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Five of this year’s Chivas Venture finalists champion the political figureheads that have inspired them to act.

A great speech can make the hair on the back of your neck stand up. It can rouse you to aspire to greatness. But very few channel that inspiration and act upon it.

Here, some of the Chivas Venture finalists open up about their heroes from the world of politics that have moulded and fuelled their ambitions for social change.

Michelle Obama

Few First Ladies have used their celebrity, influence and positivity as wisely and impactful as Michelle Obama. The White House's former First Lady was a powerful and accessible voice on economic, social and racial inequality, particularly for women.

For Judith Joan Walker, Obama is an aspirational figurehead who drives her on in her day-to-day life. The Director of Operations for African Clean Energy (ACE) was recently named as an "Iconic Leader Creating a Better World for All" at the Women Economic Forum.

“I want to be like Michelle Obama,” Judith explained. “Her confidence, elegance and message are so inspiring, plus she has a brilliant sense of humour and she seems humble, genuine and fun. I aspire to be as wonderful as she is.”

Gloria Steinem

Given Obama’s passion for girl’s education it should come as no surprise to see that the founder of Words With Heart also cites the former First Lady as a personal hero. The Brisbane-based social enterprise, founded by Lauren Shuttleworth, uses proceeds from their eco-friendly custom print and stationery products to help fund education projects for women and girls in the developing world.

In addition to Obama, Lauren also championed the American feminist, journalist, and social and political activist, Gloria Steinem. Founder of Ms Magazine, the first mass circulation feminist title, Steinem has been at the forefront of the feminist movement since the 60s.

“Michelle Obama has been a powerful voice for investing in women’s education, and her compassion and confidence inspire me everyday along with American feminist Gloria Steinem for her tireless activism and all that she has done for women’s empowerment.”

Nelson Mandela

Anti-apartheid revolutionary and former South African President Nelson Mandela is an inspiration to his compatriot James Steere, founder of iDrop Water. A global advocate for human rights and the first black president of South Africa, Mandela was one of the most devoted champions for peace and social justice until his death in 2013.

“He’s a hero for almost all South Africans,” James explained. “Far from a perfect person, and the first to acknowledge that, he consciously and purposefully strived to be the best person that his humanity allowed him to be. This, despite being imprisoned and mistreated for decades. I’m constantly struck by the will-power and conviction it must have required to live with such dignity and humility having suffered so profoundly and for so long.”

Thích Nhất Hạnh

Similarly to Mandela in his later years, Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thích Nhất Hạnh campaigned for non-violent solutions to conflict. The spiritual leader, poet and peace activist was called “An Apostle of peace and nonviolence” by Martin Luther King and he is noted for key teachings on mindfulness - and its role in developing peace.

The author of over 100 books promoting peace movements, he heavily influenced Will Chua of FOLO Farms. FOLO, which stands for Feed Our Loved Ones, is an urban farming community that turn hotel and restaurant waste into compost to grow organic vegetables.

“No words can describe how he has taken care of himself and the world around him.”


John F. Kennedy was the 35th President of the United States (1961-1963) and the youngest man ever elected to office. His presidency was marked by his rhetorical commitment to introducing domestic reforms, which culminated in him passing the landmark Civil Rights Act in 1964. Although it is not commonly referenced during discussions about Kennedy’s presidential legacy, the role he played in kick-starting the modern women’s movement shouldn’t go unnoticed. In December 1961, Kennedy established a national Commission on the Status of Women, appointing Eleanor Roosevelt as its chair, and in 1963 he signed the historic Equal Pay Act, which prohibited "discrimination on account of sex in the payment of wages by employers."

At JFK’s Inaugural Address he famously said, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country". These immortal words not only resonate with Daniel Dalet of SoloCoco, they could easily be applied to the Dominican entrepreneur.

SoloColo is a sustainable coconut oil company that is committed to employing, supporting, and assisting single mothers in the Dominican Republic. The hand-pressed, fair trade-certified, virgin coconut oil business set aside funds for initiatives chosen by their employees which include buying school supplies for their children, medical expenses and English language courses. In addition to hero worshipping his father, Daniel looks up to the the aforementioned presidential icon, who was assassinated on November 22, 1963.

“My father had the opportunity to go bankrupt and remain very wealthy, or honour his commitments and be poor. He chose to honour his commitments and start over. I have never seen anyone with this sense of honour again. Otherwise my other hero would be JFK, an advocate for peace in a time where war was big business and fear mongering increased profits. It takes courage and leadership to bring the world back from the brink. I think looking back at JFK and his talks of freedom, challenge and progress would do the world some good right now.”

Follow @ChivasVenture on Twitter for all the highlights from the competition, and the latest stories, ideas and individuals that are helping to shape our future.

No endorsement or association is meant between those featured in this article and Chivas.

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