FIVE KIDS WHO CHANGED AMERICA

Growing up you hear about the prodigies.  Mozart, Picasso, all those Suzuki violinists.  But you don’t have to be a prodigal kid to make a difference.  

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1.  Claudette Colvin — In March 1955, nine months before Rosa Parks stayed seated, 15-year-old Claudette Colvin refused to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama.  Colvin became one of five plaintiffs suing the city.  At 17, she testified before the U.S. Supreme Court. The court’s ruling ended the Montgomery Bus Boycott and jumpstarted the Civil Rights Movement.

2.  Ryan White — In 1984, a blood transfusion made hemophiliac Ryan White the first kid to contract AIDS. Kicked out of his Indiana middle school, White and his family began a national campaign on AIDS awareness that touched the nation.  White outlived his initial prognosis of six-months but died in 1990.  Four months later, Congress passed the Ryan White CARE Act increasing funding for AIDS research.

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3.  Samantha Smith — As nuclear war and nuclear winter loomed over the early 1980s, this Maine school girl wrote to Soviet premiere Yuri Andropov. 

Dear Mr. Andropov,

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My name is Samantha Smith. I am ten years old. Congratulations on your new job. I have been worrying about Russia and the United States getting into a nuclear war. Are you going to vote to have a war or not?”

Andropov wrote back, inviting Samantha to visit the USSR.  Her widely-publicized tour helped ease Cold War tensions.

4.  Philo Farnsworth — While plowing his family field in Utah, 14-year-old Philo Farnsworth had a vision.  Imagine a ray gun that shot electrons back and forth, like a plow making rows in a field.  Images could be traced, row by row, onto a screen.  By age 21, Farnsworth had a patent for the first TV. 

5.  Sacajawea — This Shohone native was just 15 and pregnant when hired by Lewis and Clark as an interpreter.  Carrying her baby all the way, she accompanied them across the wide Missouri and into legend.

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