This year’s 12 most inspiring people once again proved the power of individuals to act with love, courage, and forgiveness in the most challenging situations. We asked you to choose between some tremendously inspiring folks, and we were in for some surprises. Hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons, who spoke against racism and anti-Semitism, and "green" evangelical Rev. Richard Cizik, who works to save the environment, were knocked off in the first round.
Perhaps the biggest surprise was that a homeless Detroit man, Charles Moore, who returned $21,000 in savings bonds he found in the trash to their rightful owner, defeated billionaire philanthropist Warren Buffett, who this year gave the biggest charitable donation in history. Some of you wrote that Moore’s story reminded you of the New Testament lesson of “the widow’s mite.” Moore gave everything he had, because of his deeply grounded sense of honesty and integrity, shattering stereotypes about homeless people in the process.
Some other truly remarkable people lost by a slim margin. Elissa Montanti, the “saint of Staten Island,” who with single-minded devotion cuts red tape to get prosthetic limbs and medical help for war-maimed children, lost narrowly to Todd Corbin, a marine who courageously saved the lives of his unit in Iraq. One remarkable teenager—Adam Zuckerman, who is already one of the country’s most outspoken activists for Darfur—was edged out by another teen, Jason McElwain, an autistic boy whose amazing final-quarter shots for his high school basketball team proved that disability is no impediment to achieving your dreams. Another inspiring child, Bindi Irwin, daughter of “Crocodile Hunter” Steve Irwin who has taken up her father’s mantle of wildlife preservation, was chosen over wheelchair-bound actress, Kathleen Traylor, who started a theater where the disabled showcase their formidable acting talents.
In the second round of voting, Lance Corporal Todd Corbin of Ohio was named one of the final three. He is an outstanding example of heroism under pressure. On patrol in Iraq, Corbin saved the lives of many of the men in his unit, carrying people off the field of battle under heavy fire. At one point, he carried his wounded patrol leader over his shoulder while returning enemy fire with his free hand. When he drove away—in a 7-ton truck with three flat tires—he had the entire remaining platoon safely inside. His courage is only equaled by his modesty and faith. In an interview with Beliefnet, he explained, “The way I was raised, you always put yourself out for other people because there is going to come a time when you are down and are going to need someone to help you up. It is the core of my family values.” He added, “I always say people should not credit me with what happened on May 7, but credit God.”