Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
It's rare to identify a politician as a hero -- winning and keeping power always involves trade-offs, compromises, and confrontations that force the honest writer to balance shades of gray.
Which brings us to Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. Though she suffered more hardships that most people experience in a lifetime, she didn't just survive, she thrived, elevating a nation along with her.
Sirleaf-Johnson overcame an abusive husband, exile from her homeland, imprisonment, two violent civil wars, and the ingrained sexism that has limited women's achievements for much of humankind to become Africa's first female Head of State as president of her native country, Liberia, a nation founded in the early 1800s by freed American slaves.