A while ago, I wrote an article about the importance of role models to give us encouragement and vision to carry out good work. I used explorers and adventurers as persons to admire, especially those who use their celebrity status, as we would say today, to do humanitarian work and help their fellow human beings. Fridtjof Nansen, the Norwegian Artic Explorer and Oceanographer, was in a class of his own about a 100 years ago, with lessons even for us today. He was a sportsman and team leader, scientist and politician, humanitarian and diplomat. He became the first High Commissioner for refugees in the League of Nations, the predecessor to the United Nations. He worked for the Red Cross to do good in Europe, and he was ahead of his time, arguing against forced labour in the colonies, and for disarmament. Yet, he was a realist, playing an active part in the contemporary political and public debate. This made a man like Dr Nansen unique and admired across borders. Today, when we mark the 150th anniversary of his birth, we have an opportunity to reflect on his achievements, and his shortcomings, too, especially in his private life. None of us is perfect and few of us would perhaps emerge glorious out of thorough scrutiny, especially a couple of generations later, when attitudes may have changed and new fashions reign. Hence, most role models belong to their time. Not all role models have done extraordinary things measured by international standard. As we often say, the real heroes are everyday heroes. A few weeks ago, I reflected on two extraordinary, yet indeed ordinary womens achievements and lives, namely Maryam Bibi from Waziristan and Aunt Helga from Western Norway. Several men and women wrote to me after they had heard about these two women, who had lived ordinary lives, done what was expected of them, yet, had also broken glass ceilings and achieved extraordinary things. And when comparing women from different parts of the world, I realised how similar we human beings are. One American told me in an email that without people like Maryam and Aunt Helga, accepting traditions and conventions, and simultaneously working for change, the world would have stopped progressing long ago. When I was a relative newcomer to Pakistan at the time when the then President Musharraf was still acceptable to many people working for change, not least Western women, he said in several interviews that his true role model was his mother. What a great thing to say of a Pakistani President and General, whom we might have thought would be close to a male chauvinist And who was his mother? She was a Pakistani woman, who had done well as a staff member in the United Nations system, first as a local employee and later in international posts in UNHCR and UNDP, and her husband, too, had been a Pakistani diplomat abroad, including in Turkey, a country that had given the former President many of his ideals of moderate change and modernisation. It is probably true that all of us regard one or both of our parents as role models. Often we feel humbled when we ourselves meet the challenges of life, in our careers and private lives, including in the way children are brought up and how we try to solve conflicts within the immediate family and wider community. Yesterday, President Asif Zardari confirmed awards bestowed upon great Pakistani citizens, including some foreigners, too. One of them was Hon Akhtar Chaudhry, a Pakistani-born Norwegian citizen, who received the 'Star of the Great Leader award. Mr Chaudhry came from humble beginnings in Punjab from where his parents emigrated to Norway a generation ago. Like so many of the first-generation 'new Norwegians from Pakistan, Mr Chaudhry had to begin work early, being unable to take full advantage of his new lands good, free education system. Typically among immigrants, it is the second and third generations; the immigrants themselves sacrifice a lot. Mr Chaudhry himself became a politician for the Socialist Party, which is today a member of the Norwegian coalition government with the Labour Party. More than that, following his parliamentary experience, Mr Chaudhry has become one of the Speakers, or Presidents as it is called, of the Norwegian Parliament. What an achievement of a foreign immigrant in a new land Hon Akhtar Chaudhry is a role model for many of us, immigrant and indigenous Norwegians, and Pakistanis everywhere. Yes, his new land gave him the opportunity, but it was his own work, his efforts that made him succeed. I am sure he is admired by his relatives in Pakistan, and, apparently, he has received the admiration of his parents homeland and the President of the country. Does an award like this matter? Yes, I believe it does. It underlines that hard work and attention to values pay. It underlines that this is recognised by the leaders in the new land, who must have told the President of Pakistan about his achievements. In turn, the award strengthens the relationship between the two countries of Pakistan and Norway. A few years ago, another Pakistani-Norwegian received a Norwegian award, the highest a person can receive in Norway, notably the 'The Kings Achievement Award in Gold. Mr Ahsan Aslam, too, came from humble beginnings in Pakistan, and, again, it was his hard work and his ideals, influenced by his values from home and those of the new land that made him succeed in local politics and community work. There is one seemingly small and ordinary, yet great and impressive thing that Mr Aslam has been involved in, notably that of celebrating Christmas with ethnic Norwegians, particularly the less fortunate people on the outskirts of society. He has organised special parties and gatherings year in and year out. Indeed a great thing to do, and indeed so of a Muslim immigrant, feeling compassion for the people of his new land. When we met in Islamabad a few days ago, Mr Aslam was again discussing issues of importance to ordinary people - this time not only in Norway, but also in Pakistan. And he was underlining ways in which we can learn from each other across the borders of the lands. In Pakistan, we have many heroes and role models. Young people will look up to them, for example, the sports heroes, in cricket and in other fields. Imran Khan has a special place, and now Shahid Afridi carries the mantle. The women, too, do well, with Pakistans women cricket team being the champions of South Asia. Sportsmen and women are important. Explorers, too, are important within their fields and beyond. And politicians are important. Yes, at least when they are good politicians, representing ordinary people, those who are in need of their help. It is only when explorers, sportsmen and politicians carry messages of universal value that they really become great. We need role models who carry positive values in our modern, rational world. Not least such role models who are ordinary and extraordinary at the same time; role models whom we can identify within our everyday lives and in our local communities, inspiring us to keep doing our very best, reaching at the stars. n The writer is a senior Norwegian social scientist based in Islamabad.