Every year at this time, Gambit honors one or more people who made a positive difference for New Orleans during the previous year. We call them New Orleanians of the Year.
One of last year's honorees, James Carville, perhaps anticipated this year's selections when he noted that living in the Crescent City always involves a struggle. "But," Carville added, "every struggle here matters."
This year's honorees have faced enormous struggles that mattered. One continues to fight a life-sapping illness and the other battles the most powerful political forces the state has ever known. Both have inspired others to join them, and both certainly made a positive difference for New Orleans in 2013.
Steve Gleason, the former New Orleans Saints football player who was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), responded courageously by founding Team Gleason to raise awareness of the disease and to advocate for a faster search for a cure. He also continues to inspire by refusing to let the illness dampen his amazing zest for life.
John Barry, noted historian and flood control expert, convinced his fellow members of the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East (SLFPA-E) to file an environmental lawsuit against 97 oil, gas and pipeline companies that have carved up southeast Louisiana's wetlands for the past 80 years — exacerbating coastal land loss and storm-related flooding along the way. For his efforts, Barry was booted off the board, but he continues the fight against enormous odds.
For their courage and grit, Steve Gleason and John Barry are our 2013 New Orleanians of the Year.