Let the games begin. On Canada Day, Britt posted about five great Canadians. So, on July 4th, let me introduce you to my pick for five great Americans (yes I’m competitive). They have achieved some degree of recognition, but like so many good folks, not enough, imo. Hope you enjoy.
Maggie Kudirka: Maggie is a.k.a. the Bald Ballerina because at 23 she was diagnosed with stage 4 metastatic breast cancer and had to put her dance career on hold. However, while the professional future of her hopes and dreams may not have materialized, she has managed–despite repeated surgeries, treatments, set-backs, doctors appointments and astronomical medical bills–to not only keep dancing but to maintain an inspiring and positive attitude. She also spends lots of time helping others by advocating for metastatic breast cancer awareness. I follow her on Instagram to get my juju and enjoy watching her plan her annual fund-raising concerts in which she and others perform. Her Independence Day Instagram post is emblematic of her uplifting mindset:
“Happy Fourth of July!!! I am grateful to live in a country where medical care with no lifetime caps and no exclusions for pre-existing conditions is currently available to everyone because of the Affordable Care Act. I am able to get newly approved cancer drugs that patients in other countries must wait for. There drugs are keeping me alive and able to celebrate another 4th of July.”
Alexandra Paul: Any “Baywatch” watcher will know my friend, Alexandra. But fewer will know that she’s spent much of her life helping others and working to advance causes she believes in (in addition to appearing in over 100 films and TV programs). For a taste: Alexandra was honored by the ACLU of Southern California as their “2005 Activist of the Year” for her long history of fighting for the environment, voting rights and peace issues. In 1997, the United Nations commended Alexandra for her work on human overpopulation. In 1999, she won the International Green Cross award. She walked across America for over five weeks on The Great Peace March for Global Nuclear Disarmament, and has been arrested over a dozen times for protesting at the Nevada Nuclear Test Site. She was also arrested during a peaceful 1990 sit-in for AIDS patients to access fast tracked pharmaceutical drugs.
I met Alexandra through our shared electric car activism, which won her another arrest that can be seen in the killer documentary, “Who Killed the Electric Car.” Beyond that kind of courage, what really impresses me about Alexandra are these quiet, consistent actions: She protested the Iraq war weekly for six years, fed the homeless every Thursday night for the past seven years, and previously set up a small card table in a nearby town to register voters for 18 years. Relentless, hopeful and humble. I hope you get to know Alexandra better.
Carol Rosenstein: Gonna meet Carol? Put your seatbelt on. Bursting with life and love, Carol is the powerhouse founder and executive director of Music Mends Minds, a beloved nonprofit that creates bands in which people with Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other neurodegenerative diseases sing and play musical instruments. Research shows that music seems to be retained in the brain differently from other sorts of cognition such as memory and language and can be accessed as a form of communication when other avenues are lost.
Indeed, Carol started the organization when her husband, Irwin, now in the end stage of Parkinson’s disease and dementia, seemed to be reborn when playing piano. Music Mends Minds now has 20 bands across the country. Its flagship Los Angeles ensemble boasts my favorite name: The 5th Dementia. And, like so many nonprofits and others, it has successfully transitioned to Life on Zoom, offering thrice-weekly sing-alongs with a board certified music therapist. Please check it out if you know someone who might benefit–and if you want to witness Carol’s unbridled, infectious spirit and joy. (Full disclosure: I’ve done PR for Music Mends Minds. Aren’t I lucky?)
Sammy Roth: Sammy is one of the country’s leading environmental reporters, and he does it with heart. He now writes for the Los Angeles Times, though many know the outstanding work he previously did for the Desert Sun in Southern California and USA Today, where he covered renewable energy, climate change, electric utilities and public lands. One of Sammy’s previous standout achievements was uncovering financial conflicts of interest at a public agency in Southern California, resulting in the cancellation of $80 million in solar and energy storage contracts and an investigation by the local district attorney. He now writes the Times’ Boiling Point newsletter, designed for “people who care about the environment and climate across California, the American West and the globe. If you’re a hiker or a surfer, if you’re worried about losing your home in a wildfire, or if you just want new reasons to stay hopeful, this newsletter is for you.” Added Sammy coolness: he loves baseball. Follow him on twitter if you want to enjoy some of that passion (and anguish) as well as his climate expertise and concern. He rocks.
Prediction: My friend Rebecca Ninburg, a devoted public servant, is gonna be president one day. And the best part of that will be her nickname: Demolicious. That won’t be left behind because Rebecca won the moniker as co-founder of the L.A. Derby Dolls, a wildly popular pioneer league in the resurgence of modern roller derby that isn’t just screaming fun but committed to improving the lives of women, girls and the community through sport.
Demo, as she’s still known, skated with the Dolls for a long time, of course, before taking over as CEO.
She went on to the appointed position of vice president and then president of the City of Los Angeles Commission on the Status of Women, then Mayor Eric Garcetti named her to the City of Los Angeles Fire Commission. Demo has worked closely with the LA Fire Department to help strategize on the recruitment and retention of women in the fire service. What’s impressed me the most, however–well, besides rockin’ those skates–has been her tireless volunteer efforts with organizations like Reclaim Our Vote, which works to reregister rural black and Latinx voters who have been purged from the polls, and Swing Left, the group that’s working to win all the houses—including the White House, the Senate, and the state houses key to rolling back Republican gerrymandering–by engaging voters and fundraising for campaigns in the Super States, where the key fights of 2020 will be won or lost. With Demo on our side, we’re sure to win.