Muhammad Yunus was born in Bangladesh and earned his Ph.D. in economics at Vanderbilt University. After returning to Bangladesh to teach, he was inspired by the country’s crushing famine of 1974 to leave academia to help the poor. His revolutionary microcredit concept began by giving out loans totaling twenty-seven dollars to forty-two villagers with no collateral. Microcredit has now spread to more than fifty countries worldwide. With a repayment rate of 98 percent and two million borrowers, Yunus’s $2.5 billion Grameen Bank has expanded into dozens of other projects for empowering the poor, including telecommunications and venture capital.
Born in South Carolina in 1941, Baptist minister Reverend Jesse Jackson is one of America’s most influential civil rights leaders. After rejecting an athletic scholarship because of the preferential treatment of whites, he joined Martin Luther King Jr.’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) as an undergraduate.
In 1967, he was named head of SCLC’s Operation Breadbasket. Jackson was present when King was assassinated in 1968. In later years he founded Operation PUSH (People United to Save Humanity) and the Rainbow Coalition. Jackson campaigned for president in 1984 and 1988, and has mediated international disputes throughout his career.