Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Surely, in the light of history, it is more intelligent to hope rather than to fear, to try rather than not to try. For one thing we know beyond all doubt: Nothing has ever been achieved by the person who says, ‘It can’t be done.'”

In a world filled with daunting challenges, these stories (in no particular order) inspired us to hope – and to act – for a better world.

1.     Malala’s speech to the United Nations: On July 12, Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani teenager attacked by extremists for advocating for girls’ education, moved the world with her message of peace, equality, and education for all at a speech at the UN. Here is an excerpt from the speech, and you can watch it here.

“On the 9th of October 2012, the Taliban shot me on the left side of my forehead. They shot my friends too. They thought that the bullets would silence us. But they failed. And then, out of that silence came, thousands of voices. The terrorists thought that they would change our aims and stop our ambitions but nothing changed in my life except this: Weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage was born.”

2.     Remembering Nelson Mandela: As the world mourns the loss of Nelson Mandela, we also remember the powerful lessons he taught us about equality, freedom, courage, and forgiveness. As he said, “What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.”

3.     Progress in saving children’s lives: In September, the UN Children’s Fund, UNICEF, released a report showing that the number of children under age 5 who died dropped from 12.6 million in 1990 to 6.6 million in 2012. While there is still a lot of work to be done, the message is clear: When the world comes together and acts, big change can happen.

4.     Moving to end extreme poverty: Between 1990 and 2010, the world cut extreme poverty in half. Now people from Bono to World Bank President Dr. Jim Yong Kim to the UN Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on the post-2015 Development Agenda, people are calling for and helping pave the path for an end to extreme poverty by 2030.

5.     A life dedicated to eradicating polio: Earlier this year, the world lost Ali Maow Maalin – the last person on the planet to contract smallpox. Maalin, “an emblem of the global smallpox eradication campaign” as one doctor described him to NPR, spent his life trying to end another disease: polio. As a polio vaccinator, he protected children from the crippling disease and reminded us that we have the tools to end polio for good if we keep up the fight.