Tuesday, September 15, 2009

In memoriam...

Patrick Swayze, Crystal Lee Sutton and Norman Borlaug are three names which do not have much in common at first glance. Swayze is best known for taking Baby out of the corner, Sutton for agitating for labor rights and Borlaug for keeping millions from starving to death.

However, all three made a significant impact on the world.

Swayze was, by all accounts, one of the few truly decent men in Hollywood. He and his wife married young and stayed together for 34 years. He stayed out of the tabloids until the very end and kept working because that was what he knew how to do. Swayze may have been typecast, but always playing the man who stepped up when others wouldn't isn't necessarily a bad thing. The Los Angeles Times has a very nice article looking back on Swayze's contributions to Hollywood.

Sutton, the inspiration for the movie "Norma Rae," catalyzed the union movement in the North Carolina. Just 17 when she started working at a textile mill in the mid-1950s, she met labor organizer Eli Zifkovitch when he visited her plant after helping organize the coal workers in West Virginia. Sutton was making $2.65 an hour at JP Stevens' plant in 1973 when Zifkovitch inspired her to take up the cause of workers' rights. Later in life she also advocated for women's rights, racial equality, the poor and equal access to medical treatment, according to the Columbia Ledger-Enquirer.

The City Journal has an excellent blog post on all of Borlaug's many contributions to sustainability. He grew up on an Iowa farm during rough times, an experience which propelled him into the study of plants and hybridization. Borlaug's efforts in Mexico in the 1950s helped make Mexican wheat fungus-free and allowed the farmers to not only feed themselves but sell the surplus. He traveled to India next, creating a strain of large-headed short wheat whose high yield reversed the Indian trend toward famine. The 1970 winner of the Nobel Peace Prize continued to train others throughout his life, so his important work could live on.

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