Look at America's heroes, its icons in business, politics, the arts.

Most of them started early.

Bill Gates and Paul Allen launched Microsoft in 1976. Gates was 20, Allen 22.

"The Oprah Winfrey Show" debuted in 1986, when Winfrey was 32.

And going back to 1961, Robert Kennedy was 35 when his brother, President John F. Kennedy, appointed him as attorney general of the United States.

We benefit from the same drive, the same talent and energy here in the Yakima Valley, as this edition of 39 Under 39 attests.

This premium edition, exclusively for subscribers of the Yakima Herald-Republic, debuted in 2018. Looking at the first 39 honorees, reporter Mai Hoang saw a diverse group of leaders driven to make this a stronger community.

"No longer do residents here have to buy into the idea that young people must always leave the Yakima Valley for better and brighter opportunities in a bigger city," Hoang wrote. "It's time to tell the Yakima Valley's young residents that, like the people featured on these pages, they can take their ambition, drive and passion to build a better and brighter future right in their hometown."

That was a list of remarkable young leaders. This year's is just as strong.

We started with the same basic categories: Public Service, Health & Medicine, The Arts, Education, Business, and Advocacy & Nonprofits. Then we asked the public for nominations.

People responded with dozens of names, supplemented by suggestions for Herald-Republic reporters and editors. We reviewed the list with a simple goal: identifying 39 people younger than age 39 making exceptional contributions to the Yakima Valley.

This year, they include the owner of a clothing boutique, a youth pastor who left behind a life of crime, and a business owner who's written a book about millennials.

They are singers, teachers, doctors, brewers, a civil engineer and a member of the Yakima City Council.

They are people from throughout the Yakima Valley - people younger than 39 driven to make this a stronger, more vital community.

We look forward to what they accomplish next.

- Greg Halling

managing editor

EDITOR'S NOTE: This year's list includes one person who's 39, which we didn't realize until it was too late to find a replacement. We believe she's still a vital contributor to the Yakima Valley, even if she didn't meet the strict requirements for 39 Under 39.