Anyone who thinks that Michigan’s finest days are behind us ought to pick up a copy of The Detroit News’ June 5 special section celebrating the 2013 Michiganians of the Year. I am humbled to be among this year’s recipients. It’s an inspiring list of people, ages 10 to 102, who saw a problem, rolled up their sleeves and took action. The list includes some big names you’re accustomed to seeing in the news. But there are also plenty of others you might never have heard before. I know I hadn’t – but have now. Sharlonda Buckman launched the Detroit Parent Network nonprofit to help parents take more active roles in their children’s education. Her organization is doing important work in Detroit, where making educational opportunities available and recognizing the invaluable role that families play in guiding a child toward success are meaningful beyond measure. You can’t help but smile when reading about Joshua Smith, who last June, at the age of 9, took action to restore a dilapidated playground in his west-side Detroit neighborhood. In a city too cash-strapped to fix it up, Joshua set up a stand selling lemonade, fruit punch, water and popcorn to raise money for repairs. His story quickly spiraled across the national media and attracted donations from around the world. In the end, he donated more than $3,600 to the city, got an out-of-state company to install new playground equipment and a suburban crew to mow the grass. Saturday he’ll join the Lemonade Day Detroit initiative to help inspire other children across the region to become entrepreneurs and do good works. These stories reinforce something I learned long ago — that individual people, channeling personal passions and the power of human perseverance, can make at least as great an impact on our future as the leaders of our largest companies and organizations. Congratulations to all the honorees. I am fortunate and humbled to be among you. Daniel J. Loepp is president and chief executive officer of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.
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