10 individuals most important to America's future

Elon Musk

Elon Musk is known for his making amazing things happen. He started his grandiose plans for the future of technology when he co-founded the online payments PayPal. The premise was simple and effective. PayPal now manages millions, if not billions, of online payments a year, providing merchants and their customers with safe, and effective, money transfers. After getting purchased by eBay itself, ironically the biggest transaction PayPal has ever been apart of, Musk became an instant billionaire.

Lately Musk has around trying to solve a very important problem: travel. His company Tesla Motors makes an electric car, the groundbreaking (pardon the cliche) Tesla Model S. It's fitting that Musk named his automobile company after inventor Nikola Tesla. After all Tesla's grandiose ideas ideas were the stuff of legend. Tesla was all about harnessing the power of electricity to do things no one thought possible. Along with other prominent inventors like Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse, Tesla contributed design ideas to the alternating current electrical supply system. The Tesla Model S can plug-in into a modern day power outlet derived from Tesla's design and charge up in a few hours.

But Musk doesn't just want to focus on ground transportation. He has much more grandiose ideas invested into companies like SpaceX. Like its name not-so-subtly suggests, a spaceflight company. With SpaceX, Musk and his partners are reinventing space travel and exploration for the 21st century. Since NASA retired its long-running shuttle program a few years ago, American astronauts have had to hitch rides with Russian cosmonauts to get to space. While that setup helps foster a better relationship between American and its Cold War rival (at least for the duration of the space flight), it doesn't help America innovate. SpaceX has undergone many test flights and rocket launches to high profile successes and failure.

One idea Musk has proposed that hasn't come to fruition yet, is the Hyperloop high-speed transportation system. The proposed train-in-a-tube concept looks similar to the pneumatic tubes used in banks across the country, albeit on a much larger scale. Online gadget review site Gizmag wrote a detailed analysis on the whiz-bang transportation system titled Beyond the hype of Hyperloop: An analysis of Elon Musk's proposed transit system. The analysis quickly pointed out that while the hyperloop look like pneumatic tubes that's where the similarities ended. Gizmag points out that a more-apt comparison is to be made with Roger Goddard's idea of a reduced pressure transports in the early 1910s.

The Hyperloop would run parallel to Interstate 5 in California. Passengers, and perhaps even automobiles, would be able to travel from Los Angeles to San Francisco (and vice-versa) in less than 40 minutes. The Hyperloop concept was recently unveiled during an August 2013 press conference. Musk will not lead the project himself. Instead he has shared his blueprints for the project with the general public. If anyone wants to put the idea in place he will provide assistance.

So there you have it, the South African born and current Los Angeles resident Elon Musk is a brave tech visionary and old school entrepreneur. He learns more from his failures than successes. America has a bright future ahead if more people like Elon Musk crop up.

Bill Nye

BIll Nye is best known for his TV show Bill Nye the Science Guy which ran on PBS from 1993-1998. Nye attended the prestigious Cornell University in Ithaca, New York where he studied mechanical engineering at the Sibley School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. Carl Sagan was one of Nye's professors. He had ambitions of becoming an astronaut, but despite applying numerous times he was always denied.  

The camera friendly Nye was a contestant on ABC's popular Dancing with the Stars TV program. He successfully proved the theory that scientist's cannot dance. While he is a beloved celebrity Nye deals with real issues on a day-to-day basis. He lectures on topics such as evolution and climate change. Nye thinks it's dangerous that thousands of school children (if not more) across America are taught creationism.

"If we raise a generation of students who don't believe in the process of science, who think everything that we've come to know about nature and the universe can be dismissed by a few sentences translated into English from some ancient text, you're not going to continue to innovate," Nye said in a comprehensive telephone interview back in 2012.

A prominent critic of Nye's is Ken Ham, the founder of the Creation Museum in Ohio. Ham is just one of millions of American's who don't believe in basic science according to "The Science Guy." Whereas Nye and the vast majority of scholars, educators, and scientists believe that the Earth is around 4.5 billion years old, Ham and fellow creationists believe it's at the most, 10,000 years old.

"We say the only dating method that is absolute is the Word of God," Ham said. "Time is the crucial factor for Bill Nye. Without the time of millions of years, you can't postulate evolution change."

Ham and Nye will actually get together to debate this issue at the Creation Museum itself on February 4th.

Nye directs even more pointed criticism towards climate change doubters. He has made stops on talk shows, created videos talking about the effects of climate change and spoken in front of his alma mater. At Alice Statler Auditorium Nye suggested a new name for global warming.

Call it "global cooking," Nye proposed, or perhaps "really hot ... really fast." Even a modest change from "global warming" to "global heating" might spur people to action.

Nye even predicted back in April 2005 that a historic hurricane could reek havok on coastal communities. Just four months later Hurricane Katrina leveled New Orleans. "Am I a genius? No. I was just paying attention. And a lot of people aren't," Nye said.

Clearly Nye isn't all about  fun and games as his TV persona might suggest. But his hardline stance on evolution education and climate change prevention is just what this country's failing education system needs.

Mary Gonzalez

Do you remember a time when politicians were admired for their actions? [Insert sound of crickets chirping here] Texas State Representative Mary Gonzalez is an admirable person. She is the first openly pansexaul politician in American history.

If you're unfamiliar with the term pansexual you're not alone. Pansexuality addresses an issue people have with labels. Gay means gay and straight means straight, until they don't.

While the capital city of Austin, Texas is known for keeping it weird and wonderful, the rest of the state, including the 75th district which Gonzalez presides over, isn't nearly as progressive.

"During the campaign if I had identified as pansexual, I would have overwhelmed everyone," she said. "Now that I'm out of the campaign, I'm completely much more able to define it."

In a perfect world Gonzalez's sexuality wouldn't draw unwarranted attention or create a media firestorm. And perhaps due to the positive reaction to Gonzalez's coming out, future politicians will decide to run as an openly pansexual candidate. Hopefully that doesn't undermine their campaign.

Being pansexual means that you are attracted to the person, not the gender, and your identification doesn't box you in. Also, unlike some close-minded people would like to allege, being pansexual doesn't mean that you're promiscuous.

"As I started to recognize the gender spectrum and dated along the gender spectrum, I was searching for words that connected to that reality, for words that embraced the spectrum. At the time I didn't feel as if the term bisexual was encompassing of a gender spectrum that I was dating and attracted to."

Gonzalez has been going through a self-identification process for a long time. She came out as bisexual at the age of 21. It's reported that she also previously identified as lesbian before deciding that both of those two labels were too rigid for her.

At the time of Gonzalez's coming out out as pansexual gay advocacy group Gay Politics lauded her announcement.

"The people of El Paso will be represented by a talented and committed fighter who knows how to get things done in Austin. And LGBT Texans will be represented by an authentic voice in the Capitol, standing up and speaking out for fairness and freedom for all."

What other individuals would you include on this list? Let us know in the comments section below.

JK Rowling

If you find it odd that half of this four person list is comprised of individuals born outside America it shouldn't. America has and always will be a melting pot of ideas, influences and people. English author J.K. Rowling is important to the future of this country for one simple fact, she can get children to read. Back in the 1990s J.K. Rowling began scribbling the beginnings of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone better known in America as Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. The book would be released in 1997.

The Wall Street Journal says that before Harry Potter landed in bookstores across America, no serious publisher would even publish a children's book. Promotional tie-ins of some sort would need to be released in order to make the book sell. Basically the author words (and illustrator's pictures) weren't worth as much as the paper they were printed on. Children simply didn't read, they played the Game Gear or Game Boy Pocket, but reading was taboo. Reading was for the geeks, the disenfranchised and the losers. Until three characters, Harry, Hermione and Ron, make reading cool. And addictive. And children began to bond with newfound friends all thanks to a single book.

Over a decade later the seven principal Harry Potter books have sold 450 million copies worldwide. The previously destitute Rowling is the richest woman in the UK, yes richer than the Queen of England by a mile. In fact Rowling's masterwork has sold so many copies that it has to be cited alongside three other best selling books, the Bible, the Torah and the Koran, when top ten lists are made by analysts. And Rowling's books have also spawned eight Harry Potter movies that have collectively become the highest grossing film series of all time. The second entry on that list is the 25 film James Bond series.

Rowling's words helped the economy, spurred creativity and created a lasting legacy that will be remembered long after she's gone.