially a supporter of the Nazi regime who was quickly appalled by their actions, was a member of the German resistance from 1938 (and was one of several people urging a coup to remove Hitler before the invasion of Czechoslovakia), was already helping Jews at the time of Kristallnacht, and "informed his friend Bert Sas, the Netherlands' military attaché in Berlin, more than twenty times of the exact date of the repeatedly delayed invasion of the Netherlands". He used his position as deputy head of the counter-espionage bureau (Abwehr) to conduct resistance operations under the guise of intelligence work, and was dismissed for helping Jews to avoid arrest. After the failed "July plot", he was one of the approximately 5,000 people executed.
There are others in the German resistance who, though they took risks or were instrumental in opposing Hitler, I am either neutral about, or, in some cases, less than impressed with, as their opposition appears to have been based on the damage being done to Germany, not the inherent wrongness of Germany's aggression in the 1930s and 1940s.
This is someone else who I consider evolved into a better, more effective human being as he went through his life.Helen Keller
This remarkable woman is not listed here only because of overcoming her disability: she is listed here because she was such an incredible advocate.Rosa Parks
Mrs Parks played a key role in the US civil rights movement, and did so with dignity.Jane Goodall and Red Catherine
Jane Goodall is her for work for non-humans on this planet. Red Catherine is a Romani I know who is an incredible advocate for “humanity’s four legged companions”.Al Gore
Listed here for his work on climate change, but is one of those anti-war people who knows how bad war is from personal experience.
Lord Morley, David Lloyd George and H.H. Asquith
Lord Morley I first came across through the British TV series "37 Days", and is listed here for his far sighted understanding of what World War Part One would involve, his opposition to the Second Boer War, and his opposition to Imperialism.
David Lloyd George and H.H. Asquith are included mainly for their socially progressive policies, but Lloyd George was also an opponent of the Second Boer War, and was reluctant to get involved in World War part One until the extent of Germany's aggression became clear.
This surprising man was the brother of the utterly evil Herman Goering, and did much to frustrate the Nazis and save Jews – to the extent that he has been considered for the “Righteous Among the Nations”.Roméo Dallaire
I was inspired to create this list after I re-watched the film “Hotel Rwanda”. When I started researching the events of that film, I came across the story of Lt. General Dallaire, and his efforts during the terrible Rwandan Genocide (there two others I have listed from that event). I can relate very much to Lt. General Dallaire’s comments that saying one did one’s best is not enough, when failure leads to profound consequences.Raoul Wallenberg
A Swedish diplomat who saved tens of thousands of Jews from Nazi-occupied Hungary during World War Part Two. His disappearance at the hands of the Russians after the war is a cruel and dastardly act.Malala Yousafzai
An incredibly courageous and determined young woman – well deserving of her Nobel Peace Prize.Mbaye Diagne
One of those little known people who, nevertheless, has performed extraordinary acts – in this case, saving many lives despite the stupid orders given to so-called “peacekeepers” during the Rwandan Genocide.Oskar Schindler
If Steven Spielberg hadn’t made this film “Schindler’s List”, I would quite possibly never have known of this man. Another flawed human being who rose to the occasion, as is recognised by his inclusion among thePaul Rusesabagina
This man’s efforts during the Rwandan Genocide were the inspiration for the film “Hotel Rwanda”. Again, this is someone who evolved and grew into this role (certainly, as portrayed in the film, at least –in my view), and who is probably flawed (certainly, according to some of his detractors), but the facts are: over a thousand people were save at a hotel he was acting manager of during a time of terrible, terrible events.Elie Wiesel
I can do no better than quote from the Wikipedia article: “When Wiesel was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986, the Norwegian Nobel Committee called him a "messenger to mankind," stating that through his struggle to come to terms with "his own personal experience of total humiliation and of the utter contempt for humanity shown in Hitler's death camps", as well as his "practical work in the cause of peace", Wiesel had delivered a powerful message "of peace, atonement and human dignity" to humanity.”Jody Williams
This woman is known for her work in achieving the ban on landmines, but has done much else to defend/promote human rights.Steven Spielberg
A filmmaker who has done much to raise the consciousness of the world.Kurt Vonnegut
A writer, whose novel about his experience of the fire-bombing of Dresden and his attempts to come to terms with that experience, influenced me.Yitzhak Rabin
Another person who changed over the course of his life – and was murdered for becoming more aligned with peace.George C. Marshall
This man was the more or less unseen planner of the Allies victory in World War Part Two, a master of logistical and organisational matters. He is included here, however, because of his work towards rebuilding Europe, notably, the Marshall Plan, which earned him the Nobel Peace Prize.Jimmy Carter
Sadly, this man didn’t impress as President of the United States, although I approved of many of his actions, and his attitudes. Afterwards, however, as a few politicians have, he became a noted statesperson – even being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
Gough Whitlam, Malcolm Fraser (post-politics) and Rob Hulls
I umm-ed and ahh-ed about listing these two outstanding Australian politicians - Gough, because his poor economic management, and Malcolm, because of his actions as a politician. However, Gough did make Australian society a better place, and post-politics Malcolm Fraser is another example of he changes that people can make.
(Bob Hawke and Paul Keating also did great things as Prime Ministers, as did some other Australian politicians, but, again, it is about how much they connect with me)Rob Hulls was a far sighted Attorney-General of Victoria who had a key role in passing legislation to benefit LGBTIQ people, but also undertook other reforms of the legal system in Victoria that I approved of. During the negotiations on the LGBTIQ legislation, Dick Wynne did a truly magnificent job as lead face-to-face negotiator between the various people involved.
A noted exemplar for women.Tenzin Gyatso, 14th Dalai Lama
Although another flawed person, and quite possibly not the reincarnation of the Great 13th Dalai Lama, someone who did much for the cause of spirituality in the West, and another recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.Abie Nathan
An Israeli peace activist.Annie Besant
Although I first came to know of Ms Besant because of her involvement with Theosophy, she actually had quite an admirable record as a human rights activist.Amnesty International
Not an individual, but inspiring and included for that reason – although I am annoyed that they use the acronym ISIS rather than Da’esh, which is disrespectful of the Goddess Isis, and that has cost them a lot of the respect I had held for them (and, incidentally, any bequest - which would have been minor, given my financial situation). This group, as with the individuals, also has evolved over time.Médecins Sans Frontières
One of the most truly objective and fearless humanitarian groups I know of.
Hugh Thompson, Jr.
A US helicopter pilot who stopped the notorious "My Lae massacre", which resulted in the deaths of over 500 civilians - and apparently was unexceptional. Although belatedly recognised with a military honour, he endured abuse and even death threats after returning to the USA for his act of moral courage.
A Pole, a flawed human being, who hid a group of Jews in sewers until the Second World War ended, and was, with his wife Magdalena, recognised as amongst the "Righteous Among the Nations".