Tuesday, June 16, 2009
2009 HEAD AND HEART AWARDS
Regular followers of this blog know I have had a propensity to focus on many of the problems in our country as well as on those whom I believe are contributing, or have contributed to, those problems. I have done so to draw attention to the many flaws we have in this country, in hopes that an improvement can be made. I will continue doing so on a regular basis.
Near year's end last year, I started what will become an annual December feature, which I called "Bozo of the Year." It portrayed some of the fools and clowns in public life whose antics were deserving of ridicule. I thought, today, I would take an opposite approach and begin another annual feature, this one near mid-year, which will spotlight those individuals of today or the relatively recent past whose contributions to humanity and/or our country have been so spectacular and noteworthy that they should be lauded near and far as good examples of what we as humans can achieve, if we only put our minds to it. After all, not everything going on in the world is doom and gloom. So here is the first installment of this annual mid-year feature I will name "Head and Heart Awards." The individuals shown here have used their heads and hearts to produce great things for humankind. They should serve as inspirations to us all to DO something, using OUR heads and hearts, on behalf of our fellow brothers and sisters, rather than merely sitting back complacently enjoying the relatively good life we have experienced here in the United States.
Honorable mention for the award this year goes to former Senator Chuck Hagel, who was a Republican from Nebraska. I did not always agree with Senator Hagel on economic matters (he was a big supporter of "trickle down" economics and the Bush tax cuts, both of which I hated), but I admired his straight-talk and deep conviction to what he believed was right. He never engaged in the doubletalk or misspeak we have heard so repeatedly in recent years coming from so many Republicans. He served the country as a young man in Vietnam, and again served it, and well, by voting his conscience in the Senate. Like a number of moderate Republicans, he grew disenchanted with the direction the country was being pushed in by the neocons of the George W. Bush administration, and he became a vocal critic of our misguided imperialistic war in Iraq. We could use more honest clear-thinkers like him in our government, and it is a terrible shame he is no longer serving. Straight-shooting, level-headed people like Chuck Hagel could really straighten out the GOP and contribute a great deal more to our nation. I certainly hope we have not heard the last of him!
Another Honorable Mention goes to Investor/Philanthropist Warren Buffett. The man was an absolute genius at making money and investments grow. Currently the 2nd wealthiest man in the world, Buffett donated a huge share of his wealth to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 2006. The $30.7 BILLION he donated has been, and will continue to be, used for a wide variety of benevolent causes, ranging from global health and children's vaccine programs to financial services for the poor to international agricultural development to educational programs to libraries, and many, many other endeavors as well. Buffett had the wisdom to see that our economy was being ruined by the neocon Republican Bush crowd, so he threw his support solidly behind Barack Obama for President.
Yet another Honorable Mention goes to the late great Senator Paul Wellstone of Minnesota. Had Senator Wellstone not died in a mysterious plane crash just before the 2002 elections, he would undoubtedly have just been reelected to a fourth term. How he would have enjoyed the Democrats' return to power, and how effectively he would have continued working for the poor and middle class! For Wellstone knew that government can and should be an aid to and protection for the weak and the average person. He knew the little guy seldom gets a break in our society and in government, and that the wealthy and powerful often get all the attention and government favors. So he made a conscious effort to deliver for the average person in our country. Regrettably, he is gone, but we could use an entire Congress filled with Paul Wellstones!
Third place for this award goes to Senator Ted Kennedy. Yes, in his younger days, Teddy was recklessly wild and carefree, and this behavior led to the death of a young lady as well as the eventual breakup of his first marriage. He didn't use his head in those days. But for a good many years now, Kennedy has made up for lost ground. He has straightened out his personal life and become one of our hardest working Senators. Born to privilege, he could have easily become a George W. Bush and used government to reward his ego and further enrich the already well to do. But Senator Kennedy has spent his entire 46 years of public service to advance the cause of the disadvantaged and to help enable government to be a positive force for fairness and opportunity for the downtrodden. Now in the autumn of his years, and suffering from terminal brain cancer, he is still working tirelessly on a project he has long championed: national health care for every American citizen. I greatly admire his tenacity, and I hope THIS current Congress will be able to deliver his dying wish of affordable health care for all.
Second place goes to our current President, Barack Obama. A brilliant student, he could have easily gone straight from college into a lucrative, cushy career in corporate law. But instead, he sacrified great wealth to live a very modest life as a low-paid community organizer in service to the poor on the south side of Chicago. He taught those in need how to develop themselves and pull themselves up from despair. He showed us all that our country is still a place where even those in the humblest of surroundings can rise and shine. He showed the world that hope can be acted upon and turned into reality when he became the first African-American to be elected President. He continues to work tirelessly on behalf of all citizens and realizes there is room at the national table for all people, not just the wealthy and powerful. He is using his head and his heart in a positive way, for all the people, by joining Ted Kennedy in the fight for a national health care program. I support his efforts wholeheartedly and hope he will find great success with his people-oriented agenda.
My first place winner of this year's (2009's) Head and Heart Award goes posthumously to Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who spent many years selflessly tending to the needs of the poor, the orphaned, the sick, and the dying in Calcutta, India, and all over the world. Hers was not the lifestyle of a detached, comfortable charity director. No, she rolled up her sleeves and got her hands really dirty, working in and among the filth, stench, disease, and discomfort of some of the most horrible slums in the world. She constantly sacrificed and gave of herself for the comfort of others, and did so for nearly 50 years, from 1950 until her death in 1997! By the time she died, she had established an incredible 4,000 clinics to tend to the needs of the wretchedly poor. Mother Teresa exemplified many of the finest attributes of Christianity. Hers was a world of doing unto others as we would have them do unto us. Hers was not to condemn others or turn them away for any reason. When asked why she worked so hard for the poor and miserable, this remarkable woman replied unhesitatingly, "Each one of them is Jesus in disguise." Another time, she stated, "I am a little pencil in the hands of a writing God who is sending a love letter to the world." Mother Teresa's selfless devotion to others, especially those in dire need, should be studied by every government leader and every business CEO in the world. Our planet would be much better off if this were to happen. Though she has been gone for 12 years now, her beautiful example of selfless, activist love will shine for the rest of time and serve as a daily example of how to live for each of us. For it is not only the powerful or wealthy who can benefit from her example. We ALL can, by daily following her simple advice: "Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person."