He may be no super hero, but up until a few months ago, Lenin Moreno was the most powerful person in the world with a spinal cord injury. A paraplegic from a robbery shooting in 1998, Moreno went on to become the Vice President of Ecuador, holding the highest state office ever achieved by a paralyzed individual since well, FDR.
Why he’s fearless
Lenin Moreno, 59, is paralyzed, but he is also one of the most enlightened individuals to hold such a high public office in recent memory. Growing up in the rural Amazon forest, Lenin was raised among natives and Latinos, giving him an amazing inter-connectedness attitude he holds till this day, and he was raised by a father who believed in helping the less fortunate. This upbringing molded him into a man with serious deep convictions.
For starters, after his injury, he took the positive road out by believing in the power of laughter, and went on to write not one but several books on the importance of it. One of his books is titled, “Ríase, no sea enfermo” (Laugh, don’t be sick). Laughter, smiling, being positive…it’s the little things.
And recently, after 7 amazing years as the Vice President of Ecuador (he started out as a lawyer, eventually getting into politics), Moreno decided to retire by his own volition after serving from 2006 to 2013 alongside his running mate and President of Ecuador, Rafael Correa. “Power comes with a stroke of fortune and you should quickly leave it behind,” Moreno believes. “But while you are in that space, you must take advantage of it to realize your dearest ambition. For me, that was to promote the rights of the disabled.”
And this is where Moreno’s story becomes amazing. When he first entered office, he discovered Ecuador was only spending $2 million a year on social services for the disabled. In the 7 years he served, he helped change that number to $150 million a year, and instated a $300/month Social Security-like program for its disabled citizens too. The country now also provides prosthetics to people who need them, making them employable, as well as wheelchairs and Braille books to those with visual impairments. This program is called Manuela Espejo Solidarity Mission. Watch an overview of all they’ve achieved
Moreno personally visited the homes of hundreds of people with disabilities, some who have never left their homes before, to bring awareness to this underrepresented population. His disability rights improvements in Ecuador have been so vast that it even got him nominated for Nobel Peace Prize last year. He didn’t win, but it certainly put the plight of people with disabilities on the world stage where it belongs. Watch this video celebrating his work
While Vice President, he’s also been a champion for rainforest preservation, even meeting with Leonardo Di Caprio and Edward Norton last year, both renowned for their environmentalist passions. They discussed further preservation of the pristine Yasuni area. Read about their meeting
And this is just the beginning of this passionate man. It’s no wonder he’s surrounded by a loving family and has millions of adoring fans. He has a wife of 20 years Irina, and two beautiful adult daughters, and recently he became a fan boy himself when he met Stephen Hawking last year, which is in part why he’s retiring. Now that he’s officially out of public office, he wants to study the link between quantum physics and human values.
And there’s a rumor that Lenin may not be done with politics; not by a long shot. Some are speculating think there’s a chance he’ll run for the presidency of Ecuador in 2017. Now if that did happen, that would be completely awesome.
In the meantime, Lenin is enjoying some time off, brushing up on his singing skills (yet another passion of his), and is back at humor writing. Maybe a tell-all book on the funnies that occurred when he was in office is his next book? One can only hope.
What do you think of Lenin Moreno? Do you think more leaders should take his lead?
Watch the videos!