Time magazine has been giving out its Person of the Year award since 1927. Here at The Californian we start today. Or, to be more specific, our readers start today. We asked members of our Sounding Board to share something about the one person who they thought made the most noteworthy impact in 2012. It could be a national, state or local figure, man or woman, of any age, and the impact could be positive or negative. He/she could come from the world of politics, business, sports or entertainment -- or he/she could be someone from their own personal life. The responses:
I'm sure many people will choose Barack Obama as their Person of the Year. Me, too. He beat the odds in getting re-elected. No incumbent president was re-elected with unemployment so high and the economy in such poor shape. There has to be something special about the man to overcome such a drag on his re-election bid. Even before his 2009 inauguration, the Republicans lined up in opposition, dedicated to making sure he wouldn't be re-elected. The vitriolic attacks on him would have brought out the worst in a lesser man. He kept his poise, even though there was a never-quite-surfaced reality: the racial factor, which has not evaporated in this country. Add to that the birthplace issues and charges of being a Muslim. It'd be hard to take all that negatively with grace but the Obamas were able to hang in there and in spite of the rock-solid opposition and a do-nothing Congress, he still was able to get much accomplished.
It's amazing that his popularity is higher in many other parts of the world than it was here. I was in Germany for the election, and there he was favored by 85 percent of the people. His re-election means the majority here saw in him a man to be trusted for four more years, a man who should be honored as Person of the Year.
Locally, I nominate Wendy Wayne for her selfless contributions to our community. Earlier this month, I cleaned up my "saved" voice mail and discovered one from Wendy in her confident and caring voice. I couldn't bring myself to delete it. She had a lasting benefit on many local lives -- right up to the very last. Internationally, I nominate Malala Yousafzai, the teenage Pakistani who was shot by radical Islamists because she actively fought for young Muslim girls' right to receive an education. The Taliban destroyed many schools in Pakistan and banned attendance by girls. Malala blogged on the Internet to promote education for girls. She is recuperating in a London hospital.
Our community and the world need more heroes like these two.
One important quality in a Person of the Year is the willingness to do the unsuspected, rise above partisan issues and adopt the "common good" as a guiding principle. Using these criteria, one person comes to mind: Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey. On national television, he thanked the president, a Democrat, for acting like a president. He thanked him on behalf of the people of New Jersey. This was much to the dismay of the extreme conservative pundits on radio and television. Even though it occurred days before the election, Christie put the people of New Jersey and all Americans above the fray of politics. He displayed political courage. He showed what governing (as in the governor) really means.
I nominate Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX. His company completed the first successful commercial resupply of the International Space Station. The building of a new generation of dependable and reusable space launch vehicles adds a new spirit of exploration in partnership with NASA. This endeavor portends the expanding of civilization outside our home planet. A pioneer in affordable renewable energy with his Solar City Corp. and the new fully electric vehicle of his Tesla Motors, this young entrepreneur has the vision and genius to peacefully adapt our species into an interplanetary presence. This may be the only option for us all when the Earth's resources become inadequate for support of an ever-growing population.
Normally, there would be a number of people whose influence/ accomplishments would qualify them for consideration as Person of the Year. This year there is one clear choice: Barack Obama. Despite economic troubles at home and a very volatile and dangerous world abroad, he has had a very good year. We have reduced our military involvement abroad. We have been kept safe from terrorism at home. The economy has shown some signs of recovery. The president won a clear election victory and is likely to pass tax reform and some type of additional stimulus spending. He remains personally popular at home and abroad. Quite a feat for an American president beginning a second term!
I nominate Syrian President Bashar Assad for single-handedly destroying his country and its people in an effort to stay in power. It is a travesty and a shame, but I pray that the U.S. will stay out of it. His days may be numbered but the damage he has inflicted physically, economically and psychologically on Syria will be felt for at least a generation.
I nominate Bakersfield Mayor Harvey Hall. He is a sincere man of grace, professionalism, a successful entrepreneur and philanthropist. He is not one who seeks attention, but subtly sets examples of which all of us should take notice. His many community projects demonstrate his advocacy to make Bakersfield a wholesome city in which to live. And he has to be the best dressed mayor in the nation!
Two groups of individuals should be recognized as people of the year -- and more. Our nation owes a debt of gratitude for those grandparents who lovingly become parents of the children of their children who have selfishly wandered away from their parenting obligations. In addition, parents who raise their children with praise, encouragement and a sense of responsibility that allows them to resist the unholy temptations which permeate their environment deserve our praise. These grandparents and parents provide for and sustain us.
Wendy Wayne is my Person of the Year. Her life, and passing, reminds us all of our mortality, no matter how kind, giving or influential we may be. Wendy believed in the importance of giving back, to make our community, and this world, a better place for having lived here. She followed up that belief with action. Her life should be an inspiration to us all, to do the same.
My nominee for Person of the Year is Grover Norquist. A recent Politico poll showed that 61 percent of those polled did not even recognize his name. That someone could have as much sway over a major political party as this unelected man has had and be virtually unknown to most Americans must be worthy of some recognition.
Generally, I think in national, if not global terms, and consequently, Barack Obama immediately came to mind. However, when I turned my thoughts closer to home, my choice became obvious. I work for the Kern High School District and one of my colleagues has decided to retire, not to "go fishing," but to begin a new chapter in life. We work in a county where giving and nurturing is just part of the culture. Lorry Kraft, who has served as the community specialist for the Migrant Services program here at Ridgeview High School, has performed beyond measure. With a never-ending, open and giving heart, she serves those most in need in our community, and without spotlight or fanfare. She is indeed a superstar!
W. Cheryl Robinson
My Person of the Year is the utility repair worker -- those people who poured into the area hit by Superstorm Sandy from across America to restore power to 1.4 million people and get toilets in New York City's skyscrapers working again while living in tents supplied by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Sandy was the event of the year. Many storms kill more than Sandy's 125 people, but, this is the first storm that made many people realize that humanity's use of fossil fuels probably contributed to the storm's death and destruction. Someday, a person who makes storms like Sandy less terrible will be the Person of the Year.
My choice is Terry Phillips. Terry ran a great race for Congress against Kevin McCarthy. He has had war experience as a correspondent; he said he would protect women's rights and Medicare, two things that are important to me. I have grown tired of lawyer politicians who come from the same cookie-cutter law schools and now can't seem to agree on anything.
When you have just finished a year like we will be finishing in a few days, selecting a single person who best represents that year is a daunting task. I will take the high road with my selection of His Eminence Cardinal Timothy Dolan. As president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, he has stepped into the spotlight in a way not seen by religious leaders since the Rev. Billy Graham. I feel that the current times have a void in moral teaching from the pulpit.
In a letter to President Obama following his election, Dolan wrote: "Pursue common good, especially in care of most vulnerable among us, including the unborn, the poor and the immigrant. We will continue to stand in defense of life, marriage, and our first most cherished liberty, religious freedom. We pray, too, that you will help restore a sense of civility to the public order, so our public conversations may be imbued with respect and charity toward everyone."
I hope that Dolan becomes an example for not only religious leaders but for all leaders. Good advice for today!
Karen E. Wass
My Person of the Year goes to every person who works and serves faithfully. We can laud and honor the public figures in our nation or world, but in the end, it is the men and women who give their best every day in spite of salary or accolades. The waitress, barber, soldier, retiree, executive, teacher, janitor and oil worker. In these times, we need faithful, hardworking role models for our children and for our future. Politicians can argue. Pundits can claim they know "the truth," but in the end, it is up to each of us to give our best and be responsible in all we do. When that goes away, we will have little left to applaud. Here's to each of you who give your best each day.
My Persons of the Year are Mr. and Mrs. Joe Average. They both work, they are positive influences on their children, they pay their taxes, they go to church, they are active in their community, they are good neighbors, and they have not allowed themselves to become a ward of the local, state or the federal government.
Even with America going downhill and losing the values that made her great, Mr. and Mrs. Average keep their focus on right over wrong, good over bad, truth over error. They set the standard. Mr. and Mrs. Average live all over America, in every city, county and state. They are the foundation which cannot be destroyed.
I asked myself: Who has inspired people, who has given of himself, who in these times of turmoil has maintained dignity, never compromised principles, and exhibited compassion, even at the top of his career? There were lots of possibilities, but one jumped out at me: Tim Tebow. Coming from a political junkie, a sports figure might seem like an odd nomination. But an individual with such a competitive spirit, who gives of himself, has values and standards and doesn't compromise is a person we can and should all look up to.
My nominee is Sen.-elect Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. She is smart and driven to accomplish her goal of serving the American consumer; she rose Phoenix-like from the ashes of defeat in hands of the consumer haters in the U.S. Senate to swim upstream against the reactionary Republican Party and win a seat. Who else could have accomplished as much in such as short time? I'm hoping to be around long enough to vote for her to be the Democratic Party's nominee for president in 2016 or 2020.
Gerald M. Sutliff
My nominee is Al Wagner, a selfless man who died too young. Al was always working for something bigger than himself. He was always working for a better community. (Hence he was a Democrat.) Al saw the big picture of working families wanting safe and healthy communities. He worked for the greater good. He was active in his church, but open-minded and a good friend.
My choice is Assemblywoman Shannon Grove. Shannon has given of her time, energy and heart to help others run for office, putting them before herself even though she was running, too. She is dedicated to helping charities and individuals in need. Shannon's upbeat, positive nature always makes those around her feel that one should never give up. She is a born leader who has not lost touch with the people she serves. She has been known to put on her boxing gloves to do battle for small businesses. Shannon is an elected official we can be proud of.
My Person of the Year does not have a face. Rather, he is a conglomeration of many faces. Earlier this month we commemorated the 71st anniversary of Pearl Harbor, a time that tried the resolve of our nation. During that time of national peril, we had many men and women who stepped up. Without their patriotism and bravery we would not be the nation we are today. Many came home to lead productive lives while others gave their all. Each and every one is to be admired -- and remembered as my Person of the Year.
My mom, Jesse Agnes Stuart Haslebacher, passed away this year at age 89. Born dirt poor on a farm in West Virginia in 1922, she grew up milking cows, slopping hogs and raising chickens. She met Dad at the start of her junior year in high school, they never left each other's side until he passed in 2007.
Instead of footballs in the backyard, Mom threw us literature, science and history. She kicked us through college and got two attorneys, two geologists and an engineer. There wasn't a day that we weren't reminded about the Depression, the war or Franklin Roosevelt. For Mom, if Jesus Christ sits at the right hand of God then surely Franklin Roosevelt sits at his left. Mom believed in a two-party system and advised me to register Republican when I turned 18, as long as I voted for Democrats. I asked her only once how she voted. "Thomas, in this country we vote a private ballot." That was the year my dad was elected to the city council by one vote. Dad was a Republican.
Mom taught us the forest and garden plants that could heal you, feed you or make you sicker'n a dog. She put dinner on the table for us hungry kids and ran the books for Dad's construction company, which didn't always put dinner on the table. Her meatloaf was like cardboard, but her pies, cakes and cookies were from heaven! Person of the year, my mom!