For me, it always has been his choice of words when describing a scientific concept. It marries poetry with specifics which make the sentences a pure delight to listen! Perhaps my favorite:
"Look again at that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar," every "supreme leader," every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there-on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam." - Carl Sagan
Wow! It definitely helps putting our problems in perspective. Keeping a cosmic awareness is something I value and think about every day.
He actually inspired me most through one of his fictional characters, Dr. Arroway of the film 'Contact' (none of the three television channels that we had at my house carried Cosmos and we didn't have any of his books around). Ok, say what you will about Matthew McConaughey, but how many movies can you name that have legit President Clinton and Führer Hitler cameos that actually contribute to plot development in a meaningful way? On a more personal level, though, I was on the edge of tears when that nut blew up the wormhole device.
Did I just say I almost cried over a wormhole device? Yes I did! That's how this guy inspired me- to help me realize that the technology we have at our disposal for understanding how human heritage and fate are entwined with those of the stars are precious in their own way- less from a monetary perspective, and more from a cultural, philosophical and spiritual perspective.
He helped to put myself into a universal perspective. Remember when he called the Earth a "pale Blue Dot". Well, that's what I'm talking about....
For me my greatest inspiration from Sagan is not so much what he said or how he said it (although he certainly was amazingly eloquent!) but the passion driving him to communicate so many beautiful concepts with all of mankind!
When I was a little lassie... around 13 or so, I watched the movie Contact alone in my basement. After walking up the stairs, having my mind completely blown, I couldn't even bring myself to talk to anyone for a few hours. I was that moved. I was experiencing the sheer joy in realizing that the question of Life in the Universe was being considered seriously by scientists, and not just by UFO fanatics or scifi writers. I had no idea who Carl Sagan was at the time, but slowly as I grew into the field of Astrobiology, his work became an integral part of my learning and appreciation of the subject, and of Life itself. His ability to communicate science to the masses is a true art form, and I continue to be in awe. I guess he's like the gift that never stops giving! On that note... THANKS CARL! I wouldn't be the human I am without you, and in my opinion, you are one of the most inspirational conglomerates of evolved stardust to have graced this humble rock.
I honestly don't think that I can put into words exactly how Carl Sagan has inspired me, but I'll try.
Passion and enthusiasm combined with the ability to get across complex ideas is the essence of this man. From Sagan I learned that it's okay to be curious, to never be afraid to ask questions (even difficult ones) and to always invite new ideas to your doorstep and bring them over the threshold into the house of your mind. I honestly can't say how, but he made understanding/learning things enjoyable, even when I was not even 8 years old when I first saw Cosmos. His love for science was like that of a child's wonder - you know, like when they see something new for the first time and can't stop asking questions and being awe-struck - and it captures you and pulls you in to where you aren't self-conscious of what others may think of you for being so inquisitive and curious.
The most important thing I've gleaned from Sagan is to never stop learning and never stop asking questions.
I visited his grave about a year ago in Ithaca, NY to pay my respects. When I finally found his grave I wasn't surprised to see so many mementos left nearby, only showing how much this man was loved and appreciated. I still choke up thinking about this, but I absolutely broke down in tears when I saw a little white stone placed on his headstone that read, "Teach". Nothing symbolizes this man better than that.