Octuplet Mom, Barry Bonds to Princess Diana: People and Events That Changed History

The program, which provides care for about 500,000 people, was last reauthorized by President Bush in 2006.

Rodney King

"Can we all get along?" became a punch line of the 1990s, but the violence that preceded Rodney King's famous appeal was no laughing matter.

America's worst race riots since the 1970s were sparked by the acquittal of four white Los Angeles police officers caught on tape excessively beating King, a black man, after a high-speed chase in 1991.

A weeklong riot broke out in Los Angeles in April 1992 after the verdict, leading to looting, arson, an estimated $1 billion in damages and the deaths of 53 people.

The riots, sparked by the case but fueled by long simmering grievances about the black community's high rate of unemployment and claims of police brutality and racial profiling, were so linked to King that they are often still called the Rodney King riots.

Even before the verdict and riots that followed, the case had become a cause celebre. Nowadays, "viral" would be the description of the rapid dissemination of the grainy home video of the beating caught by bystander George Holiday.

The video was picked up by news outlets across the country and around the world.

On the third day of the riots, King made his legendary appeal: "People, I just want to say, you know, can we all get along? Can we get along? … It's just not right. It's not right."

In the aftermath of the riots politicians and civic leaders worked to improve the economy in the depressed areas of Los Angeles. Police across the country were given sensitivity training, leading to a still ongoing debate about the racial profiling of suspects.

Christopher Reeve

Stem cell research was for many Americans a mix of science fiction, esoteric jargon and controversy, until an actor famous for his strength was laid low by paralysis.

Christopher Reeve, best known for playing the title role in the "Superman" franchise of films, used his celebrity to promote research into treatments that could potentially save lives or diminish the effects of paralysis.

Reeve was paralyzed when he was thrown from a horse during a jumping competition in 1995 and died in 2004 at age 54.

"You look out the window, and you can't believe where you are," Reeve told ABC's Barbara Walters soon after the accident that left him unable to walk. "And the thought that keeps going through your mind is, 'This can't be my life. There's been a mistake.'"

But despair turned into determination, and Reeve turned his desire to walk into his new life's work.

Reeve became America's leading advocate for spinal cord injury research, raising money, writing books, testifying before Congress and giving motivational speeches all over the country.

"He has been our champion. If you think of spinal injuries you automatically conjure up a picture of Christopher Reeve," Paul Smith, executive director of the Spinal Injuries Association in England, told The Associated Press in 2004.

Reeve became a strong believer and advocate for embryonic stem cell research, a controversial field of medicine that uses the cells of discarded embryos to create treatments.

In the Bush administration, Reeve found opposition to embryonic stem cell research and President Bush banned the use of federal funds for the research. The controversy became a major platform of the 2004 presidential election.

President Obama has pledged to overturn the Bush administration ban.

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