Posts in Europe
Michelangelo

Do you plan on leaving your mark on the world?

Michelangelo did.

Even as a lad, Michelangelo knew that he was destined to create despite his father's attempts to beat the notion out of him. And, indeed, he left us a great many masterpieces, in sketches, sculpture, painting, and architecture. The David, Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter's Basilica are perhaps his best-known accomplishments. But there are many works by Michelangelo, some in varying stages of completion, still available to us today, more than 450 years after his death.

Michelangelo is one of the most studied artists of all time. His legacy lives on through his creations.

But did you know the context in which Michelangelo worked? Did you know that his was an era riven by political strife? Did you know that he almost lost his life -- by assassination -- for his political views? Did you know that if he'd died then, he would never have had a chance to paint the Last Supper or complete the Vatican basilica?

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Anne Frank

A most difficult anniversary approaches: the day, 73 years ago, when today's #HistoryHero was discovered, along with her family, and condemned to death in a Nazi concentration camp for the crime of being born Jewish.

Our hero is remembered thanks to the stories and precocious wisdom she left behind. She is beloved by generations the world over.

May we all continue to learn from her hardship and sacrifice.

Do you believe that goodness can endure and conquer evil?

Anne Frank embodied that belief.

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George Marshall

Most know that this week marks the anniversary of the June 6 US-led invasion of Europe known as "D-Day," which turned the tide against Adolf Hitler's Nazi Germany, bringing about the end of WWII. Many don’t know, however, that the first week of June is also remembered as the time when the post-war peace in Europe was established. This is all thanks to George Marshall.

Though a soldier in both the 1st and 2nd World Wars, George Marshall is best known to history as a man of peace. In fact, he's the only US soldier to have ever won the Nobel Peace Prize. Here's that story...

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Mary Anning

Do you believe anyone is capable of an amazing discovery, regardless of class or gender?

Mary Anning did.

Mary Anning was born in 1799, in a coastal village in Dorset, England. Hers was a working-class family and existence was tough. Short of food and creature comforts, the family also suffered through frequent seaside storms. These were sometimes so severe, Mary and her family had to climb out the second-floor windows of their home to escape the flooding. 

But it is said that every storm brings a silver lining. And, indeed, the wind and rain brought good fortune to the Annings in addition to hardship. This luck sent young Mary on a path to both career and accidental fame...

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Laika the Soviet Space DoG

Has anyone ever underestimated what you were capable of?

No one was prepared for Laika.

On November 3, 1957, a tiny capsule rocketed into space. Inside was the diminutive body of a fourteen-pound dog. The occupant was named Laika, and she had become the first creature in history to leave Earth for the stars, initiating the era of human space exploration. It was no small accomplishment for a stray that only a few days earlier had been fighting for scraps of food on the streets of Moscow.

Laika’s unlikely journey was borne out of the desperate need to prove that spaceflight was possible.

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Seyran Ates

To say that Seyran Ateş defies stereotypes is an understatement. For starters, she is a female Imam-in-training, a rarity in the Muslim world. In addition, she founded the world’s first “liberal mosque,” which opened its doors in Berlin’s Moabit district on June 17, 2017. It welcomes followers from all interpretations of Islam, including long-time Sunni-Shia antagonists. It allows men and women to worship together, not separated as in traditional practice. It encourages the participation of members of LBGTQ communities, who are banned from prayer gatherings under conservative Islam. Moreover, Ateş insists that women remove their burqas and niqabs inside her mosque for she believes that "full-face veils have nothing to do with religion, but rather are a political statement.”

Named after a Muslim philosopher who defended Greek philosophy and a German writer fascinated by the poetry of the Middle East, the mission of the Ibn Rushd-Goethe mosque is to be a bridge-builder and peace-maker. Yet, it is under attack. So is Seyran Ateş.

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Ada Lovelace

At the age of 14, Ada Lovelace (née Byron) wrote a book on flying machines, called Flyology, and constructed a pair of mechanical wings to help her take off. This may not sound spectacular today but it happened nearly a century before the Wright Brothers managed to get Kitty Hawk into the air. And that wasn’t even her most important intellectual legacy!

The privileged daughter of a famous British poet and a countess, she also invented the algorithm. If Alan Turing was the father of computing, Ada Lovelace was most certainly its grandmother…

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Simone de Beauvoir

A writer, philosopher, and political activist, Simone de Beauvoir inspired a revolution regarding the role of women in society, making her the grandmother of 20th-century -- or second-wave -- feminism. 

Simone de Beauvoir was born in Paris, France, in 1908, the daughter of a buttoned-up, bourgeois, middle-class family, which lost its wealth during World War I. She was raised a conservative Catholic but rebelled against her parents' values as a teenager, turning from religion to philosophy and literature. Her father regarded philosophy as gibberish; her mother worried -- correctly it would turn out -- that it would cause Simone to lose her faith. But with no money left for a marriage dowry, Simone knew she would not make a good catch. So off she went to the Sorbonne to read philosophy and pursue a career instead.

Simone was a famously successful student. Though one of very few women to win a place at the prestigious French University, she rose to the top of her class and was the youngest women ever to complete qualification exams to enter the teaching profession. And on a Monday morning in June, 1929, Simone crossed paths with another Sorbonne philosophy major: an intense young man by the name of Jean-Paul Sartre. She would spend the next 50 years by his side, although the two never lived together, often took other lovers, and had no children. 

Theirs would have been looked upon as an unconventional relationship, even today:

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Helvi Sipilä

If you believe that women hold up half the sky – at least – then you're going to love Helvi Sipilä. Little known outside her home country of Finland, she took her cues from past suffragette leaders as Frances Barker Gage and Sylvia Pankhurst and helped pave the way for the generation of female leadership typified by such powerhouses as Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Michelle Obama.

In 1972, a new Assistant Secretary-General walked onto the floor of the United Nations. Unlike any other member of the UN senior management team up to that point, this Assistant Secretary-General wore a skirt and heels. Her name was Helvi Sipilä and she was the first female high-level UN official, ever. When she took the position, the UN management team was then 97% male.

Being a woman in local politics – nevermind in a global politics – was then considered an extraordinary accomplishment. But it was time for this to change. And Helvi was ready to lead the charge.

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