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        Preface ................................................................................ix
        Acknowledgments ...............................................................xi
        Introduction ........................................................................xiii

1.     Change the World ................................................................1
2.     The Young Man and the Sea .............................................10
3.     Shooting Star .....................................................................19
4.     Peace by Peace .................................................................27
5.     Iron Will ..............................................................................37
6.     Dreams Do Come True ..................................................... 46
7.     The Pursuit of Happiness ..................................................55
8.     Al Mighty ............................................................................63
9.     Heart of Gold .....................................................................72
10.   Stand and Deliver...............................................................80
11.   Have No Fear ....................................................................88
12.   Follow Your Passion ..........................................................99
13.   Never Stop Learning ........................................................108
14.   Golden Opportunities .......................................................118
15.   No Matter What They Say ...............................................128
16.   Climb as High as You Can ...............................................138
17.   Always Be Curious ...........................................................147
18.   Rebel with a Cause ..........................................................156
19.   You Never Know ..............................................................166
20.   It Was All Worth It .............................................................173
21.   Never Out of Style ............................................................181
22.   Freedom Fighter ...............................................................190
23.   Dare to Soar .....................................................................200
24.   Mr. Perseverance .............................................................210

        Endnotes ..........................................................................221
        Bibliography .....................................................................229



There was just something about Maria. Once as a little girl, she watched in horror as her parents got into a big argument. Without saying a word, Maria took a chair and pulled it between them. She climbed on top of the chair and grabbed hold of her parents’ hands as hard as she could. Peace was instantly restored in the home.
    Maria continued with her helping ways. At the time, in the mid-1800s, Italy was an impoverished country where its citizens had little food or money. Since she came from a fairly well-off family, Maria was assigned to do a certain amount of knitting for the less fortunate every day. She made vests for babies, socks and scarves for men, and shawls for women to provide warmth. So, as a child, Maria learned the virtues of compassion and charity.
    By nature, she was wise beyond her years. One time, Maria had fallen seriously ill and her worried mother stood by her bedside. The ten-year-old daughter calmly reassured her mother, “Don’t worry, Mamma. I can’t die,” she said. “I have too much to do.”1 One thing Maria did not want to do was to take up teaching as a profession. Teaching never appealed to her because she saw how stressed teachers were. But at that time, teaching was the only profession open to women.
    To give Maria the best education, her parents moved to Rome. She had always enjoyed mathematics. She figured that some day she would study engineering at the university. When her parents learned of her ambition, they were shocked. There were simply no schools for a girl to study advanced mathematics, let alone engineering. The only way Maria could study engineering would be to enroll in a boys’ public school. So Maria’s dad inquired at a number of schools, but each one of the principals refused to admit girls. Finally, one school agreed to accept her, but only under one condition: Maria could not cause any trouble for the boys or teachers.



    After some time, Maria reconsidered and set her mind on studying medicine. Once again, she faced the same obstacle. Women were not admitted to medical school. But she just couldn’t accept old tradition. So, father and daughter went to consult with Dr. Guido Bacelli, head of the board of education, but it was no use. Dr. Bacelli told Maria that it was impossible to study medicine at the University of Rome and advised her to choose a different career. Maria declined his advice. As she got up to leave the room, she looked calmly into Dr. Bacelli’s eyes and confidently proclaimed, “I know I shall become a doctor of medicine.”2
    During the next few weeks, she bombarded the university authorities with her own letters and letters of recommendation from friends, relatives, and former teachers. Maria’s persistence paid off. But life on the university campus was not easy. Some of the male students held outright resentment against her for being an intruder. Maria would retaliate against their gender discrimination. “Blow away. The harder you blow, the higher I go.”3
    During these difficult times, Maria’s mom was her biggest supporter. In the evenings, Mom helped Maria memorize every little detail in the lecture notes. Maria’s hard work eventually paid off. Her excellent grades won her a number of scholarships year after year. With the income from working as a private tutor, she managed to pay her way through college.
    In 1896, Maria became the first woman doctor in Italy. Upon graduation, she was assigned to work at the psychiatric clinic at the University of Rome. Her first assignment was to visit the city’s insane asylums and make observations. When she saw mentally retarded children for the first time, she was struck by the neglect of those young, lonely, miserable souls. These children, who were left to their own devices, would crawl on the floor looking for food crumbs.
    After much observation, Maria felt that something could be done to help improve the lives of these children if only they had some sort of special teaching. But she didn’t have any ideas. So she went to the library in search of information. There, she found a few books written by French doctors who had experimented with mentally retarded children and had produced some promising results. Further observation and research convinced her that these children needed education as much as normal children. Such an idea was revolutionary at the time. So she decided to give a series of lectures to raise public awareness and promote the idea of educating mentally retarded children.



    Maria’s eloquent speeches soon convinced the city officials to open the Orthophrenic School for children who were labeled as mentally deficient. Later on, the school opened their doors to children from insane asylums. When officials asked Maria to run the school, she accepted the challenge with enthusiasm. Each school day, she was there from 8 am to 7 pm, teaching, observing, and experimenting with different teaching materials and methods. At night, she spent hours analyzing and reflecting on the day’s work so that she could prepare new lesson plans for the next day.
    For two years, Maria and her colleagues dedicated their lives to helping the children and developing an effective program for new teachers. She toured schools in London and Paris in search of better teaching methods. “Those two years of practice are indeed my first and only true degree in pedagogy,”4 Maria recalled. Under her great leadership and teachings, the children made exceptional progress. She sent a group of her students to take the regular examinations that normal students took. Some of them performed better than the normal students! “Little by little,” she said, “I became convinced that similar methods applied to normal children would develop and set free their personality in a marvelous and surprising way.”5 She embarked on a new mission.
    In 1901, Maria left the Orthophrenic School and spent the next five years researching better methods of teaching normal children. Her research led to the discovery of significant works published by two French doctors, Dr. Edouard Seguin and Dr. Jean Itard. “I translated into Italian and copied out with my own hand the writing of these two men from beginning to end.”6 By the end of 1906, Maria finished her research project and was eager to test her new theories and methods on a class of normal children. But no school would allow her to test her unproven theories and methods. Maria would need to find pupils from somewhere else.   



    Then the perfect opportunity presented itself. To improve the lives of the children living in the notorious slum of San Lorenzo quarter in Rome, the city officials decided to open a daycare center in each of the tenement houses. These daycare centers, known as Children’s Houses, were single rooms reserved for children who were six years old and under. Maria immediately seized the opportunity when she was asked to be the director for the Children’s Houses. “I had,” she said, “a strange feeling which made me announce emphatically that here was the opening of an undertaking of which the whole world would one day speak.”7
    First, she furnished the rooms with smaller furniture that fit the youngsters. Then she provided learning material that developed the children’s senses, expanded their memories, and captured their attention. Within six months, these once-neglected children were learning at an astonishing rate. Word about Maria’s miracle quickly spread throughout Rome and beyond. Soon, visitors from various places and backgrounds came to observe the children and study Maria’s teaching principles. In just a few years, educators from around the world had adopted her revolutionary teaching ideas.



Who was this progressive teacher who changed the world of early childhood education?



Maria Montessori always had compassion for others. She dedicated her whole life to improving the lives and education of children. Her ideas changed the world.



Maria Montessori’s Bio

Birth Name:     Maria Montessori
Birthplace:       Chiaravalle, Italy
Birth Date:       August 31, 1870
Died:               May 6, 1952
Age:                Eighty-one years old

Achievements and Awards

1904:     Professor of anthropology in the University of  Rome

1913:     Conducted the First International Training Course

1914:     Established the American Montessori Society  under 
              the leadership of Alexander Graham Bell

1922:     Appointed the inspector of schools by the Italian

1925:     International Montessori Congress at Helsinki

1929:     Founded the Association Montessori Internationale in

1932:     International Montessori Congress in Europe

1939:     Brought her teaching ideas and methods to India

1949:     Nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, again in 1951
              and 1952



Selected Quotes by Maria Montessori

“Children become like the things they love.”

“Imitation is the first instinct of the awakening mind.”

“Free the child’s potential, and you will transform him into the world.”

“The first essential for the child’s development is concentration. The child who concentrates is immensely happy.”

“Work is necessary; it can be nothing less than a passion; a person is happy in accomplishment.”

“The greatest sign of success for a teacher is to be able to say, ‘The children are now working as if I did not exist.’”

“The teacher must derive not only the capacity, but the desire, to observe natural phenomena. The teacher must understand and feel her position of observer: the activity must lie in the phenomenon.”

“We teachers can only help the work going on, as servants wait upon a master.”

“It is not enough for the teacher to love the child. She must first love and understand the universe. She must prepare herself, and truly work at it.”

“To aid life, leaving it free, however, that is the basic task of the educator.”

“We especially need imagination in science. It is not all mathematics, nor all logic, but it is somewhat beauty and poetry.”

“No social problem is as universal as the oppression of the child.”



“Respect all the reasonable forms of activity in which the child engages and try to understand them.”

“Never help a child with a task at which he feels he can succeed.”

“We must support as much as possible the child’s desires for activity; not wait on him, but educate him to be independent.”

Further Reading

Maria Montessori: A Biography by Rita Kramer
Maria Montessori: Her Life and Work by E. M. Standing
The Light Within: The Story of Maria Montessori by Norah Smaridge




Adapted from THE PEARL KING by Robert Eunson

“Your father may be sick for a long time. He might even die. You must find a great strength, for you are the man of the family now.”1
    Being the firstborn of ten children, young Kokichi took his mother’s words to heart and immediately assumed his duties as the noodlemaker’s son. After helping his mother make the noodles, Kokichi would push the noodle cart with a coal-burning stove out into the streets at night and begin sounding his whistle. Many nights, he didn’t get home until two o’clock in the morning, after all of the noodles were sold.
    Still, he felt the need to do more. One day, Kokichi saw farmers selling vegetables early in the morning at the market. He decided to do the same, knowing that he would get only two hours of sleep each night. He was only eleven years old. For most of Kokichi’s childhood and teenage years, he was trudging the streets, selling vegetables by day and noodles by night. There was little time for play. So, when a friend invited him to go on a trip to Tokyo, he begged his father to let him go. By then, the twenty-year-old had earned a vacation for all his hard work and sacrifice. His dad agreed and gave him more money than he asked for.
    For the young villager, the experience of being away from home for the first time opened his eyes and sparked his imagination. While sightseeing in the big city one day, he saw a group of merchants buying up all the supply of little pearls. When Kokichi asked what the buying spree was about, he was told that the pearls were used for medicinal purposes. This ignited an idea in the young noodlemaker. Maybe he should go into the pearl business, he thought. But this would not happen for a few more years, until after marriage.     



    Kokichi was twenty-three when he married his seventeen-year-old bride Ume. She turned out to be just the type of woman he needed—someone who was hardworking and supportive of her husband. But by the time he got into the pearl business, the great demand for pearls nearly made the oysters extinct in Japan.
    Kokichi came up with an idea. He suggested farming pearls as a way to meet the growing demand. One village decided to go along with his experiment. On September 11, 1888, the villagers began gathering their first oysters and submerging them at Jinmyo Mura Bay. Meanwhile, he would discuss his dreams with his wife at night.
    “How do pearls get there?” he asked.
    “Accident,” Ume replied.
    “If it’s an accident, then how can we make it happen on purpose?”2 Kokichi inquired.
    The answer was found by consulting with a marine biologist, Dr. Mizukuri. “What it is that makes pearls in the first place?”3 Kokichi asked the scientist. What he learned was that a pearl usually begins when a grain of sand or some foreign object enters the oyster by accident. The oyster tries to dispel the irritating particle. When it cannot, the oyster secretes a solution to coat the particle to reduce the irritation. After several years and countless coatings, the pearl is formed. Excited by what he had learned, he approached his wife with his new plan of growing pearls inside oysters. “If it is what you want,” Ume said, “then do it. I will work hard by your side and know in my heart you will be a success.”4
    When none of the first oysters showed any signs of pearls, Kokichi ordered five thousand more by borrowing money. “We must not quit after one failure,”5 Kokichi declared. “This year we will put out five thousand oysters and try everything we can think of as a kernel to start the pearl.”6
    He and the villagers began experimenting with almost every foreign object to insert inside the oyster’s shell, from tiny pieces of shell to bits of broken glass. Some time passed, yet there was still no sign of pearls. The villagers who gave up fishing for farming pearls began to voice their doubts. “Why don’t you forget all this silly business about making oysters grow pearls and go back to your noodle shop,”7 one fisherman said. “Because it is my life’s work. I am dedicated to it,”8 Kokichi asserted.



    His wife was quick to provide support. “Let them say anything they want. As long as we love and understand each other, that is all that matters,” Ume persuaded. “Now tell me what new idea you have dreamed up this afternoon.”9
    Kokichi had been thinking of a new idea. Why not use bits of mother-of-pearl, the inside layer of the oyster shell, as the seed? Ume agreed. The next morning, husband and wife carried the new oysters seeded with tiny bits of mother-of-pearl to Nishiki-ura Bay. Just as they returned home, they received catastrophic news. The Red Tide, an epidemic of killer plankton, had invaded the waters at Jinmyo Mura Bay, killing all of the oysters and destroying four years of work in the process.
    Kokichi was devastated. Nothing Ume said could lift his spirits. Even worse, he couldn’t start over because he was broke. When creditors came looking for him, he hid inside the house to avoid them. It was the lowest point in Kokichi’s life.
    Ume never let her husband forget about his dream. One day in July 1893, Ume dragged her husband to check on the oysters they had planted together at Nishiki-ura Bay. As Ume opened one of the oysters with a knife, the sheen from the white pearl caught her eyes. She immediately called out to her husband. Kokichi ran to his wife and saw her holding an oyster with a pearl inside. “We’ve done it!”10 he shouted. They had successfully cultivated the first pearl!
    In spite of the success, Kokichi was dissatisfied. The shape of the pearl was semi-circular, not round. Because perfectly round pearls are the rarest of all pearls in nature, they are considered the most beautiful and thus the most lucrative. Nonetheless, news of Kokichi’s triumph quickly spread throughout the country. Wasting no time, Kokichi ordered a large-scale production of semi-circular pearls to pay off the debts. Even though the perfect pearl still eluded him, Kokichi was beginning to regain his confidence.
    Then suddenly, tragedy struck. Ume, at age thirty-two, died from complications after having surgery to remove one of her ovaries that was infected. In her last moment, Ume’s loving words soothed her husband’s grief by urging him to go on with his work. And so he did. By January 1905, he had one million oysters in the sea. Thousands of them were being experimented with new seeding methods and different materials. Yet, the perfect pearl was nowhere to be found.  



    Then, on January 10, 1905, the terrible Red Tide came back. Of the one million oysters, eight hundred fifty thousand died. This was a great catastrophe, but Kokichi refused to accept defeat, even from nature. Day after day, he kept busy by opening thousands of dead oysters, hoping to find a perfectly round pearl. One day, he opened an oyster. Seeing no pearl, he probed into the soft belly and there he found the perfect pearl. Excited, Kokichi opened four more oysters from the same basket. The results were the same. All of these oysters were inseminated with mother-of-pearl that was completely buried in living tissue. At last, after fifteen years, he had achieved his ultimate dream. He got nature to cooperate!   



By the end of his life, Kokichi’s oysters were producing ten million world-famous pearls annually. Who was this Pearl King? 



When one pursues one’s dream and never gives up in spite of life’s most difficult challenges, eventually the dream becomes reality. For Kokichi Mikimoto, he won over many adversities, even against nature.



Kokichi Mikimoto’s Bio

Birth Name:     Kokichi Mikimoto
Birthplace:       Toba, Japan
Birth Date:       March 10, 1858
Died:               September 21, 1954
Age:                Ninety-six years old

Achievements and Awards

1893:     Cultured the world's first semi-round pearls

1905:     Cultured the world's first round pearls

1913:     Opening of overseas stores

1927:     Paid visit to Thomas Edison

             During their meeting, Edison said, "It is one
             wonders of the world that you were
             able to culture pearls." Mikimoto replied
             modestly, "If you were the moon of the
             world of inventors, I am nothing more than
             one of its countless stars." Edison was so
             touched by this remark that he covered his
             eyes and wept.

1930:     The Japanese government nominated
             Mikimoto as one of the top ten inventors in
             the country



Selected Quotes by Kokichi Mikimoto

“We must not quit after one failure.”

“If it’s an accident, then how can we make it happen on purpose?”

“A man with a home, a good wife, and a job is the only truly happy one—therefore a rich one.”

“I would like to adorn the necks of all the women of the world with pearls.”

Further Reading

The Pearl King: The Story of the Fabulous Mikimoto by Robert Eunson




Poor Phoebe. Her father died of pneumonia when she was five. The loss of the breadwinner left the huge burden of raising the four younger children in the family to Mom and Phoebe’s oldest sister, Mary Jane. Then, a little more than a year later, tragedy struck again. Mary Jane contracted tuberculosis and died. Almost everything was sold to pay for the doctor’s bills and funeral expenses. Not much was left for food.
    It was at this time that seven-year-old Phoebe began using her clever mind. She learned to trap quails by making contraptions to capture the birds, which served as a source of meat the family desperately needed. Still, she wanted to do more. One day while her mother was at work, Phoebe climbed on a bench to get her father’s rifle that hung over the mantelpiece. As she loaded the gun with gunpowder, she unknowingly spilled some in front of the fireplace. When her mother asked who had been playing with the rifle, Phoebe admitted it, then immediately persuaded her mother to let her shoot rabbits. Not long after, Phoebe was providing enough wild game meat for the whole family.
    The family’s standard of living improved and even more so when Mom remarried an old widower who had some money. Sadly, a year and half later, Phoebe’s stepfather died, leaving behind a new member of the family, a baby sister. Tough times returned. To lessen the financial burden, Mom decided it was best that Phoebe stay with a friend, Mrs. Eddington, who worked at a shelter for the poor. In exchange for her help, Phoebe was given room and board and schooling.
    Less than a year later, when Phoebe heard that a farmer wanted to hire a young girl to take care of his baby, she jumped at the chance to make money even though she would be forty miles away from home. Little did she know what lay ahead with the Wolf family.



    At the Wolf farm, this poor eight-year-old girl was forced to work like a slave from dawn to dusk cooking, cleaning, feeding the farm animals, and taking care of the baby. When she fell asleep due to exhaustion, the Wolf lady would yell and hit her. Communication between Phoebe and her mother was cut off. Phoebe never saw the letters Mom sent. As if this wasn’t cruel enough, the Wolf lady fabricated letters in her mother’s name encouraging her to work hard and be a good girl. Then she sent letters home lying to Mom that Phoebe was enjoying her stay and going to school.
    Time after time, the child begged to go home. “If you ask that again, I’ll cut your liver and heart out and hang them on a fence stake for the crows to pick,”1 the Wolf lady threatened. Day after day, she toiled and suff ered, for two years. All this while, she thought her fifty cents per week earning, as promised, were being sent home to support her family. Mom never received a penny. Finally, one day, Phoebe summoned the courage to run away. When she got home and told Mom about her unforgettable experience, Mom was furious.
    Phoebe never forgot that torturous experience, but she didn’t dwell on it for long. She quickly returned to what she did best to help out the family. Her hunting, trapping, and shooting were so good that she ended up with surpluses of wild game, which was sold to a hotel keeper for a profit. Soon, this fifteen-year-old was able to pay off the entire two-hundred-dollar mortgage on the family farm with the money she earned. “Oh, how my heart leaped with joy as I handed the money to mother and told her that I had saved enough to pay it off !”2 Phoebe rejoiced.
    During this time, in the 1870s, from age ten to fifteen, Phoebe began trick-shooting for many hours in the woods, often against her mother’s will. As she honed her skills, she dreamt of being a champion shot, perhaps the best shooter in her state of Ohio. She didn’t know it yet, but her skills with the rifle would reward her more than she could ever imagine.
    One day, Phoebe was invited to visit her older sister, Lyda, and Lyda’s husband, Joseph Stein, in Cincinnati. Joseph was well aware of the wild game his sister-in-law was sending to his friend and hotel owner, Mr. Frost. The two men belonged to the same gun club.



    After watching a shooting contest one day, Joseph turned to Mr. Frost and boasted, “That’s nothing. I have a kid sister-in-law at my house that can beat the socks off that fellow.”3 “Bring her out and we will have a match between them Thanksgiving Day,”4 Mr. Frost suggested.
    Mr. Frost was so interested in this match that he put up fifty dollars as the prize. For Joseph, there was good reason to be so confident in his sister-in-law’s skills. Each one of Phoebe’s wild animals was shot through the head!
    Come the day of the match, the touring champion, Frank Butler, asked who the little girl carrying a gun was. When he learned that Phoebe was to be his opponent, Frank thought it was a prank and laughed. The  final score was twenty-five to twenty-four in favor of Phoebe. She shot down all twenty-five clay pigeons and took home the prize. Frank was impressed, in more ways than one. Phoebe’s shooting skills were one thing, but it was her grace and charm that won Frank’s heart that day. Nine months later, they were married. Together, they would embark on a long and successful career doing road shows in America and abroad.
    After a few years of performing trick shooting stunts with the Sells Brothers Circus, the highly entertaining couple was hired by Buffalo Bill Cody to perform in his popular Wild West Show in March 1885. Over the next seventeen years, the act performed by Phoebe and Frank was always a crowd favorite. Phoebe always had the spotlight because of her amazing skills while Frank served as her assistant and stunt choreographer.
    The stunts mesmerized spectators everywhere. Phoebe would stand on a horse’s back and break the glass balls by shooting them as Frank threw the balls in the air while riding alongside her. As Frank held a playing card between his fingers with the card edge facing Phoebe, she would cut the card in half with a single bullet using a pistol from ninety feet away. When Frank tossed six glass balls in the air, she shot them all before any hit the ground.
    Frank always added new tricks to keep the act fresh and entertaining. This meant that Phoebe had to practice constantly to learn new tricks and to sharpen her skills so that she could perform flawlessly. Over the years, millions of fans from the United States and Europe showered her with applause and cheers. Some of Europe’s royalty presented gifts, honors, and medals to her.



    She always accepted the challenge of a shooting match and won against nearly all of the world’s best shooters, who were predominately men. As her fame and fortunes grew, she never forgot her roots or that horrific childhood experience. She always sent money home to Mom and visited her family during her time off. Lots of poor children were able to see the show for free because Phoebe often raised the tent behind the seats to let them in.



She became the most famous woman in her time. Who was this shooting star with such a generous heart?



Phoebe Ann Moses changed her name to Annie Oakley. Oftentimes it is our adversities that determine our character and genius.



Annie Oakley's Bio

Birth Name:     Phoebe Ann Moses
Birthplace:       near Willowdell, Ohio, United States
Birth Date:       August 13, 1860
Died:               November 3, 1926
Age:                Sixty-six years old

Amazing Stunts

On various occasions, Annie hit 483 out of 500, 943 out of 1,000, and 4,772 out of 5,000 targets.

She defeated nearly all of the world-class shooters who challenged her.

With a single shot from a distance, she extinguished the cigarette held in the mouth of Crown Prince Wilhem of Germany.

She broke clay pigeons thrown from traps not only one at a time, but as many as four at a time.

Frank would swing a cord around his body, at the end of which was a glass ball; Annie would lie backward over a chair, and with her gun upside down, would break the ball.

Annie held a pistol backward over her shoulder and using a silver knife for a mirror, would break a ball tied to the end of a string, which Frank whirled around his body.

Annie would ride around on a bicycle without holding on to the handlebars and shoot objects thrown into the air.



Selected Quotes by Annie Oakley

“I always preferred taking my shot when the game was on the move. It
gave them a fair chance and made me quick of eye and hand.”

“I believe that God gives everybody a talent, and if she develops it
and makes money it is not right to squander that money in selfish,
extravagant living, but she must try to do good with it.”

“I’ve made a good deal of money in my time, but I never believe in
wasting a dollar of it.”

“I believe in simple living.”

“I’ve been near death four times in my life and the Good Lord had
always pulled me through. He’ll pull me through this time too. I’ll
shoot again, and I’ll be as good as ever.”

Further Reading

Missie by Anne Fern Swartwout
Annie Oakley
by Shirl Kasper
Th e Life and Legacy of Annie Oakley
by Glenda Riley




No one could have ever imagined what Karamchand was able to achieve, not even himself.
    “I was a coward. I used to be haunted by the fear of thieves, ghosts, and serpents. Darkness was a terror to me. I could not bear to sleep without a light in the room,”1 he said. In primary school, he was a mediocre student who was very shy. “As soon as school closed, I literally ran back because I could not bear to talk to anybody. I was even afraid lest anyone should poke fun at me,”2 Karamchand said.
    But whatever fears he had, he certainly wasn’t afraid to follow his conscience and do the right thing at a young age. At fifteen, he stole a bit of gold from his brother’s armlet to pay off his brother’s debt. Even though his intention was good, Karamchand couldn’t bear the guilt of stealing. So he wrote his father a note asking for forgiveness. “In this note not only did I confess my guilt, but I asked adequate punishment for it, and closed with a request to him not to punish himself for my offense. I also pledged myself never to steal in the future,”3 he said.
    As Dad read the note, tears trickled down his cheeks and dripped on the paper. He closed his eyes for a moment and then tore up the note. “Those pearl-drops of love cleansed my heart, and washed my sin away. I know that my confession made my father feel absolutely safe about me, and increased his affection for me beyond measure,”4 Karamchand recalled. That was the end of his sins.
    Academically, Karamchand had always been a mediocre student, all the way through high school. Somehow, he passed his college entrance examinations in 1887. Even though academics were never Karamchand’s strong suit, his family still insisted that he go to college. But college proved too difficult. At the end of the first term, he returned home not knowing what to do next. An old friend and advisor of the family suggested that he go to England to study law.  It would be



easier to become a lawyer there. His brother agreed and promised to provide the financial support. However, his mother was reluctant to let him go for fear that he would pick up bad habits overseas.
    To alleviate his mother’s fears, he promised not to touch wine, women, and meat. Mom finally approved. So in 1888, at age eighteen, Karamchand sailed for England, leaving his wife and newborn son behind. He was only thirteen when he married his wife, Kasturba, in an arranged marriage. After three years of law school, he came home with his diploma in hand and his vow unbroken. But there would be no celebration. Upon his return, he was struck with tremendous grief on learning of his mother’s death. His brother had kept the terrible news from him so that he could concentrate on his studies. “My grief was even greater than over my father’s death,”5 he said. But he got over his terrible loss rather quickly.
    There were pressing matters at hand. He had to find a job to support his family and repay his brother. With his brother’s help, he landed a low-paying legal position where he took on his first case in a small claims court. On cross-examining the plaintiff’s witnesses, he got so nervous that he became speechless. “I hastened from the court, not knowing whether my client won or lost her case, but I was ashamed of myself and decided not to take up any more cases until I had courage enough to conduct them,”6 he confessed. However, it didn’t take long to change his mind when a job opened up in Natal, South Africa. The temptations of seeing a new country, gaining new experience, and receiving a high salary were just too good to resist.
    So, in 1898, he set sail again, leaving his wife and now two sons behind for a one-year contract. This decision would change his life forever. Upon arrival in South Africa, Karamchand learned quickly that life was going to be a struggle. Because of his dark skin, he was forced to leave the first-class compartment of the train even though he had a first-class ticket. When he refused, he was kicked off the train and left shivering in the winter cold inside the train station.
    As he sat there, he began questioning his duty. “Should I fight for my rights or go back home, or should I go on without minding the insults, and return home after finishing the case?”7 he pondered. He thought that to go home would be cowardice. “I should try, if possible to root out the disease and suffer hardships in the process,”8 he decided. Karamchand had found his courage.



    But first he had to help settle a lawsuit over a large sum of money. He studied every detail about the case. By working alongside the best attorneys in town, Karamchand sharpened his skills and gained more confidence. When Karamchand suggested a compromise between the two parties where the defendant was allowed to make repayments in installments, the case was settled. “I had learnt to find out the better side of human nature and to enter men’s hearts,”9 he rejoiced. He had fought for his client and won.
    Having fulfilled his contract, instead of going home, he extended his stay. He had promised himself to fight against the white government of South Africa. During his one-year stay, he witnessed many acts of discrimination and exploitation against his people, all because of their skin color. His one-year contract became a twenty-year tour of duty in which he fought for equal rights for his countrymen who were living in a foreign land. Not once did he resort to violence against his opponents. Instead, he wrote and spoke out publicly against the oppression of his people. In 1894, he founded the Natal Indian Congress, an organization established to unite his people against the British government in South Africa. Soon, the Indian community rallied around him as their leader. With his people now behind him, Karamchand organized and led peaceful demonstrations and marches, urging his people not to retaliate against attacks, no matter how violent things got.
    In the beginning of this nonviolent civil rights movement, the South African government tried very hard to crush the spirit of the Indian people. Thousands of men, women, and children were jailed, including Karamchand. Some were flogged or even shot for civil disobedience. In spite of all the attacks, Karamchand continued to fight on using his method of warfare: mass nonviolent protest. He believed this was the only way to fight and win. His people believed it, too. Soon, more and more peaceful demonstrations spread across South Africa. Karamchand’s mass nonviolent resistance method worked. Over time, the South African government gave in and repealed the most abusive laws against Karamchand’s people. But his fight wasn’t finished yet.



    The people who ruled South Africa also ruled Karamchand’s country. In 1915, he returned home for the fight of his life. Following his success in South Africa, he inspired his country to adopt his new method of warfare on a much larger scale. Karamchand urged his people to boycott British goods, educational institutions, and government institutions, and government services and to resign from government employment. When the British imposed a tax on salt, Karamchand protested by leading his people on a 248-mile march to the sea in March 1930. The government responded by putting thousands of protesters in jail. In the summer of 1934, three unsuccessful attempts were made on his life, yet he continued to lead his people in the fight for independence.
    The British arrested Karamchand and his followers in the capital city of Bombay in August 1942 and put him under house arrest for two years in the Aga Khan Palace in Pune. It was here that he suffered another terrible blow. His wife died after serving eighteen months in prison in February 1944. Nothing could stop him now. He was willing to fight to the end. Finally, after more than 200 years of British rule, India, under Karamchand’s leadership, regained its independence on August 15, 1947.




This soft-spoken lawyer led his people to overthrow an empire. Who
was this nonviolent revolutionary?



Mohandas Gandhi proved that the best way to win over hatred, prejudice, and injustice is through nonviolent means. His life inspired many great leaders.



Mohandas Gandhi's Bio

Birth Name:     Mohandas Gandhi
Birthplace:       Porbander, India
Birth Date:       October 2, 1869
Died:               January 30, 1948
Age:                Seventy-eight years old

Achievements and Awards

Fought for equal rights for Indians in South Africa

Founded the Natal Indian Congress in South Africa in 1894

Led the famous 248-mile Salt March in India from Sabarmati Ashram to Dandi, Gujarat from March 12 to April 6 in 1930

Freed India from British rule

In India, he is honored as the Father of the Nation. His birthday, October 2, is recognized as a national holiday in India and as the International Day of Nonviolence throughout the world.



Selected Quotes by Mohandas Gandhi

“We must be the change we wish to see.”

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”

“An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.”

“There are many causes that I am prepared to die for but no causes that I am prepared to kill for.”

“The first thing you have to learn about history is that because something has not taken place in the past, that does not mean it cannot take place in the future.”

“A clean confession, combined with a promise never to commit the sin again, when offered before one who has the right to receive it, is the purest type of repentance.”

“Infinite striving for perfection is one’s right. It is its own reward.”

“Sacrifice is the law of life. We can do nothing or get nothing without paying a price for it.”

“All of your scholarship, all of your study of Shakespeare and Wordsworth would be vain if at the same time you did not build your character and attain mastery of your thoughts and your actions.”

“Purity of life is the highest and truest art.”

“Does not the history of the world show that there would have been no
romance in life if there had been no risks?”

“The law of love could be best understood and learned through little



“My notion of democracy is that under it the weakest should have the same opportunity as the strongest.”

“A nation that is capable of limitless sacrifice is capable of rising to limitless heights. The purer the sacrifice the quicker the progress.”

“Good travels at a snail’s pace. Those who want to do good are not selfish, they are not in a hurry, they know that to impregnate people with good requires a long time.”

“Nonviolence should never be used as a shield for the cowardice. It is a weapon for the brave.”

“The force generated by nonviolence is infinitely greater than the force of all the arms invented by man’s ingenuity.”

“You cannot shake hands with a clenched fist.”

“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.”

“You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.”

“Always aim at complete harmony of thought and word and deed. Always aim at purifying your thoughts and everything will be well.”

“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.”

“Freedom is not worth having if it does not include the freedom to make mistakes.”

“There is more to life than increasing its speed.”



“When I despair, I remember that all through history the ways of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants, and murderers, and for a time they can seem invincible, but in the end they always fall. Think of it—always.”

“Honest differences are often a healthy sign of progress.”

“Where there is love there is life.”

Further Reading

The Essential Writings of Mahatma Gandhi by Mahatma Gandhi
Gandhi, the Man: The Story of His Transformation by Eknath Easwaran
Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth by Mohandas
K. Gandhi


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As a high school math teacher, I was constantly searching for ways to motivate my students. I wanted all of them to succeed, not only in my math class but also in life. To motivate them, I would regularly stress the importance of hard work, a positive mental attitude, and a strong sense of self-belief by sharing inspirational stories with them. But I didn’t know that many stories the students could relate to. One night in early November 2007, I came upon an idea that I thought would inspire students to be more diligent and perhaps inspire them to reach their limitless potential one day.
    Since my teenage years, I’ve enjoyed reading biographies and autobiographies of people who achieved a great deal of success. What I enjoyed most from reading these books were the life lessons these individuals offered. The lessons I learned helped me succeed in life. I thought that if students were exposed to more inspiring stories, such as the ones I read about, then maybe they could benefit like I did. So that’s when I decided to write a book of mini-biographies based on truly inspirational lives from various backgrounds and cultures.
    All of these stories are derived from published books. While the dialogues in each story are taken directly from sources that are cited, the composition of each story is original.
    The purpose of this book is to inspire young readers as well as adults to achieve greater success by exposing them to life lessons from some of history’s greatest achievers.



This book consists of twenty-four short biographies that are three to four pages in length. Each one of these stories you are about to read is based on an individual who found the courage to overcome great obstacles on his or her long road to success. These stories teach us that anyone can succeed in life and realize his or her dreams, regardless of culture, race, nationality, gender, and circumstance.
    I deliberately chose twelve women and twelve men to give equal representation to both sexes.
    The selection criteria for the individuals were based on several factors. First, I wanted people who achieved a high level of success. Second, I wanted individuals who have exemplified what I consider to be essential qualities in attaining success: courage, persistence, perseverance, sacrifice, desire, dreams, determination, diligence, attitude, and belief. Third, I wanted individuals from a wide array of backgrounds. There are artists, athletes, doctors, entertainers, entrepreneurs, humanitarians, inventors, lawyers, leaders, scientists, social activists, and teachers profiled in this book. Last, I wanted individuals from different cultures and different parts of the world. Individuals from eleven different countries are represented.
    The stories are presented in an alternating manner, beginning with a story of a woman followed by a story of a man. Special care was given to the placement of the first and last story. I chose the first story because it is probably the least familiar to the majority of readers. The last story was chosen to give the reader a lasting impression of the person whose life has inspired me to persevere during my trying times and continues to inspire me to this day.



    The arrangement of the stories follows the same format. Each one begins with the subject’s childhood and then progresses through a course of events filled with challenges, adversities, failures, and successes, and finally ends with a major achievement. The identity of the individual is intentionally kept from the reader to make the reading more interesting. After the ending of each story, the reader is asked to determine the identity of the person behind the story. The page following this “test” question reveals the person’s identity, along with a sketch of him or her. A separate page shows the subject’s biographical information along with some more interesting facts about the subject.
    Finally, the last page shows a collection of selected quotes by the subject to help reveal more of the subject’s character and beliefs.
    This book is by no means a scholarly work. However, many hours of research have been devoted to the writing of this book. I hope you find these stories as informative and inspiring as I did.



For Mom, Dad, and Grandma


I am tired of waiting for Destiny.
Destiny will just have to wait for me.

                                   Richard Lam



First, my appreciation goes to my parents for their unconditional love and support. I’m forever indebted to my mom for her sacrifice, for rescuing me from the reservoir, and for her timely inspirational words.
    Second, a special thanks to Monita E. Var for suggesting that I write a book. Even though I laughed at her idea at the time, this book may never have been written if she had not planted the seed. To her husband, Lunal Khuon, my childhood friend who has helped and encouraged me to excel as we traveled parallel paths on our long road to success, thanks for making my travels more pleasant.
    Next, special thanks go to my sister-in-law, Rezina Alam, and my sister, Mee Wai, for being my biggest fans from start to finish. And thanks to my brother Ray for offering to finance my book idea after reading just the first two stories in rough draft. Also, thanks to my sisters Mai May and May Ming for their support and valuable feedback on my stories.
    Life would be less fulfilling without my dear friends Ingrid Cheung and Denny Lam. Thank you for being there in my good times and bad. You were the light at the end of my long, dark tunnel.
    Thanks to my old friend Kai Sui Tse and his wife Po Yee Szeto for their support, loyalty, and generosity. Your friendship has enriched my life.
    Thanks to Grace Zhang for her support and for recommending Bryan Kotwica, who did a superb job on the illustrations. Thanks, Bryan.
    Finally, a heartfelt thanks to Min Yi Li for her love, encouragement, and brilliant ideas. Thank you for believing in me from the start.


Life Lessons of Courage, Perseverance, and Triumph

Copyright © 2009 Richard Lam

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced by
any means, graphic, electronic, or mechanical, including photocopying,
recording, taping or by any information storage retrieval system
without the written permission of the publisher except in the case
of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.

Th e views expressed in this work are solely those of the author
and do not necessarily refl ect the views of the publisher, and the
publisher hereby disclaims any responsibility for them.

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ISBN: 978-1-4401-4874-3 (pbk)
ISBN: 978-1-4401-4873-6 (cloth)
ISBN: 978-1-4401-4875-0 (ebk)

Printed in the United States of America

iUniverse rev. date: 6/30/2009

Illustrations by Bryan Kotwica