8 People Who Didn’t Let Their Age Stop Them from Changing the World

On December 10, Finland’s Sanna Marin became the world’s youngest serving prime minister. She is only 34 years old.

Sanna’s political career began in 2012 when she was elected to the City Council of Tempere at the age of 27. She was elected to the Finnish Parliament at age 30, and in June of last year, she became Minister of Transport and Communications. Her party nominated her to succeed Antti Rinne as prime minister this month.

It’s quite an accomplishment, and we wish her much success in her new role!

In her honor, we’d like to celebrate Sanna together with 7 other people who didn’t let their age (young or old) stop them from changing the world.

2. Malala Yousafzei

Malala Yousafzai was born in Pakistan to a family that ran a chain of schools in the region where they lived. When the Taliban took over in 2009, Malala began blogging for BBC Urdu about life under the regime, advocating for women’s rights and especially education for girls. She was only 11 at the time.
Malala continued to speak out against the extremist Taliban regime throughout her teens. When she was 15, she survived an assassination attempt and relocated to the U.K., where she went on to co-found the Malala Fund: an organization that fights for girls’ education all over the world. In 2014, she became the youngest ever laureate of the Nobel Peace Prize when the prize was granted to both her and Kailash Satyarthi of India. She was 17 at the time.

Known throughout the world simply as Malala, she is an inspiration and guiding light for girls everywhere.

3. Michael Kearney

Michael Kearney, born in the U.S. in 1984, was the youngest person ever to graduate college: he received a bachelor’s degree in anthropology from the University of South Alabama at the tender age of 10. Michael also held the record for the youngest person to receive a postgraduate degree at age 14 — until Tathagat Avatar Tulsi from India received his M.Sc. at the age of 12 in 1999.

4. Nola Ochs

On the other end of the spectrum is Nola Ochs, who became the world’s oldest college graduate in May 2007 at the age of 95. Nola took her first college class at Fort Hays State University (then called Kansas State College) in 1930 but put her education on pause to raise her 4 sons. When her husband passed away in 1972, Nola decided to continue taking classes at Dodge City Community College, and after years of taking occasional courses, she realized she was only 30 hours shy of a degree. So in 2006 she moved to a Fort Hays State University apartment and the following year completed a general studies degree.

She didn’t stop there: in May 2010, Nola earned her master’s degree in liberal studies from FHSU, becoming the oldest person to receive a graduate degree at the ripe old age of 98.

Overall, it took Nola 77 years to earn her first college degree. It just goes to show that it’s never too late!

5. Fu Mingxia

Fu Mingxia was born in Wuhan, Hubei, China, in 1978, and began training in gymnastics at age 5. Though she was extremely talented, her coaches decided that she lacked the flexibility for gymnastics and she began to train in diving instead — even though, at only 7 years of age, she didn’t even know how to swim yet.

In the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, she clinched the gold medal, making her the youngest Olympic gold medalist on record. She’ll probably hold that title forever, because as a result of her win, the Olympics committee made a rule that you have to be 14 or older to compete in the Olympics.

6. Oscar Swahn

If Fu Mingxia was the youngest person to win a gold medal, who was the oldest? That would be the Swedish shooter Oscar Swahn, who won a gold medal in 1912 at the age of 64. Oscar also participated in the 1920 games, earning the title of oldest-ever participant in the Olympics — and a silver medal to boot, which also made him the oldest-ever Olympian medalist. He was 72 at the time.

7. Shirley Temple

Shirley Temple began her film career at the tender age of 3, when she was discovered by Charles Lamont, casting director for Educational Pictures. She starred in her first full-length movie when she was 5, and the movie was an international success. The following year, a special category of Academy Award was created specifically in her honor: the Juvenile Award. She was 6 years old upon receiving it, making her the youngest-ever recipient of an Academy Award.

8. Doge Enrico Dandalo

Enrico Dandalo inherited the position of Doge, or leader, of the Republic of Venice in 1192 when his father finally died. Enrico was 85 years old at the time, and proved a surprisingly ambitious and energetic leader for someone of such advanced age. When he was in his 90s, he launched the Fourth Crusade with the goal of conquering Muslim Egypt — and led the mission himself, charging together with his troops in the battlefield. All this despite the fact that he’d been blind since he was in his 60s. He died in Constantinople in 1205 at the age of 98.

Never Too Early, Never Too Late
These inspiring people of all ages teach us that age is no excuse: it’s never too early or too late to pursue your goals!

Are there any remarkably accomplished people in your family who haven’t let their age get in the way? We’d love to hear about them in the comments.