John F. Kennedy Personal Mentor

On this 50th Anniversary of his death I am remembering the impact John F. Kennedy had on my life.

When President Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963 I had recently turned 16 (Sept. 17th). My life was in turmoil. The situation in my alcoholic home was becoming impossible. I was anxious to take charge of my own life, chart my own course and pursue my own dreams.

President Kennedy was a beacon of hope in a world filled with fear and uncertainty.

The Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, made the prospect of a nuclear war real to me. Our neighbor had built a Fallout Shelter in their home and I wondered what would happen to me, my family and millions of others if there was a nuclear war. I had been told Edmonton would be a prime target because of the oil industry.

Before this, I had been captivated by President Kennedy beginning with the Presidential election in 1960. Kennedy became a personal hero based on two speeches he gave that, even today, deeply move me.

President Kennedy’s Inaugural Address on January 20, 1961 filled me with hope. It is still one of the greatest speeches I have ever heard.

He began by saying “the election was not a victory of party but a celebration of freedom”… I urge you to click the link above and listen to this masterpiece of leadership and oratory.

In the fall of 1962 at Rice University, President Kennedy gave his Moon Speech.

Talk about “shooting for the moon,” literally! This is a powerful example of sharing a vision, a challenge, and calling people to get behind it. If you have the time, click the link and hear another masterpiece of leadership and oratory.

Now, I hope you understand why I was so devastated by the assassination of President Kennedy. It was personal for me, in a way that seems irrational to me now.

I know that history has revealed that Kennedy was a womanizer and that he was chronically ill and suffered with pain. I don’t condone his breech of fidelity but it is not my place to judge him, or anyone else for personal failings. His illness and pain makes me marvel all the more at his vibrance and energy. I wonder at the strength of his calling to serve, his passion to lead and inspire.

I visited Dallas and the School Book Depository. It made me wonder what might have been… I left sad.

In 2007, I made a pilgrimage to John Fitzgerald Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston. It is located on a ten-acre park, overlooking the sea that he loved. President Kennedy chose the site himself a month before he was assassinated, planning for years ahead, he thought. It has three parts: a Museum, an Archive and an educational Institute.

The architect was I.M. Pei, selected by Jacqueline Kennedy. The selection was a surprise because he was a young architect and the candidates included some of the best known architects in America. I.M. Pei seemed to Mrs. Kennedy to be filled the promise, imagination and temperament that would reinforce her vision for the library. The building is stunning. Visit the John Fitzgerald Library and Museum online and see for yourself.

The visit was a very personal and emotional experience for me. The multi-media presentation had me relive part of my youth. I spent some time standing quietly in the atrium.

Ultimately, I left home, pursued and realized many of my dreams. Today, fifty years later, I am grateful for John F. Kennedy a man who, as strange as this may seem, was like a personal mentor to me. Thank you.

 

 

A Classical Music Rock Star

Gustavo Dudamel

By the time he was thirty years old, world-famous conductor Gustavo Dudamel had been called “the lightning conductor” who could turn a solid old symphony into “molten lava.” Today, part of his long term plan is to recreate the youth orchestra program for street youth that has been so successful in his native Venezuela. 

When it comes to classical music, Gustavo Dudamel is a total rock star. At age thirty, he was (by far) the youngest conductor of a major orchestra anywhere in the world. With his wild hair, all-consuming passion, and lively sense of humor, he is also one of the most popular.

Gustavo was a musical genius as a child, and began winning international conducting prizes when he was barely out of high school. But what has always been extraordinary about Gustavo Dudamel is not only his talent, but the way he has chosen to use that gift to improve the world.

As of this writing, as well as being in his twelfth year as music director of the Venezuelan Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra, Dudamel is also in his second season as music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra. With his global reputation, he could have chosen to work with any orchestra in the world, but he chose the Los Angeles Philharmonic: and he did it for a very specific reason.

Dudamel, who came from a musical family in Venezuela, had his talent recognized and supported by “El Sistema” (The System)—a revolutionary music-training program in his home country that introduces poor kids, some of them street kids, to the discipline and self-esteem of great musicianship. Recognizing how The System changed his life, Dudamel decided to introduce the program to the United States, and the hard streets of Los Angeles were a perfect place to start. So, as part of his contract with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Gustavo Dudamel insisted on being given the money and time to start a youth orchestra.

The Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles gives poor and street youth a new focus in their lives and a new sense of accomplishment as they play to sold-out audiences at venues like the famous Hollywood Bowl. As well, Dudamel’s vision of spreading the idea across the U.S. is beginning to be realized, with new community and city youth orchestras being formed in several American cities.

Dudamel’s long-term dream is to see The System become as popular in other countries as it is in Venezuela, where 600 youth orchestras help a quarter of a million children stay out of trouble, develop self-discipline, and learn to believe in themselves.

Gustavo Dudamel knows firsthand that music can help change the lives of children and youth, and improve the society they live in.

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This is an excerpt from the book Inspiration to Live Your MAGIC!™, 75 Inspiring Biographies by Larry Anderson. It is available as a print book from Amazon.com and as a Kindle e-book.

Advocate for Freedom, Equality & Justice

Michaëlle Jean

Michaëlle Jean has had a variety of interesting roles in her life. Compassionate and caring, she has always used them to support her advocacy for freedom, equality, and justice.

The year 1968 was a dangerous and frightening time to live in Haiti. Dictator François Duvalier was jailing and torturing anyone who spoke out against his brutal government.

Many victims and their families tried to escape, and a lucky few made it to Canada. That’s how a little girl named Michaëlle Jean wound up in the small Quebec town of Thetford Mines.

She grew into a beautiful, well-educated woman who could speak half a dozen languages. Although Jean now enjoyed a peaceful, prosperous life, she never forgot the suffering she had seen—her father tortured, poor people oppressed, women and children brutalized.

So Michaëlle Jean worked at a women’s shelter and with new immigrants to Canada, helping others improve their lives. She began a successful career as a radio/TV broadcaster and filmmaker, and used her position there to shine a light on injustice and suffering around the world.

As she worked to build a network of women’s shelters across Canada and write about the hardships of immigrant women, Jean used her remarkable brain, but led with her heart. She became known for her sympathy for anyone fighting on the side of freedom and equality.

Then, in 2005, her reputation for caring and compassion led to an amazing opportunity; a chance to make an even bigger difference in the world. It came in the form of an invitation from the Government of Canada, asking if Michaëlle Jean—the former immigrant girl from Haiti—would like to be the next governor general!

As the Queen’s official representative in Canada, she met world leaders, hosted important conferences, and traveled the globe as a spokesperson for the nation.

But most importantly, in this position Jean was able to lead and inspire others to follow her example. As governor general, she dedicated herself to breaking down barriers —between French and English, black and white, rich and poor, east and west, north and south.

After her term as governor general came to an end, Michaëlle Jean was chosen by the United Nations to be a special envoy for her homeland of Haiti, giving her a fresh opportunity to help tackle the challenges in that troubled country.

She continues to lead with her heart, lending her voice and energy to care for the underprivileged, and helping to make the world a better, more caring place.

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This is an excerpt from the book Inspiration to Live Your MAGIC!™, 75 Inspiring Biographies by Larry Anderson. It is available as a print book from Amazon.com and as a Kindle e-book.

Aviation Pioneer & Women’s Advocate

Amelia Earhart

A record-setting aviation pioneer and adventurer, Amelia Earhart was a celebrity and advocate for women’s equality in the early 1900s.

Millie and Pidge were two unusual little girls. Growing up in the 1860s in Kansas, their mother let them run wild like the neighborhood boys—something that just wasn’t done in those days. Millie and her sister became fearless tomboys: climbing trees, collecting bugs, and helping their uncle build a home-made (and very dangerous!) wooden roller coaster.

Full of self-confidence, Amelia (Millie’s real name) grew up determined to do something great with her life. She just didn’t know what it was going to be.

One answer seemed to come during World War I, when Earhart visited her sister in Toronto and ended up volunteering as a nurse at a military hospital. Right after the war, a worldwide flu pandemic killed millions of people in 1918. Earhart kept nursing but got sick herself, and spent nearly a year recovering in the hospital.

Then, something else happened in Toronto that changed Amelia Earhart’s life. She watched one of the first annual air shows at the famous Canadian National Exhibition. The pilot of a biplane swooped down low and flew right over her head. From that moment, she was hooked on airplanes.

Back home in Kansas, Earhart took her first airplane ride and announced that she was going to learn to fly. Working every job she could get, Amelia saved up the money for lessons and became only the sixteenth woman in the world to get her international flying license.

Amelia Earhart became somewhat of a celebrity and set out to promote flying, especially for women. Her fame skyrocketed after she became the first woman to fly across the Atlantic Ocean, even though she was little more than a passenger.

After that, Earhart started setting her own records. She became the first woman to fly across North America and back, set a new world altitude record, and became the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic.

By this time, she was a major star—writing books, making celebrity appearances, and designing her own line of clothes. She used her fame to promote flying as a form of transportation, and constantly worked for equality for women, not just in the air, but in all aspects of life.

Amelia Earhart was one of the most famous people in the world when she disappeared during her greatest adventure—flying around the world. Her fate is still a mystery.

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This is an excerpt from the book Inspiration to Live Your MAGIC!™, 75 Inspiring Biographies by Larry Anderson. It is available as a print book from Amazon.com and as a Kindle e-book.

 

 

Free The Children Founder

This is a excerpt from my forthcoming book Inspiration to Live Your MAGIC!™ to be published in January 2012. A collection of 75 biographical introductions that inspire.

 

Craig Keilburger

Creator of Free The Children, an organization whose purpose is to free child slaves all over the world and provide them with an education, Craig Kielburger was a child himself when his passion to help children began.

One morning in 1995, twelve-year-old Craig Kielburger was flipping through a newspaper, looking for the comics, and he happened to see a headline about the murder of a boy named Iqbal who was about Craig’s own age.

Craig read about how Iqbal had been sold into slavery in South Asia at the age of four and spent six years chained to a carpet-making machine, working day and night. Iqbal had escaped, told his story to the world, and started fighting against child slavery.

Now, the story said, Iqbal had been killed to stop his campaign for freedom.

That terrible story touched something in Craig, and he determined to pick up Iqbal’s cause and work to free children from slavery, poverty, and ignorance. It was a big ambition for a twelve-year-old, but Craig says Iqbal’s story proved that the bravest voice could live in the smallest body.

So, Craig cut the article out of the paper, took it to his school in Thornhill, Ontario, and asked his classmates if they wanted to help. Eleven other kids put their hands up . . . and that was the start of the group Craig called “Free The Children.”

Together, they set out to raise funds, tell people about the plight of child slaves worldwide, and—above all—to help those children get the freedom and education they needed.

Craig’s friends told other friends, parents, teachers . . . the word spread quickly and Free The Children grew by leaps and bounds. Soon, they were working with other groups in third world countries, getting support from companies and associations, and creating their own education and development programs.

Today, Free The Children is the world’s largest network of children helping children through education. There are more than one million youth involved in forty-five countries worldwide. They build schools, provide clean water and health care, and fight against the abuse and neglect of children . . . everything to make life better for other children and youth.

Craig Kielburger is now a grown man, but continues to dedicate his entire life to the cause he started when he was twelve. He flies all over the world, giving speeches and working with various groups that share his passion for justice. Here at home, he helps organize and support student leaders and others who want to change the world for the better.

And it all happened because Kielburger saw something disturbing in the newspaper, and refused to just turn the page.

Want to know more? Free The Children

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© Copyright 2011, LIAP Media Corp.

LIAP Media Corp. the publisher of the Live Your MAGIC!™ series of books is a social enterprise. Part of the Larry & Janet Anderson Philanthropies

All author Royalties and publishing profits are donated to our charity, education and arts partners.


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