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15 public figures who inspire Long Island's valedictorians

Taylor Swift? The Rock? Michael Bloomberg? Newsday surveyed Long Island's valedictorians, and these are just some of the people they're inspired by.

Steve Prefontaine

Photo Credit: Allsport

"Being a runner, I have always been inspired by the legendary American distance runner Steve Prefontaine. The sheer determination and passion in how he ran is something I will always admire. Pre taught me that you should always give your best effort, no matter what the circumstances or the situation. This advice has served me very well throughout my life." - Joseph Wetzel, Northport High School

Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson

Photo Credit: Frazer Harrison / Getty Images

"Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson serves as an inspiration for me in all aspects of life." - Mohankumar Chintarlapalli, Babylon High School

Michael Bloomberg

Photo Credit: Mark Sagliocco / Getty Images

"I have always looked up to former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg because of his ability to be successful in the private financial sector and be able to transfer his successes to public office. I aspire to be similar to Mr. Bloomberg because aside from my interest in finance, I also am interested in politics." - Vincent Coghill, Massapequa High School

Derek Jeter

Photo Credit: Elsa / Getty Images

"Derek Jeter because he achieved greatness for himself. Throughout his entire career he has exhibited good character. For almost 20 years of intense public attention, he still manages to be looked up to by the majority of people." - Brian Faller, Kellenberg Memorial High School

Emma Watson

Photo Credit: Miguel Rojo / AFP / Getty Images

"Emma Watson. Although I love her work (who doesn't love "Harry Potter"?), her dedication to education and work with the UN have truly inspired me. Watson's ability to balance all of her commitments and willingness to defend what is right have helped me realize what any person can do if she tries." - Shreeya Panigrahi, Sayville High School

"There are quite a few, but as far as celebrities go, Emma Watson comes to mind -- not only has she balanced a quality college education with a vibrant acting career, but she is also an active feminist, and I greatly admire her work with HeForShe." - Hannah Lawrence, Comsewogue High School

Peter Dinklage

Photo Credit: Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

"Peter Dinklage. As an aspiring actor he refused to take roles that degraded people suffering from dwarfism. This could have destroyed his career, but he persevered and eventually became a star based solely off of his talent." - Noah Davis, Earl L. Vandermeulen High School

Tim Howard

Photo Credit: Getty Images / Kevin C. Cox

"Tim Howard inspires me because he has reached athletic stardom despite struggling with Tourrette's Syndrome." - Peter Goralski, Chaminade High School

John Mayer / Ed Sheeran

Photo Credit: Getty Images / AFP

"Ed Sheeran and John Mayer inspire me to be creative and to always follow what I'm passionate about. For me, they are examples of how if you want something enough and work at it enough, you can have it." - Krysten Garcia, Division Avenue High School

Neil deGrasse Tyson

"Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson inspires me in his ability to make science exciting and understandable, and his work in promoting science in society." - Jennifer McDermott, William Floyd High School

Margaret Thatcher

Photo Credit: Daniel Berehulak / Getty Images

"Margaret Thatcher is definitely my role model. Her father owned a supermarket, and she ended up becoming the first female prime minister of the UK. That's impressive, especially considering that she did it 30 years ago; meanwhile, we still haven't had a female president of the United States. She was so brazen." - Kacie Candela, H. Frank Carey High School

Mark Zuckerberg

Photo Credit: Josh Edelson / AFP / Getty Images

"Mark Zuckerberg. With a net worth of $34.8 billion, this college dropout is an inspiration to all young entrepreneurs." - Tyler Fenton, Plainview-Old Bethpage JFK High School

Taylor Swift

Photo Credit: Jun Sato / Getty Images for TS

"This might sound cliche, but I have always admired Taylor Swift. Not only is she a world-class, talented artist, but she also uses her time and money to improve the lives of others. I admire her positive attitude and outlook on life." - Meagan Loyst, Sachem High School North

Gabby Giffords

Photo Credit: Getty Images

"Congresswoman Gabrielle Gifford. This is because she experienced tragedy and never gave up. She is truly a hero." - Georgia Bennett, East Hampton High School

Wesley Autrey

Photo Credit: Getty Images

"Wesley Autrey ('The Hero of Harlem'), for split-decision, on-the-spot altruism. When a young student suffered a seizure and fell into the subway tracks into an oncoming train, Autrey jumped into the tracks into the drainage trench and covered the student's body with his own while the train passed overhead. He shouted up to the people on the platform, 'Tell my two daughters that their father is OK,' and the entire station burst into applause." - Rebecca Cheng, Smithtown High School West

Albert Einstein

Photo Credit: AFP / Getty Images

"Albert Einstein, for coming out of left field with absolute brilliance. I pursued science in part so I could understand the work that he has done." - Brian Frost-LaPlante, Lawrence Woodmere Academy


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