Over the past two hundred and thirty years or so, the ten Americans I consider to be best include:
1. George Washington – As the “Father of this County”, he played a central role in the founding of the United States. He endured great sacrifices for his country and demonstrated strong leadership and perseverance in the midst of great hardships. He had a strong faith in God, spoke often of the value of prayer, righteousness, and seeking and offering thanks for the "blessings of Heaven". Washington was a man of great personal integrity, with a deeply held sense of duty, honor and patriotism. He was courageous and farsighted, holding the Continental Army together through eight hard years of war and numerous privations, sometimes by sheer force of will. Washington peacefully relinquished the presidency to John Adams after serving two terms in office – thus, establishing limits for serving as President. This was a very unselfish act and is seen as one of Washington's most important legacies. Referring to this act, George III, the King of England defeated during the Revolution, called him "the greatest character of the age."
2. Abraham Lincoln – He is my favorite U.S. President. Lincoln preserved the Union and put an end to slavery in the United States with the Emancipation Proclamation and the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution. Lincoln was a man of honesty, and high integrity who possessed a deep respect for individual and minority rights, and human freedom in general. He overcame the abuse and trials of a difficult childhood to become one of the most unselfish and loving individuals our country has ever known – putting the needs of others above his own. He was a man of humble origins whose strong moral character, determination, and perseverance led him to the nation's highest office.
3. Senator Sam Brownback – He is a man of high morals and a strong pro-life supporter. He opposes abortion and has compared abortion to a holocaust. He also opposes federal-funding of embryonic stem cell research that involves the cloning and killing of human embryos. He is averse to same sex marriage, and is genuinely "concerned" about pornography. As a Christian congressman, he walks the talk. He was received into the Roman Catholic Church in 2002. I am including him in this list because he is a model congressman – someone for all the phonies out there to try to emulate.
4. Servant of God Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen – One of the greatest evangelizers of modern times
5. Monsignor Phillip Reilly – Active in the pro-life movement for the past thirty-five years, Monsignor founded the Helpers of God's Precious Infants in 1989 with just four volunteers outside the infamous Choices abortion center in Brooklyn, NY. Helpers Chapters now span the United States and eighteen countries. Through his work, he has saved a vast number of lives.
6. Judie Brown -- Judie Brown is president of American Life League, an organization she co-founded in 1979. Judie has been a national leader in the pro-life movement from the early years following the Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. Named as one of the Top 100 Catholics of the Twentieth Century, Judie is serving her second five-year term as a member of Pontifical Academy for Life in Rome. She is an articulate and passionate pro-life leader whose “"no exceptions" policy has put her at odds with leaders from both the pro-abortion and the pro-life movements. She is a person who stands by her beliefs and does not give in to pressure.
7. Fr. Frank Pavone -- My hero, Father Frank, is the Founder of Priests for Life, and like President Lincoln, stands up for the rights of the innocent – the voiceless, defenseless babies in the womb.
8. St. Katharine Drexel – Katharine founded the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament for Indians and Colored People, whose members would work for the betterment of those they were called to serve. From the age of 33 until her death in 1955, she dedicated her life and a fortune of 20 million dollars to this work. She abandoned a luxurious life of wealth to serve God by becoming the servant of the poor.
9. Venerable Pierre Toussaint – As a hairdresser in New York in the 1800’s, Pierre gave away a substantial part of his considerable income to the poor, telling a friend who urged him to retire: "I have enough for myself, but if I stop working I have not enough for others." He delicately provided spiritual guidance to his wealthy clients, urging them to pray and submit their anxieties to God. Toussaint and his wife cared for abandoned boys, taking them into his home, and finding them jobs. He also cared for the sick, sometimes bringing them to his home. He purchased freedom for Haitian slaves. He was " …full in the faith of his Church, " a contemporary said, "liberal, enlightened and always acting from the principle that God is our common Father and mankind our brethren. "
10. Servant of God Dorothy Day -- A journalist turned social activist and devout member of the Catholic Church, she became known for her social justice campaigns in defense of the poor, forsaken, hungry and homeless. Alongside Peter Maurin, she founded the Catholic Worker Movement in 1933, espousing non-violence, and hospitality for the impoverished and downtrodden. She opened a house of hospitality in the slums of New York City. In 1978, she earned the Pax Christi USA Pope Paul VI Teacher of Peace Award.