By Adam Drake
In honor of #sweating it forward, and inspiring others to do good and embrace their community, I was tasked with finding the most inspiring man in the United States. This is not an easy feat, especially given that inspiration is purely subjective. While we live in a society of inspiring celebrities who have the platform and the means to share their inspiration, there are too many true heroes that go unnoticed each day. There's the men (and women) who serve our country in the military, true heroes. There's the titans of industry who donate their time and money to great causes. But what makes them even more inspiring than those who fight through diseases, or raise their kids as single parents on shoestring budgets? The plain fact is: there isn’t one singular most-inspiring man in this country — there are many.
Teachers, emergency workers, and even doctors nowadays struggle to make ends meet, while also holding the basis for the advancement of humanity in their hands. People in these fields don’t do it for the fame, they don’t do it for the money, they do it because they (hopefully) enjoy it, and because they know they’re contributing to society. Inspiration comes through the pursuit of happiness, and by bringing that happiness to other people. Here are a few people who inspire us:
The Family Man
A friend of mine sat in a hospital room, holding his daughter, watching his wife succumb to her final days of breast cancer. After she died, he quit his job with the six-figure salary, moved out of the city, and concentrated on giving his daughter the best possible life he could. It meant taking a job where he could be there for her when she got home from school. It required moving to a small town with front lawns and sidewalks. This wasn’t what he thought his life would be, but it was his love for his daughter and her well-being that inspired him to make the sacrifices.
In elementary school, a man named Jeff Keith came to speak in our auditorium. He had his leg amputated when he was 12 due to cancer, and 11 years later ran across the country – becoming the first man to do so on one leg. This was the first time I’d ever seen an amputee, the first time I’d ever heard the word “Cancer,” and despite my young age, the first time I thought, “This guy is a badass.” It was the idea of facing unexpected adversity head on, and powering through with an accomplishment most people with both legs would never do, that really got to me. Jeff inspired an auditorium full of elementary school students that day, and almost 30 years later, I still remember his name and his truly remarkable story.
The War Hero
Finally, there’s the story of Louis Zamperini that formed the basis of the book and the movie, Unbroken. Like most guys who came of age in the early '40s, Louis joined the military to fight in World War II. A few years earlier, he’d participated in running events at the Olympics, and now found himself as a bombardier on a plane over the Pacific. His plane went down and he and his surviving airmen were adrift on the ocean for over a month. Rescued by the Japanese, Zamperini was sent to a POW camp and endured starvation, abuse, and disease for years. Truly a hard tale to swallow, it’s both a beautiful and tragic reminder of what our servicemen and women endure each day. Facing incredible odds, fighting for values they believe in, and selflessly putting themselves in danger, the military men and women should be an inspiration to us all.
The most inspiring man in the United States isn’t on the cover of a magazine. He isn’t running for office. He’s the guy who you look up to, whoever that may be. The guy you aspire to be. The guy who doesn’t do it for fame and fortune — but because he wants to leave the world a little better than when he came into it.
Adam Drake is Creative Director for the Sweat Life, a former four-year varsity rower for the University of Miami, and currently rows for the Maritime Rowing Club. He is the co-founder of Kayak for a Cause, a charity event based in Connecticut. As a writer, Adam has developed television shows for Comedy Central, Bad Boy Worldwide, and Sky, written ad campaigns for clients such as Bacardi, Starbucks, Dove Men+Care, and HBO, and was a contributor to the pop culture site YesButNoButYes. In his spare time, he enjoys skiing, boating, and working on his tremendous collection of unfinished novels.