* He prods the faithful to deeper thought
John S. Spong, 72
Retired Episcopal Bishop of Newark, New Jersey
He insists he's a Christian, but Spong persistently challenges major tenets, including the idea of the Resurrection as a physical phenomenon. "Christianity must escape the traditional understandings in which it has been captured," he writes, "or it will die." While traditionalists of all stripes have risen to defend their faith, supporters laud his creative thought. "[Spong has] courage and imagination unintimidated by conventional wisdom," writes Harvard's Peter Gomes.
* She brings fantasies to life
Julie Taymor, 50
Theater and Film Director, Costume Designer
Julie Taymor Taymor's two films, last year's Frida and 1999's Titus, have electrified audiences with their time-shifting, reality-bending fantasy sequences. But Taymor is best known for her Broadway production of The Lion King, which won six Tony awards, including best director and best costume design. When it opened in 1997, theatergoers were blown away by the half-human, half-animal puppet costumes—inspired by her world travels and years in both live and puppet theater. Taymor insisted the costumes bear real beads, not plastic, because "the people wearing the beads would know, and the spirit and soul of the craftsmen would be in the fabric and materials."
* He changed the face of TV, and now he's rewriting the rules of philanthropy
Ted Turner, 64
Vice Chairman, AOL Time Warner; Chairman, Turner Foundation
He won the America's Cup yacht race, created the first cable-TV "superstation," and invented 24-hour TV news. But CNN founder Turner—the volatile "mouth of the South" who once challenged rival Rupert Murdoch to a boxing match—says his proudest moment was in giving away $1 billion to the UN before Wall Street took its toll. His gift is being used to remove land mines, deliver medicine, and assist refugees. The Turner Foundation tackles environmental and population issues; Turner's Nuclear Threat Initiative helps governments limit nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons. Says Turner: "The most difficult challenge in dealing with these nearly intractable problems is staying cheerful."
* She changed the way America eats
Alice Waters, 59
Owner and Founder, Chez Panisse
Waters is why restaurants brag that chicken is free-range, tomatoes are organic, and oysters have been harvested from a certain Maine cove. When she and a few friends opened Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California, in 1971, all she planned was a spot where diners could enjoy food prepared as she had seen in France—with fresh ingredients from local farms and fisheries. It became the launching pad for a generation of fresh-and-local chefs. Waters's Chez Panisse Foundation promotes sustainable agriculture and teaches children to value fine food over fast food.
* He teaches us how to heal ourselves
Andrew Weil, 60
Director, Program in Integrative Medicine, University of Arizona
Weil challenged the medical establishment's core beliefs about healing—and proved that many of grandma's cures weren't as nutty as we thought. Before his books, including Health and Healing and Eight Weeks to Optimum Health, began finding an audience in the 1980s, doctors scoffed at healing traditions of the past and of other cultures. But the rebel physician's central message—that the body can often heal itself with proper nutrition, mental conditioning, and herbal therapies—has now gone mainstream. Still, many of his ideas remain controversial. "I should hope so!" he says. "If I didn't make people think and disagree, I wouldn't be doing my job." Yet he hasn't totally abandoned Western medicine. "If I have a car accident, don't take me to an herbalist," he says.
* She's making land mines obsolete
Jody Williams, 52
Founding Coordinator, International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL)
Williams turned a pie-in-the-sky notion—eliminating land mines from world arsenals—into an international treaty. The 1997 Mine Ban Treaty not only bans trade and manufacturing of land mines, it requires governments to dig them out of the ground. She made this happen by assembling an alliance of some 1,400 nongovernmental organizations. Next step: ratification. "She's the living embodiment of the fact that one person can make a difference in the world," says filmmaker David Haugland, who's making a documentary about the treaty.
Use the International Campaign to Ban Landmines' website to help the program in many ways, including sponsoring a mine-detection dog.
Join/Renew for Just $16 A Year
- Discounts on travel and everyday savings
- Subscription to AARP The Magazine
- Free membership for your spouse or partner