(CNN) -- "The other day I dreamed that I was at the gates of heaven....And St. Peter
said, 'Go back to Earth, there are no slums up here.'"
These words, once spoken by Mother Teresa, vividly recall the life of the late Roman Catholic nun and missionary known
as "the Saint of the Gutters." For Mother Teresa, who devoted her life to the succor of the sick and the outcast, earthly
sufferers were nothing less than Christ in "distressing disguise."
From an early age, the girl who would become Mother Teresa felt the call to help others. Born August 26, 1910, in Skopje
(now in Macedonia), Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu was the daughter of Albanian parents -- a grocer and his wife. As a public school
student she developed a special interest in overseas missions and, by age 12, realized her vocation was aiding the poor.
She was inspired to work in India by reports sent home from Jesuit missionaries in Bengal. And at 18, she left home to
join a community of Irish nuns with a mission in Calcutta. Here, she took the name "Sister Teresa," after Saint Teresa of
Lisieux, the patroness of missionaries. She spent 17 years teaching and being principal of St. Mary's high school in Calcutta.
However, in 1946, her life changed forever.
After falling ill with suspected tuberculosis she was sent to the town of Darjeeling to recover.
"It was in the train I heard the call to give up all and follow him to the slums to serve him among the poorest of the
poor," she remembered. Two years later, Pope Pius XII granted permission for her to leave her order.
After taking a medical training course to prepare for her new mission, she went into the slums of Calcutta to start a school
for children. They called her "Mother Teresa."
Through the years, Mother Teresa's fame grew, as did the magnitude of her deeds ...
In 1950, the community she founded, the Missionaries of Charity, was officially recognized by the Archdiocese of Calcutta.
The Vatican recognized the organization as a pontifical congregation the same year. What began as an order with 12 members
has grown to more than 4,000 nuns running orphanages, AIDS hospices and other charity centers worldwide.
In 1952, she established a home for the dying poor -- the Nirmal Hriday (or "Pure Heart") Home for Dying Destitutes. There,
homeless people -- uncared for and unacceptable at other institutions -- were washed, fed and allowed to die with dignity.
In 1979, she won the Nobel Peace Prize. Accepting the award in the name of the "unwanted, unloved and uncared for," Mother
Teresa wore the same $1 white sari she had adopted when she founded her order. It was to identify herself with the poor.
When Pope Paul VI gave her a white Lincoln Continental, she auctioned the car, using the money to establish a leper colony
in West Bengal.
In 1982, during the siege of Beirut, she convinced the Israeli army and Palestinian guerillas to stop shooting long enough
for her to rescue 37 children trapped in a front-line hospital.
When the walls of Eastern Europe collapsed, she expanded her efforts to communist countries that had shunned her, embarking
on dozens of projects.
Though Mother Teresa's good deeds were indisputable, her life was not without controversy. A 1994 British television documentary,
"Hell's Angel: Mother Teresa of Calcutta," accused her of taking donations without questioning the sources. She also received
some criticism for her strong views against abortion and divorce.
Mother Teresa was undeterred by criticism, stating, "No matter who says what, you should accept it with a smile and do
your own work."
And she did ... returning to work time and again after serious health setbacks. Following a nearly fatal heart attack in
1990, Mother Teresa announced her intention to resign as head of her order. During a secret ballot of her sisters, she was
re-elected almost unanimously. The only dissenting vote? Her own.
One made a splash riding waves in Hawaii. Another made his mark walking the halls of Congress. Still another
made history designing an American landmark. As athletes, politicians, architects, and scientists, they've not only changed
the way we view America—they've transformed the way we experience the world. Meet ten of our country's most accomplished
Duke Kahanamoku (Photo Corbis)
King of the Waves Duke Kahanamoku came
to be known as the father of international surfing, but the Hawaiian native made his first splash as a swimmer at the 1912
Olympics in Stockholm, Sweden. Born in Honolulu in 1890, Kahanamoku struck gold by setting a world record in the 100-meter
free-style and earned a silver medal in the 200-meter relay. He won two more golds at the 1920 Antwerp Olympics, a silver
at the 1924 Paris Olympics, and a bronze at the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics. Kahanamoku's swimming and surfing talents caught
the attention of Hollywood, and over the course of nine years, he appeared in nearly 30 movies. Kahanamoku went on to serve
as sheriff for the City and County of Honolulu for 26 years. When the legendary swimmer and surfer died at the age of 77,
he was remembered for his athletic talent and sportsmanship.
True Lifesaver Dr. Feng Shan Ho single-handedly saved thousands of Austrian Jews during the Holocaust. When Dr. Ho
arrived in Vienna in 1937 as a Chinese diplomat, Austria had the third largest Jewish community in Europe. Just one year later,
however, the Nazis took over Austria and began persecuting Jews. Although they tried to flee, Austrian Jews had nowhere to
go because most of the world's nations would not accept Jewish refugees. Against all odds, many would survive thanks to Dr.
Ho. As Chinese General Consul in Vienna, he went against his boss' orders and began issuing Jews visas to Shanghai, China.
These lifesaving documents allowed thousands of Jews to leave Austria and escape death. After 40 years of diplomatic service
that included ambassadorships to Egypt, Mexico, Bolivia, and Colombia, Dr. Ho retired to San Francisco, California. At age
89, he published his memoirs, "Forty Years of My Diplomatic Life." Dr. Ho died in 1997, an unknown hero of World War II.
A Political Pioneer Dalip Singh Saund made history
in 1956 when he became the first Asian elected to Congress. Born in India in 1899, Saund came to the United States in 1920
to study at the University of California, Berkeley, where he earned a doctorate degree in mathematics. Despite being highly
educated, Saund discovered that his career options were limited due to anti-immigrant feelings in the U.S. As a result, he
worked in farming for the next 20 years. At the same time, Saund began fighting discriminatory laws against Indians. In 1949,
he and other Indians finally earned the right to become U.S. citizens. In 1956, Saund left the fields of California for the
halls of Congress. He served three terms in the House of Representatives, working to improve U.S.-Asian relations. Saund's
political career was cut short when he suffered a stroke while campaigning for a fourth term. Still, he opened the door for
Asian Americans to enter U.S. politics.
Chinese men working on the Union Pacific Railroad in the late 1800s. (Photo courtesy of the Western
History/Genealogy Department, Denver Public Library)
Men of Steel In 1963, construction
began on the transcontinental railroad—1,776 miles of tracks that would form a link between America's West and East
coasts. While thousands of European immigrants worked on the westbound Pacific Union rail, there was not enough manpower to
build the Central Pacific line, which snaked through the rugged Rocky and Sierra Nevada Mountains. In 1865, Central Pacific
officials hired 50 Chinese laborers to lay down a section of track. Their work was so well done, they decided to recruit more
Chinese men. In the end, nearly 12,000 Chinese railroad workers were hired to perform dangerous work that white men refused
to do. They dammed rivers, dug ditches, and blasted tunnels through mountain ranges. Hundreds of men died on the job. The
Chinese also faced discrimination because they looked different from the white workers. Although they often outperformed other
laborers, they were paid less. Despite all of the hardships, the Chinese laborers never quit. Thanks to their hard work, America
became the first continent to have a coast-to-coast railroad.
A Scientific Genius As a young child,
Steven Chu loved to build things—from model airplanes to metal girders. As he grew older, Chu even hoarded his lunch
money to pay for the parts of his homemade rockets. As a senior at Garden City High School in New York, he discovered the
thrill of experimentation once again. In physics lab, the Chinese American teen built an instrument to measure gravity. After
studying physics in college and graduate school, Chu worked as a scientist at Bell Laboratories for nine years. In 1997, all
of Chu's years in the lab paid off when he received the Nobel Prize in Physics for his work on cooling atoms. Why is this
important? Chu explains to Scholastic.com, "The ability to cool atoms down to very low temperatures allows us to hold onto
and move them with incredible control. This control has allowed us to make new measurement tools such as precise atomic clocks
and sensors that can measure gravity and rotation with extraordinary precision." Today, as a physics professor at Stanford
University, Chu is hard at work training the next generation of American scientists.
A Magnificent Musician One of the world's
great musicians, Yo-Yo Ma began studying the cello at the age of four. As a toddler, he and his parents moved from Paris,
France, to New York. At age nine, Ma made his musical debut at the famed Carnegie Hall in New York City. Since graduating
from the Julliard School and Harvard University, Ma has played as a soloist with orchestras around the world. Along the way,
he has recorded 50 albums and collected more than a dozen Grammy Awards. He is also dedicated to bringing music into the lives
of young people through education programs and family concerts. Ma plays two instruments—a 1733 Montagnana cello and
a 1712 Davidoff Stradivarius.
A Monumental Architect Maya Lin rose
to fame in 1981. Just 21-years-old and still an architectural student at Yale University, Lin won a contest to design the
Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. Her design beat out more than 1,400 entries. The Memorial's 594-foot granite
wall features the names of the more than 58,000 U.S. soldiers who died during the Vietnam War. Each year, four million people
visit the wall to pay their respects to these war heroes. Less than a decade later, Lin designed another famous structure—the
Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery, Alabama. The monument outlines the major events of the Civil Rights Movement. Today,
Lin's designs can be found in several American cities and continue to inspire the entire nation.
A Writing Pro Amy Tan was born in 1952
in Oakland, California, the daughter of Chinese parents who had immigrated to the United States three years earlier. As a
teenager, Tan and her family moved to Europe, where she attended high school in Switzerland. Tan later returned to the U.S.
to attend college. She gained international attention in 1989 with the publication of her first novel, The Joy Luck Club,
a story about Chinese women and their Chinese-American daughters. The book has been translated into 25 languages and has been
made into a movie. In addition to her best-selling novels, Tan has also written two children's books, The Moon Lady and The
Chinese Siamese Cat. Besides writing, Tan plays in a rock 'n roll band called The Rock Bottom Remainders with several other
famous writers, including Stephen King and Scott Turow.
Web Wizard A native of Taiwan, Jerry
Yang came to America at age 10, knowing a single English word—shoe. After arriving in Los Angeles, Yang's family settled
in San Jose, California. Although he admits to having had a short attention span in school, Yang aced his studies and was
accepted to one of the nation's top colleges—Stanford University. As a graduate student at Stanford, Yang and classmate,
David Filo, created the Yahoo! directory to help their pals hunt down cool web sites. Today, Yahoo! is the world's most frequently
visited Web site, with 237 millions loyal surfers. Yahoo's kid site, Yahooligans, is popular with young webmasters as well.
When he's not tracking down web links, Yang is hitting the links. He is an avid golfer and sumo-wrestling fan.
Perfection on Ice For nearly a
decade, Michelle Kwan had been skating circles around the competition. The California native bounced back from a disappointing
finish at the 2002 Winter Olympics to win her seventh U.S. women's figure skating title in January and her fifth world title
in March. Her career 37 perfect scores are the most of any skater in history. When competing, Kwan always wears a Chinese
good luck charm around her neck. The charm was a gift from her grandmother. Kwan began skating at age five and won her first
competition two years later. Now, at age 22, she is a skating legend, who is admired for both her athleticism and grace on