In our opinion: Heroes of 2013

Published: Sunday, Dec. 29 2013 12:00 a.m. MST

Malala Yousafzai addresses students and faculty after receiving the 2013 Peter J. Gomes Humanitarian Award at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass.

Jessica Rinaldi, Associated Press

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The year that is rapidly passing was filled with the noise and commotion that defines modern life, with various interest groups struggling to be heard and often distorting things of real value. It is instructive, then, to take the time to ponder on the people and organizations that made real contributions for good in the world in 2013.

The Deseret News emphasizes six areas of editorial priority in its coverage and editorials. Consequently, we have identified six heroes of 2013 who, in no particular order, best embodied those ideals.

Education

Courage doesn’t necessarily require physical strength or the maturity of years. When it comes to speaking out for the education of girls in defiance of the ruthless power of the Taliban, few people can match the boldness of 16-year-old Malala Yousafzai.

Late in 2012, Taliban gunmen entered her school bus and shot her in the head and neck in retaliation for her opinions. She recovered and has been even bolder and more powerful in her advocacy. Accolades have come from the West. Time magazine named her one of the world’s 100 most influential people. She was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. It can be easy to forget that this young woman from Pakistan still lives in grave danger for daring to speak out.

Values in the media

While much of the world seemed to be embracing harmful excesses in the name of freedom, British Prime Minister David Cameron dared to take a stand against pornography in 2013. Cameron's government didn’t outlaw adult porn on the Internet, but it did impose a new rule requiring Internet providers to remove all access to pornography unless customers specifically request to have it.

Some leaders in Canada are trying to formulate a similar rule, backed by coalitions that include feminists, academics and religious leaders.

The rule not only recognizes that pornography harms society by destroying family relationships and objectifying people, it helps to pull pornography out of the shadows. Husbands, for instance, now have to explain to their wives why they want to opt in. We wish the United States would consider similar requirements.

Care for the poor

Typhoons rarely come as large as Haiyan, which devastated much of the Philippines in November. The aftermath included huge humanitarian needs for a nation where poverty already was no stranger. But the rest of the world stepped up with large donations and aid. Not to be forgotten was a group of returned LDS missionaries who served in the Philippines and who organized events to help the victims. Miles Bell, owner of Dave's Auto Center in Layton and Centerville, stayed open on a day off just to collect donations. In Midvale, the Hawaiian Cultural Center held an event featuring Filipino food, with proceeds going toward relief efforts. Bell said he felt the Filipino people served him while he was a missionary, and he wanted to give back.

Faith in the community

The Beckett Fund is a clear voice for religious freedom in the world, regardless of denomination, something desperately needed as religious violence spreads abroad and subtle government intrusions persist at home. Its founder, Kevin J. “Seamus” Hasson, president, William P. Mumma, and executive director, Kristina Arriaga de Bucholz, are heroes. In 2013 they stood squarely behind the owners of Hobby Lobby in their fight against provisions of the Affordable Care Act that would rob small business owners of their religious freedoms when it comes to providing health care.

The support is not a small thing. The Becket Fund wins cases. The most notable of these was Hosanna Tabor vs. EEOC, a 2012 case in which the government tried to interfere with a religious organization's right to hire and fire its own ministers.The Beckett Fund helped secure a unanimous Supreme Court decision against the government.

Financial responsibility

Americans may feel proud that Congress finally passed a tepid budget, but Britain’s government is doing exactly what seems so difficult in the U.S. George Osborne, Chancellor of the Exchequer, deserves a lot of the credit. He won’t let up on austerity. He’s cut programs, cut personal and corporate incomes taxes, raised sales taxes and created a business-friendly environment. The moves haven’t always been popular, but the results have helped Britain rebound from difficult times.

The family

The National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia has provided clear, data-driven information that bolsters the institution of marriage and identifies where its many needs lie in modern society. Led by W. Bradford Wilcox, the project has, for example, shed light on the rising average age of marriage, the difference between poor and wealthy couples and their disposition to marry, and a host of related issues. Its consistent good work is laying the groundwork for public policies that will strengthen these natural ties, and society, as well.

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