In early 2014 and 2015, I did a series of posts honoring five people I felt had shown extraordinary courage in the previous year. If you’re interested, you can see those series at the following links:
I’m a little late in honoring the heroes of 2015; after spending more than half of 2015 not writing at all, I have tried to focus this year on keeping to a schedule and keeping my weekends free for other priorities. But I really can’t write a blog on courage and not occasionally write about courageous people, so I’ll spend the next few weekends doing that.
I don’t know that 2015 was really any more chaotic than any year before it, but in some ways it seemed so: ISIS was ascendant in the Middle East, sending a flood of refugees into Europe and, predictably, igniting conflicts across the continent and giving the fearful plenty of reasons to resist letting them enter. The year was bookended by terrorist attacks in France, the Charlie Hebdo shootings in January and the broader attacks on Paris in November. And the most contentious presidential election I can remember reached a noxious level as a dozen contenders began slugging it out for the Republican nomination here in the U.S. (of course, the survivors have already shown this year that they were just warming up in 2015).
With all the news of evil our media channels bombard us with every hour, then, it’s easy to forget that some of us are still willing to stand up and work for good. Not all the people on this year’s list faced physical danger when they stood up, but the physical is only one aspect of courage–and not always the hardest to find. Here they are, in no particular order:
- Khalida Brohi: When a friend of hers became the victim of a so-called “honor killing” in Pakistan, Ms. Brohi decided to honor her memory by finding a way to protect women from the practice. Of course, she started her campaign long before 2015, but last year was when I learned of her.
- Monica Lewinsky: She’s been a household name in the U.S. since 1998, usually as the butt of a joke or the subject of an unflattering comparison. In 2015, she broke her silence by taking to the TED stage to talk about our culture of shame.
- Khaled al-Asaad: He was a Syrian archaeologist, a distinguished expert on the ancient city of Palmyra. When ISIS captured the site he had dedicated his life to studying, he stayed on. When they demanded he show them whatever historical treasures he had not been able to evacuate before they arrived, he refused. When their threats and bullying failed to move him, they decapitated him and left his body on display in the ruins.
- Spencer Stone, Anthony Sadler, and Alek Skarlatos: When a gunman opened fire on a train from Amsterdam to Paris in August, these three men subdued him, preventing what could have been another terrorist bloodbath.
- Kristen Griest and Shaye Haver: Ranger School may be the most difficult training program the U.S. Army offers. It, along with jobs in the combat arms branches, has been closed to women since its inception in 1950. In August, these two women became its first women graduates.
- Honorable mention to Ben Carson and Bernie Sanders: American politics has long been dominated by candidates who seemed willing to say whatever their constituents wanted to hear, regardless of their own personal beliefs. In 2015, these two stood out to me as two candidates who actually believed what they were saying.
Each of these will receive a post of his, her, or their own going forward.
I’d love to know who you believe should be honored as a Hero of 2015, or of 2016. Let me know in the comments!