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Editor's Blog

When people make a difference

The powerful and beautiful attract our attention -- and that can be good to focus concern on disasters and other problems. But the world is also full of unsung individuals trying to make a difference.

By Editor / October 12, 2010

Actress Angelina Jolie meets internally displaced people at the Kandaro II flood victim relief camp during a visit to flood affected areas and relief camps supported by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, in Nowshera, Pakistan's northwest Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, September 7, 2010. Jolie, a goodwill ambassador for the UN refugee agency, called for constant and long-term assistance for Pakistan to help it cope with floods that wreaked havoc on the impoverished country.

Jason Tanner/Reuters

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While no great man or woman is officially recorded as having said “It’s good to be king” (extensive Google research sources the line to producer/comedian Mel Brooks), there’s no escaping the differencemaking power that the rich, powerful, and beautiful wield. Their words and whims make aides scurry. At their command, armies march. Where they travel, cameras follow.

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As with any news magazine, we often feature the powerful and important on our cover – President Obama, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, rising political stars around the world. Important people often lead remarkable lives. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton remade herself into America’s top diplomat after having lost a bid for the 2008 presidential nomination. Mother, lawyer, US senator, she was also, of course, the other half of the famous “two for the price of one” White House power couple of the 1990s, with all the privilege and pain that entailed.

Shakespeare wrote 18 plays about the high and mighty. He penned only a handful about merchants and lovers. He wrote next to nothing about people quietly working to make their corner of the world a better place.

When the actress Angelina Jolie visits flood victims in Pakistan, she attracts attention. That’s the job of a United Nations goodwill ambassador. Good for her for helping refocus the world on this disaster long after media coverage has moved on. Bad for us for needing notables and celebrities to renew our interest.
Important people do important things, and we like to watch what they do. But what about the thousands of unfamous names who are pitching in, trying to make a difference in the world?

If you know the Monitor, you know that on page 47 you can meet one such person each week. Since our weekly magazine launched in the spring of 2009, we’ve done 74 profiles of people making a difference, each a character study of an individual who decided to venture outside the narrow range of personal interest and do something for others.

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