Listeners Share Greatest Accomplishments of 2007

Listeners have written in about their greatest accomplishments this year, which has prompted a question: What's a polar bear doing roaming the streets of Fort Gibson, Okla.? This week's "Homework" segment has the answer.

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JACKI LYDEN, host:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Jacki Lyden.

Last week, we asked listeners to tell us about their proudest accomplishments of 2007. And we had many lovely stories from you. There was a California artist who painted a new picture each day of the year. There was the mother in New York whose son allowed her to read the last "Harry Potter" book aloud, despite that fact that he's now 15. After all, he and his mother started the series together when he was just 8. One man even wrote to us that he'd spent six months training situation comedy writers in Bucharest, Romania, making the world a safer place for the comedically inclined.

But we couldn't resist sharing what we thought was the most creative accomplishment of 2007.

Ms. JEAN McMANN(ph) (Nurse): My name is Jean McMann, and I live in Fort Gibson, Oklahoma.

LYDEN: Ms. McMann is 57 and a nurse. She's concerned about climate change. And she once heard that if you believe in something, you should take it to the streets. So that's just what she did.

Ms. McMANN: I decided to dress up as a polar bear and just stand in a corner and trying to be the town crier and waved to people and hold a sign that says stop global warming.

LYDEN: Ms. McMann wanted to be friendly and upbeat and inclusive.

Ms. McMANN: People drive to work and they look kind of glum. I don't know, maybe they're bored or tired, but…

LYDEN: When they see her.

Ms. McMANN: People honk and they wave and they smile. And I get a very positive response. And I think it's something that I need to do.

LYDEN: And she tries to make it out every week now, whenever she's got the spare time. The truckers seem especially appreciative. It does get a bit dirty out there on the corner, but the polar bear suit is machine-washable. Jean McMann ordered it online. And when it arrived, she unpacked a great furry, white mass with teeth.

Ms. McMANN: Actually, it's pretty hot behind the mask, so I put that kind of up on the top of my head. And then people can also see me smiling when I wave at them when they drive by.

LYDEN: And this October, she became - we think it's safe to say this - the first 57-year-old polar bear to compete in a Tulsa, Oklahoma, street race.

Ms. McMANN: And it's kind of difficult to run a whole 5K run in a polar bear suit.

LYDEN: Hey, talk about a warming effect. But she says the mayor of Tulsa trotted up and shook her paw. Still, Jean McMann considers herself a shy person. Has she ever done anything like this before?

Ms. McMANN: No. Nuh-ah(ph). No. No, I haven't.

LYDEN: May we all find our passions and run with them.

And for next week's program, we have a new assignment. We thought we'd usher in 2008 with what else? Some humor. So tell us your favorite joke - keep it clean, of course - in 30 seconds or less. Call our Homework hotline, introduce yourself and make us laugh. The number is 202-408-5183. That's 202-408-5183.

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