Each year the Deseret News identifies individuals and organizations that have inspired us through their uncommon commitment to the values that undergird our six areas of editorial emphasis. We are pleased to share our list of heroes for the year.
The Parker Family: For exemplifying love, faith and forgiveness.
The special internal dynamics of Alissa and Robbie Parker's young family should never have been thrust into the national limelight. But when their precious 6-year-old daughter Emilie became one of the victims in the Sandy Hook Elementary shootings, a grieving nation was given a rare glimpse into the innocence, joy, love and faith that characterized an otherwise inconspicuous family. What the nation saw was not merely emotional attachment between kin, but clear evidence of purposeful choices and habits within the Parker family that fostered attributes of respect, love and service on a regular basis. Just one day after the rampage, Robbie Parker spoke to the national press, noting his prayer and concern for all the families involved in the tragedy — including the family of the alleged gunman.
The Parkers now deserve the time and privacy to grieve and heal. But we honor them for humbly showing how, within the walls of their home, love was spoken through meaningful acts of service and for demonstrating through their dignified response to tragedy how such acts compound over time into a character of compassion. By so doing they have given the world evidence of how familial love ultimately triumphs over tragedy, evil and death.
>> Alissa Parker, left, and her husband, Robbie Parker, center, carry their daughters, Samantha, 3, and Madeline, 4, following funeral services for their 6-year old daughter Emilie Parker on Saturday, Dec. 22, 2012.
The United States Supreme Court: For bolstering religious liberty.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Justice Department challenged the organizational autonomy of religious organizations before the Supreme Court, claiming anti-discrimination law applied to church decisions to appoint and release their own ministers (Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. EEOC). Instead of accepting the government's novel reasoning, a unanimous Supreme Court lined up behind the clear constitutional reasoning of Chief Justice John Roberts to reaffirm and strengthen the idea that the First Amendment endows religious organizations with independent rights that go beyond the associational rights of non-religious groups.
"The text of the First Amendment itself … gives special solicitude to the rights of religious organizations," wrote Roberts. "We cannot accept the remarkable view that the Religion Clauses have nothing to say about a religious organization's freedom to select its own ministers."
>> Seated from left to right are: Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Associate Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Standing, from left are: Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Associate Justice Stephen Breyer, Associate Justice Samuel Alito Jr., and Associate Justice Elena Kagan.
Hugh Evans, Global Poverty Project: For innovating to create lasting engagement in the fight against extreme poverty.
In the space of just a few years, 29-year-old Hugh Evans has dramatically increased worldwide awareness of the causes of and cures for extreme poverty, which his Global Poverty Project defines as subsisting on less than $1.25 per day.
Evans and his team have effectively harnessed the power of celebrity and social media to engage hundreds of thousands of people around the world. They've found a way of securing commitments for action that give young people, in particular, meaningful social experiences related to eliminating extreme poverty. For example, their Global Citizen Festival in New York provided a free advocacy concert experience in Central Park with top performing artists for 60,000 people who had taken some step to learn about and advocate for increased action on poverty. Most of the talent, promotion and staging were donated. That one event alone helped secure nearly $1.3 billion in commitments for systemic poverty eradication.
MOOCs: For throwing open the doors to world-class instruction.
Massively open online courses — MOOCs — seem to have hit a tipping point this last year thanks to the entrepreneurial efforts of three Stanford University professors who have made college courses from leading universities available to millions of learners around the world. In January of 2012, Sebastian Thrun launched Udacity, and in April, Andrew Ng and Daphne Koller launched Coursera. Both of these start-ups provide anyone with access to the Internet the opportunity, at no monetary cost, to learn from the best instructors in the world. Although MOOCs cannot yet grant credit, they are putting long-overdue pressure on traditional models of university instruction.
>> A typical MOOC is an online course open to people all over the globe via the Internet. Usually, no fee is charged and no credit is awarded. MOOCs have potential to make higher learning less expensive and more widely available. (Deseret News archives)
Dave Ramsey: For making family thrift cool and fun.
Having survived his own debt-leveraged financial roller coaster, Dave Ramsey began seeking for authentic financial wisdom, the kind that helps families stay financially secure. Ramsey now shares those basic lessons of lasting prosperity to millions of readers and listeners. His approach provides over-the-top celebration of the peace, security and joy that come through paying off debt, frugality and generosity. And in equal measure, Ramsey skewers the stupidity associated with debt, extravagant living and get-rich-quick schemes.
Ramsey's books, courses, events and syndicated radio talk show have helped thousands of families put their finances on a surer footing through what he calls "biblically based, common-sense education and empowerment." A brilliant marketer, Ramsey gives his readers and listeners a compelling vision of debt-free living, a clear road map for success, large doses of in-your-face accountability and infectious enthusiasm for the smallest successes.
>> This July 29, 2009 file photo shows financial guru Dave Ramsey in his broadcasting studio in Brentwood, Tenn.
The Solutions Journalism Network: For encouraging journalists to report on innovative solutions, not just problems.
The news media often prides itself in its capacity to shine a bright light on crisis and scandal. But surveys shows that news audiences are increasingly weary of reporting that fails to round out the complete story of how problems might be addressed.
Award-winning journalists David Bornstein, Courtney Martin and Tina Rosenberg are successfully challenging their profession to spend more time probing innovative solutions to the world's problems. Their brainchild, the Solutions Journalism Network, asks journalists to make their craft more relevant to the millions of people who care about building a better world by rigorously reporting on credible solutions to social problems. Their own solutions journalism now appears as a regular column in the New York Times and their encouragement to look closely at the ideas, models, policies and people that are solving societies toughest problems is motivating the next generation of journalists.
>> David Bornstein, Solutions Journalism Network co-founder, is challenging journalists to report on solutions to social problems.