The following is a Valhalla of great people in history who interested and fascinated me:
• Shakespeare, best playwright and poet of all time.
• Beethoven, the greatest, most profound composer ever.
• Thomas Paine, blaster of organized religion in “The Age of Reason” and revolutionist in three countries, America, Britain and France.
• Voltaire, battler of religious superstition, fanaticism and intolerance during the Enlightenment.
• Thoreau, “Walden” (“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation”) and “Civil Disobedience” (“Must the citizen ever for a moment resign his conscience to the legislator?”)
• Oscar Wilde, witty, brilliant, learned playwright characterized by “The Importance of Being Earnest” and “The Picture of Dorian Gray.”
• Jesus Christ, the first and last Christian, the most humane and understanding man who ever lived. (“He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her”…“For what shall it profit a man, if shall to gain the whole world and lose his own soul?”
• Lincoln, the greatest president America ever had, wise, humorous and compassionate.
• Franklin Roosevelt, America’s second best president with his progressive New Deal.
• De Gaulle, led the free French against the Nazi occupation of Paris and freed Algeria from the French colonial yoke.
• Orson Welles, genius, performed as Macbeth at 8, played an incomparable Falstaff (“Banish plump Jack and banish all the world” in films and shone as the fraudulent Cagliostro in “Black Magic.”
• Lenin, great founder of the Soviet Union.
• Trotsky, brains of Soviet Revolution and commander of rebel armies.
• Debs, socialist, compassionate, political prisoner jailed for denouncing U.S. entrance in World War I. As an atheist he proved that you don’t have to believe in God to be decent, good and moral.
• Jack London, English author of “The Call of the Wild” and “The Iron Heel,” which urged a socialist revolution.
• Mencken, mocking, sardonic, vitriolic, snarled about “the swinish multitudes” of Americans who are “an ignominious mob of serfs.”
• Orwell, English author of “Nineteen Eight-four,” one of the most influential books ever written, frequently quoted today even though he wrote it 65 years ago. In a collection of essays, “Shooting an Elephant,” he attacked the British colonial empire. “Down and Out In Paris and London” described his poverty-stricken, vagabond days. His “Homage to Catalonia” recounted his fight for the Republicans in the civil war but becoming disillusioned with the lies and deceit of the communist so-called allies.
Jake Highton is an emeritus journalism professor at the University of Nevada, Reno. (firstname.lastname@example.org)