“Mary McLeod Bethune is an inspiration to me, with her remarkable life’s path and the rich legacy of education, civil rights, leadership, and political activism she left behind. With $1.50 and five students, she began a small school in Daytona Beach, Florida, in 1904 that became Bethune-Cookman University. In 1935, she founded the National Council of Negro Women, and that same year, became the first African-American woman involved in the White House when she served as a special advisor to President Roosevelt on minority affairs. She also advised presidents Coolidge and Hoover on issues of home ownership and child welfare. Dr. Bethune recognized that power and education, when used intelligently, advanced civil rights. She was planting the seeds of the Civil Rights Movement decades before it began. Dr. Bethune inspired me to go to college, earning my degrees as an adult, while working and raising my family.”
—Andrea Stewart-Cousins, New York State Senator
“I’ve been influenced by a few figures. My father, who was a self-made man with less than a high school education and who kept family together and proposed to become wealthy: He achieved this through hard work, perseverance, and ingenuity.
Muhammad Ali—the first black man I recognized as speaking truth to power. He paid a price for his beliefs, but in the end he was proven to be right.
And Ken Chenault, CEO of American Express, and Don Thompson, CEO of McDonald’s, for leading mega corporations.”
—Donald Coleman, CEO of GlobalHue
Nadine Hunt-Robinson (left) and Alvin Clayton
“Growing up in Trinidad, I was always impressed with Sidney Poitier. There was a certain pride that I had because of the movies that he did and knowing that he was from the Caribbean.
But in my adult life, I am most impressed by Nelson Mandela because I believe that the strongest lesson human beings can learn is forgiveness. After all the adversity he went through, Mandela emerged as a great leader because of his ability to forgive and move forward.”
—Alvin Clayton, owner of Alvin & Friends
“The leader most inspirational to me is Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He was a man led by faith, wisdom, and justice. As a result of being anchored by these principles, he could steadfastly lead during a tumultuous period in American history. I am forever grateful to Dr. King and the other champions of justice who helped reshape policy and push open the doors of opportunities once shut tight. When I reflect upon the hurdles cleared by steadfastly walking in faith, applying wisdom, and pursuing justice, I know that all things are possible. This insight makes me a better leader.”
—Nadine Hunt-Robinson, common councilwoman for White Plains