Forty Under 40

These budding powerhouses, leaders in media, politics, sports, and science, are facilitating our future. Meet the architects of the next decade.



Charlie Brown • 33
Joplin, Mo.
Social Media Activist

After Joplin, Mo., was struck by a devastating tornado last year, the city found an unlikely hero in a young gay man named Charlie Brown. However improbably, the Westboro Baptist Church played a big role in igniting Brown’s activism. The notoriously antigay congregation announced their intention to protest in Joplin just days after more than 150 people were killed by the storm. Brown quickly launched a Facebook page and organized a 7,000-person counterprotest that not only demonstrated Joplin’s unity against Westboro but inspired donations of water, diapers, and toiletries. Brown set up another Facebook page seeking money for rebuilding efforts that’s brought in tens of thousands of dollars for repairs.

Currently serving as the press officer for Homes of Hope Joplin, a nonprofit that builds energy-efficient homes, Brown is warmly embraced by his community.

 “I’ve never had an issue with anyone I work with regarding my sexual orientation,” Brown says. “And I’m very open about who I am.”