An exploration of the lives and moral development of 23 men and women dedicated to ``making the world a better place.'' The authors, both developmental psychologists (Colby at Radcliffe, Damon at Brown), set out to discover whether there is a clear path to the extraordinary moral leadership exemplified by people like Gandhi, Mother Teresa, and Andrei Sakharov. They choose for their searching interviews Americans who are not highly visible, but whose lives are no less dedicated to helping others. Among them are Detroit's Mother Waddles and El Paso's ``Queen of the Dumps,'' Suzie Valadez, both of whom work daily with the poor to provide necessities like food, shoes, and medical care. Others, like Virginia Durr and Cabell Brand, have fought to reform the system to bring equal rights and equal opportunities to southern minorities. Referring to earlier work on moral development (primarily Lawrence Kohlberg's stage theory), the authors outline their own criteria for exploring the lives of their subjects. Most of the ``moral exemplars'' exhibit surprising parallels: certainty that what they are doing is not only right but the only choice they can make; faith (not always in God) and positive outlook (leavened by a sense of humor) that have withstood even devastating setbacks and personal sacrifice; the ability to learn and to draw strength from the communities in which they work; and the ability to grow and to change without losing their moral core. In a decade when the emphasis is said to be shifting from self-satisfaction to the moral and ethical, this look into the experiences of people whose sense of justice or service dictates their lives is both informative and inspiring.