Legacies of influential figures: a timeless opportunity to grow


Shrayes Gunna

Newspaper headlines announce the passing of influential figures. The Sidekick staff writer Shrayes Gunna delves into the importance of taking the death of important figures as an opportunity to learn.

Shrayes Gunna, Staff Writer

Their names are lit up in stars; their faces ring an endearing reminder of their impact. 

Whether public figures are functionally impactful parts of history or a constituent part of pop culture, these figures come and go, leaving lasting legacies: stories, lessons and advocacies to absorb from their time in the light. 

With new headlines in the media weekly about the deaths of our favorite stars and historical figures, the memories of notable personalities should not be forgotten nor thought of with anguish, but recollecting them should instead incite a joyous moment of growth; embracing their stances, qualities and ideas. 

Though this opportunity to grow can easily be glossed over due to grief, it’s timeless. Timeless in the manner that historical and political figures leave us with powerful policy ideas, ideologies and advocacies that can inspire great action and change in governments and individuals to this day.  

For instance, take the imprints of former Supreme Court Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the gavel of the American court system and political landscape. She was a firm proponent of gender equality and forwarded the agenda of equal rights in American society until her mournful death in 2020. Ginsburg stood for so much that American citizens can grow from; the very idea that people are equal and the willingness to fight for such justice is still contested in parts of the United States, but legacies like that of Ginsburg work to challenge the fabric of politics and human rights for the better. 

But the effects of these figures’ legacies don’t necessitate recency. Think of Greece’s philosophers, whose ideas continue to influence the structure of governments globally. Think of those who mobilized movements and people like Martin Luther King Jr. or Mahatma Gandhi, whose practices and values continue to intertwine with modern social issues.

King is continually quoted in contemporary human rights movements, and maintains his position as an inspiration for up-and-coming generations of activists, politicians and dreamers. 

Gandhi, to the same degree, is a symbol of progress and non-violent protest who continues to inspire peaceful insurgencies towards equality throughout the world. In fact, King’s own practices were in part inspired by those of Gandhi, from marches to mobilizing populations. Gandhi also influenced Cesar Chavez’s non-violent protests and advocacies for latino farmworkers.

Big names in Hollywood are always leaving behind powerful stories such as the racial progress that deceased actor Chadwick Boseman stood for or the love and acceptance that late actress Betty White emanated in every avenue of her life. These qualities and ideas are catalysts for nurturing generations of positive, effective, authentic and united peoples; something so powerful that we must not forget in the grief following their deaths. 

Moreover, this opportunity to grow is timeless in the manner that celebrities are eternal lights that radiate attitudes, ideas and projects that society can continuously engage with and enjoy; a lesson of authenticity and happiness. 

At the very foundation of almost every influential figure, no matter their background or remembrance, they were good people—a term that will never live up to the actual impacts that they have produced on people’s lives or the hearts that they have touched. They were good people that can cultivate future generations of good people.

However, this is not to say that notorious figures should not be learned from. Figures that are generally deemed as notorious or infamous act as an example of values, ideas and actions to not emulate or reproduce. 

Many often regard historical figures like Adolph Hitler, Joseph Stalin or even Mao Zedong as evil, simply put. These people serve as reminders of ideologies that should be left in the past.

We can embrace what influential figures, good and bad, stood for, their qualities and memories to become more productive citizens of the world, taking in their lessons to grow. 

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