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The stories of the truly great movements of history—those that have in some way upraised human dignity and enlarged freedom—can best be told from the perspective of individuals. Such stories often depict women and men of humble origins who might otherwise have left little impression on our common memories, but who instead achieved greatness serving a great cause. It is in their lives that we see the fullest expressions of the human spirit. These heroes and heroines epitomize multitudes of others whose struggles have, against all odds—and often at the cost of their lives—ensured the onward progress of justice and emergence of the finest human values. In them, we see living examples of the courage, faith, self-sacrifice, and love all of us possess and are potentially capable of reflecting. It is they who give us hope that a better world can be built. They are our torchbearers, showing us the way forward long after they have gone. Where would Americans be without Sojourner Truth, Rosa Parks, or Medgar Evers to light the way on our national struggle toward “a more perfect union”? Under the Staircase is just such a story. It is about the life—and death—of Fatollah Ferdowsi, who made the supreme sacrifice upholding his belief in the unifying teachings of the Baha’i Faith and his desire to live in accordance with them. In a larger sense, however, it is the story of the entire community of Iran’s Baha’is, who have endured more than a century and a half of severe persecution, and who have responded to their predicament with determination to do what they can, in the face of unrelenting indignities and injustice, to preserve their identity and to work for the good of their country. 

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