1. Valerie Polack

Valerie Polack, known to me as Val, is a dear friend and mentor who lives right here on Mercer Island. Through her kindness and generosity, Valerie has taught me over the years what it means to be selfless, and to give without thought of return. Valerie has also contended with cancer, and has been an inspiration to me by virtue of both her strength and her grace. I aspire to one impact as many lives as she has.

2. Gabby Douglas

Miss Douglas is not just a hero to me, but to many Americans who were able to watch her compete in the Olympics. I find her courage and strength to be deeply inspiring, particularly in one so young. Her ability to maintain herself with poise, dignity, and grace under intense public scrutiny demonstrates a level of discipline and self-confidence that I strive to attain.

3. Howard Schultz

There are a lot of people in the world who have a lot of different opinions regarding Mr. Schultz, the former CEO of Starbucks, but I've always admired his business acumen, as well as his tireless devotion to what he believes is right. Whether or not one's politics align with that of Mr. Schultz, it's impossible to dismiss his undying commitment to his cause, and his company. Howard's philosophies and writings have hugely influenced the ways in which I perceive my own human experience, and the ways in which I impact those around me.

4. Jeffrey Smyth

I could not possibly conclude this list without mentioning my father. Jeffrey Smyth is a man who came from humble beginnings who, through hard work and persistence, met with great success in the field of law. My father never allowed my family to want for anything, and supported me through every misstep and every triumph throughout my life. He is a man whose opinion I will always respect, and whose friendship I value over any other. 

5. Betty Smyth

I'm breaking the rules a bit with this one, as Betty Smyth is no longer living. My mother passed away almost two years ago, but she remains one of my greatest heroes. My mother taught me the virtues of kindness and love. She also taught me what it means to listen to my feelings, and draw strength from my emotions. My mother unfailingly assumed the best in all that she met, and all that she knew. There were those who called her naive, but her unerring faith in humanity taught me that there is no injustice that isn't worth fighting, and that there is nobody who is not worth saving. All that I am today, I owe to her. I could not have made it this far without her guidance.

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