Sunday, May 04, 2008

Where are our world Icons?

I‘ve been thinking about the great world icons of the last 100 years who are best remembered for their integrity, their caring, their humility, their compassion, their selflessness and their desire to improve the lives of millions through peace.

Martin Luther King, Mother Theresa, Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu are the five that spring to my mind immediately. These people have an aura and an authenticity that makes them outstanding leaders.

I look around and wonder where our icons of today are?

One place I will certainly not look to is politics. With the notable exception of my hero Tony Benn I see politicians who are opportunists, blatant self-promoters, all looking and sounding the same and they show no evidence whatsoever of selflessness, compassion or humility.

Maybe I look in the wrong places (I don’t think so).

Can you identify anyone on the world stage in 2008 that will be remembered with the same affection and respect of a Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi or Martin Luther-King?

I can’t.


Richard Lipscombe said...

There are more world icons today than ever before... The world wide web and its social networks (Ning, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc) provides everyone, including me, with a forum to self-promote, become a celebrity, place a great deal of store in our own opinions, etc. We live in world were the average Joe, that is me, is encouraged to think that he is an icon.

Trevor I can name three world icons who are trying very hard to serve your God.... Nicky Gumbel, Bill Hybels, and Rick Warren... In their own context they are as good at what they do, the messages they bring, and the impact they are having on the world (in the name of their God) as any you can name from the past I venture to suggest...

Trevor Gay said...

Thanks Richard - I hear what you say about self-promoting but these are not world icons.

I agree with you about Nicky, Bill and Rick - how could I overlook these three great men! - Apologies but whether they are remembered like King, Mandela and Gandhi remains to be seen.

I still think it is sad we have no world icons like these three.

Steve Sherlock said...

Promotion or not, there are good folks doing good things on a world stage, some of the ones you reference can be found at the

they are active, albeit quietly so

but then good news doesn't sell newsprint. If one of them were revealed to have an affair, or fail to pay takes, or pose nude, then they'd get attention.

Richard Lipscombe said...

As you probably know I am definitely not into this world icons business - on the contrary I am all for looking forward not backwards... My icons are people who are shaping the future not voices from the past...

But if you want to get serious about this then I rate Bobby Kennedy higher than Martin Luther King - I know most do not... Bobby had lots of personal flaws (as did Martin Luther, I guess both were men of their times and would be 'shamed' in the modern media for some of the things they got away with).

Bobby did lots of good things - but I would rate him an icon on the single fact that his leadership saved the world from a nuclear disaster during the Cuban Missile Crisis... That would do me to make my icon list if I was to believe in them - which I do not.

But I would also put James Watson and Francis Crick on my icon list - those two discovered the double helix of DNA .. Watson is still living I think? I am for the living legends - the people who are making a difference right now.

Finally I would put Neil Armstrong on my icon list - "one small step for man one giant leap for mankind"... He has had the single greatest impact on my thinking during my life... Why? Because he took my thinking to place that is beyond that reached by all the generations on this earth before me... I remember seeing him live as he stepped out of the lunar lander and onto another piece of our great universe... He looked back at us all on earth and told us we were all confined to one small capsule - spinning around together in endless blackness save the life giving rays from our sun... WOW! It still blows my mind away!

There are so many real heroes today in the fields of technology, science, writing, etc - the world is full of icons to my simple mind...

David Wike said...

What about the guy who made this discussion possible – Tim Berners-Lee?

Trevor Gay said...

Steve – good to hear from you and thanks for the fabulous link. There are many people doing terrific work and great to see politicians among them.

Richard – Bobby Kennedy, Neil Armstrong, James Watson and Francis Crick – the list is growing. I also remember watching the Neil Armstrong moment as a 17 year old on a very poor quality black and white television.

David – great suggestion for the list – and I probably would never have met you but for Tim Berners-Lee!

Clearly there are many people doing fantastic work quietly – as has always been the case throughout history – I hope some of these names are rightly considered iconic leaders in the future.

Thanks all of you for putting me right …. Maybe I was just not looking hard enough ….

Marilyn said...

Depends what you define an icon as. In my mind these are the heroes you hear little about in the media--they're too busy good.

I believe they are all around us--good people sincerely doing their best to help others. My colleague is about to receive her Ph.d and won't be moving into the academic ivory tower, she'll still be helping patients get healthy and students reach their goal through an internship. As far as having a real impact, she is powerful beyond measure.

If you want a more visible icon, try Dr. Randy Pausch--his dying words have jolted folks into the difficult conversations they are now having with loved ones on the true value of life.

Trevor Gay said...

Many thanks Marilyn and you are right - there are many people doing brilliant work as unsung heroes all the time all around us and I see many people who fit that bill.

I guess I was wondering whether there are any world icons nowadays that will be remembered with the same affection and awe as those I listed ….And from the comments I’ve had, clearly the answer is yes!

Mark JF said...

The Dalai Lama.

Trevor Gay said...

Yes indeed Mark -thank you!

John O'Leary said...

I'd second the nomination of the Dalai Lama. And now that Tibet is back in the news his star may grow even brighter.

Trevor Gay said...

I agree John, that is a great observation.