The online community for inspiration and multi-faith spirituality said its nominations are a yearly recognition by its readers and editors of "noteworthy humanitarian actions that inspire and encourage us all to live better lives."
From now until Dec. 5, visitors can vote once daily for the person whose actions they find most inspiring.
After the voting closes, editors will choose the 2008 honoree from the three nominees receiving the most votes. The winner will be announced Dec. 10.
"Hope, selflessness and human kindness live within each and every one of us," Beliefnet Managing Editor Michael Kress said in a statement, "and this year's nominees for Most Inspiring Person of the Year demonstrate the dramatic impact those qualities can have when called into action."
In addition to Newman, the nominees are actress and breast cancer survivor Christina Applegate; the dozens of heroic Nebraska and Iowa Boy Scouts who helped out during the Iowa tornado; late "Last Lecture" professor and author Randy Pausch; Master Sgt. William "Spanky" Gibson, an Oklahoma Marine who returned to Iraq despite devastating war injuries; Dr. Halima Bashir, the Sudanese doctor and author brutalized for condemning the horrors of Darfur; Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor a brain scientist who used her own massive stroke as a means to educate others; Dara Torres, the oldest swimming medalist in Olympic history; Darin Headrick, who helped reunite a tornado-torn community by rebuilding its schools; and Steven Curtis Chapman, a Christian singer who sustained his family's spirit and faith after the death of his 5-year-old daughter.