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On 20 January 2009 Barak Hussein Obama will be inaugurated as the USA's 44th and first African-American President. It is a historical event, not just for America but for the whole world, writes Vida Adamoli

 

Barak Obama, who accepted the Democratic Party's nomination for President on the 45th anniversary of Martin Luther King's ‘I Have a Dream' speech, represents the culmination of a centuries-long struggle. A struggle fought on the battlefields of slavery, civil rights and continuing racial inequality. Many of his supporters see him as a ‘post-racial’ candidate, a man of unity and inclusion, reaching beyond colour to deliver a message of hope and positive change for all people. Here we take a look at some of the trailblazing African-Americans whose achievments made Obama's epoch-making achievement possible.

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Angelina Jolie is most definitely not just a pretty face. The American actress, who is acclaimed as one of the most beautiful women in the world, is also a compassionate and committed UNCHR Goodwill Ambassador, says Geraldine Royds

 

 

For the last 7 years, Angelina Jolie has been travelling to remote and desolate regions throughout the world, promoting humanitarian causes.  Noted for her work with refugees through UNHCR, she has worked with field staff in refugee camps in Darfur, Sierra Leone, Pakistan, Cambodia and Tanzania amongst others.  She is known to cover all of her costs while on missions, and shares the same basic working and living conditions as her fellow relief workers.

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Wafa Sultan has been described as a hero, a reformist, a crusader and a brave woman speaking out against Islamic extremism. In 2006, Time Magazine named her one of the 100 most influential people ‘whose power, talent or moral example is transforming the world.’ It praises her for expressing openly views widely shared by other Muslims but rarely aired, writes Vida Adamoli.

Wafa Sultan, born to a Sunni Muslim family in Damascus, Syria, emigrated to the United States 1989. In 2001 she began taking part in the political debates on Al-Jazeera and CNN that brought her to public attention.

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Chris Burkes' parents were told their Downs Syndrome son was a lost cause. They were advised to put him in an institution and forget about him. Instead they took him home to cherish and educate.

 

He grew up to be a successful actor and singer. 'Obstacles are what you see when you take your eyes off the goal', he says. 'Always say to yourself, "Yes I can." Believe in yourself, work hard, never give up!'

by Vida Adamoli

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On 23 October 1984 the BBC broadcast a news report of the famine devastating Ethiopia. One of the most powerful and enduring images was of a young woman, surrounded by 85,000 starving people, with the terrible task of choosing which children went to a feeding centre and which were too far gone to be saved.

Claire Bertschinger, an International Red Cross nurse, ran two feeding centres and was the central figure of Michael Buerk’s report. In a now famous piece of footage, he asked, “Does that do anything to you?’ 'What do you expect?’ she replied. ‘It breaks my heart.’

by Vida Adamoli


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When he was just 17, Ben Way made a life-changing business deal worth £25m, making him one of Britain’s youngest self-made millionaires.

 

 

Six years later, venture capitalists pulled the plug on his company and he lost everything  - although he has since rebuilt his fortune.

Ben's childhood was blighted by dyslexia. A teacher told him he would never read or write and that he would never make anything of himself. 'I was seven years old. Those words made me want to give up completely. They really haunted me for years to come,' he recalls.

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‘It is not really my fault if some people are hungry, but it would be my fault if nothing changed,’ maintained Michel Colucci, better known as the French comedian, Coluche.


So in 1985 he created the 'Restos du Coeur' charity to distribute hot meals and food packages to the needy and the homeless.

by Geraldine Royds


 

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