Commentary / Uncategorized

Dead or Alive: My Top Ten List of Outsiders Making a Difference


Photograph: “Outsider” by Chrissy Wainwright. Taken on July 26, 2006. Flickr Creative Commons License.

As reported in the  The Washington Post on May 13th, 2017 by Callum Borchers, Trump deemed himself an “outsider” in his commencement speech at Liberty University: “Being an outsider is fine,” Trump said. “Embrace the label because it’s the outsiders who change the world and make a real and lasting difference.”

Huh. I find this statement puzzling.

When I consider the meaning of “outsider” I think of people who make contributions for the greater good who sometimes live on the societal fray and defy authority in order to accomplish or reach a goal. These are individuals that truly “make a real and lasting difference.” But gosh, I don’t think I ever considered the wealthy, privileged, anti-intellectual white male womanizer who commits sexual assault to be among them. Oddly enough, Trump’s statement has encouraged me to consider those I personally consider “outsiders” that “make a real and lasting difference.” Here’s my top 10 inspirational dead or alive “outsiders.”

10.  S. E. Hinton’s The Outsiders. Although classic young adult fiction, Hinton’s Greasers, especially Johnny and Ponyboy, save several small school children from a church fire. Unfortunately, Johnny suffers life-threatening injuries and loses his battle later in the hospital. Fiction or nonfiction, being an outsider is often heroic in nature.

9.  George Orwell (1903-1950). He wrote Nineteen Eighty-Four. And now we’re living it. Enough said.

8. Audre Lorde (1934-1992), Dedicated her life and poetry to racial injustice and women’s rights.

7. Christine Jorgensen (1926-1989).  Christine underwent sex reassignment surgery in the 1950’s, opening the door to dialogue about gender identity.

6. Larry Kramer (1935- ). Kramer was co-founder of the Gay Men’s Health Crisis and was a staunch supporter of AIDS activism. He also wrote the HIV-AIDS play, The Normal Heart, which presented a poignant look at the disease, homophobia, and the relationship between two brothers as one tries to develop an organization to help those suffering from the “unidentified disease.”

5. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968). Not to be confused with Frederick Douglass, King’s principles on nonviolence action in the fight for civil rights should always be remembered. His work inspired millions and he continues to inspire and remind us why we need equal rights.

4. Nelson Mandela (1918-2013). He placed his life above many others and spent twenty years in jail for the sake of freedom and justice.

3. Frida Kahlo (1907-1954).  For me, Kahlo is one of the strongest and most intelligent woman-identified artists to cross many boundaries through her art. She survived 30 surgeries following a horrible bus accident that forever altered her life. Her contributions to the art world are emotionally effective and forever memorable.

2.  Malala Yousafzai (1997- ). Risked her life defying the Taliban’s rules and campaigned for the right to education.

1. Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962). Campaigned for human rights throughout her lifetime. Don’t we need human rights more than ever?

Who are your “outsiders” making a difference?

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