Joni Mitchell

“When the world becomes a massive mess with nobody at the helm its time for artists to make their mark.”—Joni Mitchell

Joni Mitchell (1943-) is a Canadian singer and songwriter, who became one of the leading folk singers of the late 1960s and 70s. At the age of nine, she contracted polio and while she was infirmed, she taught herself guitar entertained the other hospital patients with her singing. Over time, her very personal, poetic style of songwriting and open chord guitar style, made her one of the most influential singers of her generation.  She is also a respected painter, whose colorful work graces many of her own album sleeves, let alone gallery walls.

Katherine Johnson

“I like to learn. That’s an art and a science.” —Katherine Johnson

Katherine Johnson (born 1918), mathematician and computer scientist, was of NASA’s human ‘computers,’ who performed the complex calculations that enabled spacecraft to orbit Earth and to land on the moon. Check out the excellent movie Hidden Figures to learn more about Katherine (and her friends.)

Yuri Kochiyama

“Don’t become too narrow. Live fully. Meet all kinds of people. You’ll learn something from everyone.”—Yuri Kochiyama

Yuri Kochiyama (1921-2014) was a Japanese American who was put into an interment camp with her family after the Bombing of Pearl Harbor. Her experience greatly influenced a life of advocacy for many civil rights causes including the anti war movement, Black equality, reparations for Japanese-American internees, and political prisoners.  She was a passionate advocate for peace into her old age.


Joan Didion

“I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear.”
― Joan Didion

Joan Didion (born 1934) is an American author best known for her novels and her literary journalism. She collaborated on several screenplays (including “A Star is Born”) with her husband, John Gregory Dunne. When he died of a heart attack after forty years of marriage,  she wrote a book about her grief, which also became a play.  Joan is a fashion icon as well as a literary icon: at the age of 80, she became of the “Face of Céline” for the French fashion label’s advertising campaign.

Aretha Franklin


“We all require and want respect, man or woman, black or white. It’s our basic human right.”—Aretha Franklin

Aretha Franklin (1942) American soul singer. Often called “the Queen of Soul,” she is widely considered one of the greatest musical performers of all time.

In this podcast, my friend Sarah discusses the admiration she’s had for Aretha from an early age—and the influence she still has on her life.

Septima Poinsette Clark

“I believe unconditionally in the ability of people to respond when they are told the truth. We need to be taught to study rather than believe, to inquire rather than to affirm.” —Septima Poinsette Clark

Septima Poinsette Clark (1893-1987) was an African-American teacher and civil rights activist who set up citizenship schools for disenfranchised African Americans in the 1950s and 60s. Here, they were taught to read and write so they could pass the literacy tests required by southern states to register to vote.  The citizenship schools began to spread through the south, and were adopted by Martin Luther King Jr’s  Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1961. As a result, many began to take control of their lives and discover their full rights as citizens. Septima’s 40 years of teaching experience and her own struggles and triumphs of finding work as a black teacher in the south equipped her to design an education program that changed the course of history…and empowered many African Americans to take control of their lives and discover their full rights as citizens.  She became known as the “Queen mother” or “Grandmother” of the Civil Rights Movement in the United States.

Temple Grandin

Dr. Temple Grandin, PhD, (born  1947) is an autistic woman who has become one of the top scientists in the humane livestock handling industry and an outspoken advocate of other humans on the spectrum. Temple grew up in a time when very little was known about autism, but due to her mother’s insistence that she receive a good education regardless of her diagnosed “brain damage,” and with the help of understanding mentors, she went on to receive degrees in psychology and animal science. Temple compares her thinking process and memory to ‘movies’ in that can be replayed in her head at will, allowing her to notice small details that would otherwise be overlooked. This has helped her empathetic work with animals as she has advocated for more humane treatment of livestock. She understands the anxiety of being overstimulated by her surroundings, and even invented a ‘hug machine’ to be used with autistic children in need of calming as well as animals in stressful situations. Temple has become one of the most well-known and respected speakers on autism awareness as well as animal welfare, and she is still going strong!

“Autism is an important part of who I am, and I wouldn’t want to change it, because I LIKE the way I think.” —Temple Grandin

Jocelyn Bell Burnell

“If we assume we’ve arrived: we stop searching, we stop developing.”
―Jocelyn Bell Burnell

Dr. Susan Jocelyn Bell Burnell (born 1943) is a Northern Irish astrophysicist, who, as a 24-year old graduate student, discovered the phenomenon known as pulsars (signals from tiny but extremely dense dead star remnants called neutron stars) while working with a team of researchers under supervision of her advisor, Antony Hewish. The paper announcing the discoveryhad five authors (Hewish’s name being listed first, Bell’s second), but when Hewish was awarded the Nobel Prize for astronomy (along with fellow astronomer Martin Ryle), Jocelyn was not included. Many critics of this decision began to call it the “No Bell Prize.” Her attitude to the snub has been admirable, to say the least: “You can actually do extremely well out of not getting a Nobel prize, and I have had so many prizes, and so many honors, and so many awards, that actually, I think I’ve had far more fun than if I’d got a Nobel Prize – which is a bit flash in the pan: You get it, you have a fun week, and it’s all over, and nobody gives you anything else after that, cos they feel they can’t match it.

On top of the many honors Jocelyn Bell has achieved in her long teaching career: She was President of the Royal Astronomical Society, President of the Institute of Physics,  President of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, Pro-Chancellor of the University of Dublin, she is  currently the  President of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and a visiting Professor of Astrophysics at  Oxford University. Not bad for getting ahead anyway!


Artist’s note: I love this picture because I think she looks like a Judy Blume character from my own younger years. Why shouldn’t a smart girl follow her dreams of learning and be rewarded for it? This determined, happy face says there’s no reason at all!

Julie Andrews

Perseverance is failing 19 times and succeeding the 20th.” — Julie Andrews

Dame Julie Andrews (born 1935) is an English actress, singer, author, theatre director and dancer with a career that spans 71 years and is still going strong. She is beloved by many generations all over the world.

My 12-year old niece Fiona Bergen shares a little about about why she admires Julie Andrews in the podcast.

Eugenie Clark


“I don’t get philosophical. Love fish. Love sharks. Keep the water and their habitats as clean and protected as possible.”—Eugenie Clark

Dr. Eugenie Clark (1922-2015) known as the  “Shark Lady” was a Japanese-American ichthyologist and oceanographer noted for her research on poisonous fishes of the tropical seas and on the behavior of sharks, who’s frightening reputation she worked tirelessly to improve in the public eye. Among the many accomplishments of her long and enthusiastic marine biology career, she learned to free dive as well as scuba dive, discovered several fish species, became the first person to train sharks, published books and papers, and founded the MOTE Marine Laboratory and Aquarium in Florida, which is still growing as a research institute after 60 years. She was a life-long teacher, world-traveller and researcher, sharing her passion for ocean-life and conservation. She died at the age of 92,  just months after her final dive and weeks after her last paper was published, openly grateful for living a life in the ocean, doing what she loved most. She said: “I’ve done it all, but mainly I’ve enjoyed studying fish and being underwater with them, being in their natural habitat, looking at the fish and the fish looking at me.”

It’s Earth Day, 2017! Lets remember the oceans and all the life therein are part of our world as well.