2012 American of the Year: Michael Phelps

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Politics, faith, education, service to either country or community have been the hallmarks of the previous eight honorees as the ‘American of the Year’: Pat Tillman (04), Bill O’Reilly (05), Billy Graham (06), Chuck Cassidy (07), George W. Bush (08), Glenn Beck (09), Ron Paul (10) and Seal Team 6 (11) have all distinguished themselves in these arenas.

 
Critics would say that many of these individuals, at least where politics and culture are involved, can be associated with a conservative slant, and that in at least a couple of those years a more liberal selection would show this website to be both more balanced and fair.
Fact is, this website reflects it’s creator, and so it will always reflect my own leanings, and thus those choices.
 
An examination of the year 2012 left America lacking in political leadership, as our main Republican and Democratic parties battled for control of the White House amid some of the most divided conditions in history.
With the nation clearly so divided, and with the current leadership so clearly lacking answers to our most pressing problems, there was opportunity to look at the full scope of American achievement.
 
The Olympics are a major world event, and in the summer of 2012 more than 10,000 of the world’s greatest athletes representing 204 nations gathered to compete across 302 events for national pride and individual glory.
The United States was represented by a large contingent, and one man stood out above all others. In fact, one man stood out above all Olympians of all-time. That man is our 2012 American of the Year, Michael Phelps.

 
This past year, Phelps won 4 Gold and 2 Silver medals at the London Games. This was following on the heels of his record-shattering performance at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, where Phelps broke a 36-year old record held by another American male swimming legend, Mark Spitz, by winning 8 Gold medals.
But Phelps’ domination at the Olympics had not even begun there. Back in 2004 as an 18-year old phenom, Phelps won 6 Gold and 2 Bronze medals.
 
With his performance over these 3 Olympiads proudly wearing the “USA” across his chest and performing for the pride of his nation, Michael Phelps thrilled both serious and casual American fans of swimming in particular and sports in general. His 22 medals make him the most decorated Olympian of all-time. His 18 Gold medals are double the second-highest all-time totals.
 
In these days of doping controversies involving major athletes across sports as varied as professional football, baseball, cycling, running, and more it is fair to ask whether it is dangerous to award any athlete such an honor as is being bestowed here.

However, to his credit, Phelps has gone above and beyond in this area as well. During the ’08 Olympics he had signed up for Project Believe, a project of the US Anti-Doping Agency in which Olympians could voluntarily agree to be tested in excess of World Anti-Doping Agency guidelines. Phelps passed all 9 tests that were administered to him.
 
For his achievements in representing his nation in setting the all-time Olympic medals record with his performance in London during 2012, for his all-time performance representing his nation going back over the past decade, and for his principled anti-doping stance in these days of questionable athletic tactics, Michael Phelps is a very deserving honoree as the 2012 American of the Year.
 
 

TO VIEW all articles relating to the previous ‘American of the Year‘ award honorees, simply click on that below ‘Tag’

Innocence Lost at Sandy Hook

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Flowers placed near Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut

 

The little children of Sandy Hook are angels, as you can see from this picture. It was taken in May of 2011 at the Great Pootatuck Duck Race, just as thousands of yellow plastic rubber duckies were dumped into the Pootatuck River and began their journey along the waterway.

It is exactly the type of event which is a hallmark of the idyllic village of Newtown, Connecticut. The town has been home over the years to celebrities such as athlete Bruce Jenner, actor Anthony Edwards, and “Hunger Games” author Suzanne Collins.

The thought that any of the cherubic faces above may have been attending kindergarten today inside of Sandy Hook Elementary School is heartbreaking. That is because today, the light inside twenty of these innocents was snuffed out when unthinkable horror and evil visited the school.

The son of one of the teacher’s at the school entered her classroom today and massacred the children she had taught. In all, 18 innocent children died in that little classroom. Two more survived initially, were rushed to a nearby hospital, but succumbed to their injuries.

So, in all, 20 innocent children who had not even yet begun their lives, had nothing to do with the shooter, who posed him no threat, who had no knowledge of his existence were dead at his demented hands.

These were, perhaps, the most horrific, but not the only victims. In all, at least six teachers, the 20 children, and the gunman himself were killed at the school.

A few more bodies have turned up at remote locations, including the parents of the shooter at two separate locations. Another brother may be a victim or in some way involved. Authorities are still trying to sort through the madness now, hours later.

This is the second most deadly shooting massacre in American history, behind only the 32 dead at Virginia Tech in April of 2007.

Combined with the shootings inside a movie theater complex in Aurora, Colorado just last month in which a dozen were killed, and two more murdered in a madman’s rampage at a Portland, Oregon area mall earlier this week, it has been a particularly tragic holiday season.

The gun violence which plagues many large American cities has been growing and become almost an expected fact of life in places such as my own home town of Philadelphia. Here, hundreds are killed every single year, and the murder rate is up 23% over last year. Directly across the river from Philly, in crime-ravaged Camden, New Jersey, the murder rate is four times higher than our own violent city.

As much as we don’t like it, as much as it remains a tragedy, the fact remains that such violence has become an expected occurrence in a place as big as Philadelphia.

Not so in places like Sandy Hook. There, it has always been rubber ducky races in the spring, cookouts and baseball in the summer, cheerleading and football in the fall, and then times such as right now, Christmas time for the town.

The peace and joy of the season for the town of Sandy Hook and all their neighbors in the Newtown community, including 20 little children and their families, has been forever destroyed.

There will be no Christmas this year. There will be no more innocence. And there will be no sufficient answer to the question of “Why?

Perhaps just as importantly, there is no answer to the question of “Where will it happen next?” or “How do we stop this from ever happening again?

The fact of the matter is that evil has existed since the time of Satan’s rebellion, and it will continue to exist as long as mankind is in charge of the earth. We are left to pray for as much peace as possible, and to mourn.

Benghazi

It’s amazing how little so many know about one of the most important terrorist attacks in recent years. So I’m taking it upon myself here to educate and inform those who have heard something, but don’t know the details, in nutshell form.

Benghazi is the 2nd largest city in Libya, and is located along the Mediterranean Sea in northern Africa. Just last year it was the scene of one of the key uprisings in the rebellion against the longtime dictatorial government of Muammar Gaddafi.

Towards the end of his 2nd term, President George W. Bush and his security people made the determination that Africa was under such a large threat from various sources, particularly from al Qaeda and other Islamist terror organizations, that a separate ‘Africa Command’ for American forces military response on the continent was required.

In 2008, ‘AfriCom’ was officially activated. However, with the Bush administration leaving office, it would be left to the incoming Obama administration to fully establish the commands effectiveness. To say they dropped the ball would be generous.

A full four years after it’s establishment, General Carter Ham was in charge, but AfriCom was still a command “in paper only” with “very few assigned forces“, as The Washington Times reported in a comment from a former Bush administration official.

At 9:40pm on the night of September 11th (date sound familiar?), the CIA reports that senior security of the US State Department called the CIA and requested assistance. The CIA states that it was told to wait. Just before 10:00pm, Ham, who was in Washington at the Pentagon, directed a drone to Benghazi to assess the situation visually. By 10:04pm, a CIA team finally responded to the embassy.

It was not for another half hour that the US Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs were notified, despite the fact that it was now obvious that a US  ambassador’s life was in jeopardy as the American embassy was under attack.

Roughly 20 minutes later, Defense Secretary Leon Pannetta and Joint Chiefs Chairman General Martin Dempsey entered a previously scheduled meeting with President Barack Obama, each with full knowledge that the attack was well underway.

The CIA team rescued all surviving personnel of the initial attack on the American embassy, but this did not include our ambassador, Christopher Stevens, who died from smoke inhalation during the fiery attack on what was essentially his home in Libya, his home on what is considered American soil.

On returning to their annex, the CIA team and the survivors of the embassy attack immediately came under fire from small arms fire and RPG’s, and began making calls for help and air support. Back in DC, Pannetta takes until almost five hours after the attacks began to formally order US Marines and Special Forces teams to respond. It was too late. Way too late.

The questions and repercussions began to emerge almost immediately: who knew what about this specific attack, when did they know it, and why was the embassy so insecure? The President, presumably with knowledge of American interests around the world, most definitely knew that AfriCom was unprepared and that the situation in Benghazi was perilous.

In the months leading up to these September 11th attacks, the American consulate in Benghazi had come under attack, had requested increased security, and was denied it on the basis that the threats against it were not sufficient to justify such forces.

Further more, the Obama administration had received intelligence information through a diplomatic cable a full two weeks prior to these attacks, alerting it that the embassy at Benghazi could not withstand a coordinated attack, particularly from the Islamist militia forces and al Qaeda itself, which had training camps within the city.

So the facts as President Obama knows them are these: AfriCom, a key American strategic initiative in a highly unstable area of the world, was in need of serious security attention the entirety of his first term. He did nothing. The American consulate in Benghazi was in particular danger. He did nothing. During the attack, which he became aware of at some point, he and his key advisers delayed to the point where they may as well have done nothing.

This is not political rhetoric. An American diplomatic official at an Amercian embassy in a foreign land on American soil was murdered. Very little was done to protect him and the diplomatic mission, either on the front end or the back end. Nothing has been done since the attacks in response against the attackers.

This is a fundamental example of the ineffectiveness and/or unwillingness of the Obama administration to protect and defend American diplomatic and security personnel and interests around the world.

Another problem? Many in the former “mainstream media” knew all of these facts well in advance of the election, knew it to be a major story with political implications for the President’s leadership and possibly for his re-election itself, and suppressed the bulk of the story details intentionally.

There are many problems in America today, and three of them are perfectly highlighted by the attack on our embassy and murder of our ambassador in Benghazi:

One, the President of the United States, who promised that his would be the most open and transparent administration in history, is anything but.

Two, the American mass media are clearly “in the bag” for the Democratic Party, to the extent they are now willing to bury a story that is bigger than Watergate.

Three, the Liberal supporters of the President have given this whole system carte blanche to exist, despite their cries of wanting honesty and openness from their government officials.

That is Benghazigate in a nutshell. It is a sad story, not so importantly about politics, but about how insecure the world is becoming with a shrinking American will to respond in crisis situations, even to the point of defending our own citizens and direct interests.

Nothing will change, because the President was just re-elected with help from the mass media, and with his constituents unwilling to call him on his greatest transgressions.

Can you imagine the headlines from that media, and the howls from these Obama supporters, if the only thing that were to change in this story were that the President behind this scandal was instead named George W. Bush?

2012 Election Only Just Begun

With the announcement last weekend of Wisconsin congressman Paul Ryan as the Vice-Presidential running mate for Republican Party standard bearer Mitt Romney, the real race towards Election Day 2012 has finally begun.

For American voters, the contrast is stark and the choice is clear: continued big government Democratic Party-led liberalism leaning towards socialism, or Republican Party-led return to traditional American conservative free market principles.

While Americans have lived through a year’s worth of Republican debates and primaries while suffering through the Obama economy and public media debates over the basic nature of America’s future direction, they have also been largely spared a true bombardment of political ideas and exchanges.

That is all about to change, as the coming weeks and months will bring an ever-increasing bombardment of television, radio, and Internet ads, speeches, and endorsements that will likely have most of us thankful on the morning of November 7th no matter which way the election goes.

In Tampa, Florida from August 27th-30th, the Republican National Convention will take place and will take over the news cycle with speeches and policy outlines. America will receive a final, brief vacation from politics over the Labor Day weekend.

This will be quickly followed by the Democratic National Convention in Richmond, Virginia from September 3rd-6th. The two campaigns will outline their policies, highlight their candidates, and point out their direction for America during these two intense weeks.

During the month of September, the two campaigns will take to the cities and towns of America, barnstorming the nation with stump speeches, public appearances, and fundraisers. Dozens of speeches will be delivered, hundreds of chicken dinners will be consumed, thousands of babies will be kissed.

There will be tens of thousands of photos snapped, millions of voters will be telephoned, and tens of millions of dollars will be raised as the Romney-Ryan and Obama-Biden teams do the public and media circuits, particularly in “swing states” like Ohio, Colorado, Iowa, North Carolina, and Florida.

October will see the arrival of fall, and the Presidential debates, a series of four scheduled events. It all starts on Wednesday night, October 3rd at the University of Denver where major swing-state Colorado will be in the spotlight with Romney and Obama squaring off on domestic policy issues. On Thursday night, October 11th at Centre College in Danville, Kentucky the Veep candidates Ryan and Biden will square off over both foreign and domestic issues.

Tuesday night, October 16th will see the return of the Presidential candidates for a debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York on both foreign and domestic policy. Finally on Monday, October 22nd at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida it will be a Romney-Obama showdown on foreign policy issues.

Following the final debate there will be just two weeks until Election Day 2012. You can be assured that all day, every day, we will be bombarded on every news station imaginable with a steady diet of Presidential politics. Much of the national cable and network news coverage and nightly portions of local news coverage will focus on the candidates, their daily appearances, and any particular items of note that crop up on the campaign trail.

This is all just to focus on the Presidential election. There will be a number of other important elections taking place at state and local levels as well. Republicans need to pickup 4 seats to take over control of the U.S. Senate, and there are at least 5 races currently listed by most watchers as a toss-up.

The races for Governor in places like North Carolina, Wisconsin and Indiana could prove important to the Presidential race. These races will all garner a certain amount of attention, as will some ballot issues. For instance, typically liberal California will be voting on Proposition 36, which involves major changes to the “Three Strikes” law.

The bottom line for Americans is that their lives are about to be invaded by an onslaught of Presidential and other election coverage that is going to saturate our lives for these next three months. The best advice is to be ready for it, and accept it, because unless you are prepared to head into the hills and disconnect all of your devices, you are going to be subject to this onslaught on a regular basis. This is Democracy in action in the modern technological age.

What’s coming? Just wait until your cellphone starts getting calls from candidates, your email begins getting filled with political messages, and your Facebook page gets taken over by political ads. What? That’s already begun?

Become a beacon of light

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness.
Genesis 1:3-4

There is plenty of darkness in the world today. Every single day you can turn on a 24-hour news network, open any news website, pickup a newspaper and read about the influence of the darkness in men’s souls.

As of yesterday there were 212 homicides committed in the City of Philadelphia alone. That’s 17 more than last year at the same time, and last year ended with 18 more than the previous year.

On Sunday, white supremacist Wade Page walked into the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin and shot nine people, killing six immediately. Among the three critically wounded was a white Oak Creek police lieutenant, Brian Murphy. One wonders if a white Irish-Catholic who worked every day to keep his community safe and peaceful was an intended target of Page’s particular brand of hate. One answers that it really doesn’t matter.

Page and others such as Timothy McVeigh, who bombed the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, who murdered 13 people in their 1999 rampage at Columbine High School in Colorado, and Troy West, who mercilessly beat a black female military veteran in front of her 7-year old daughter outside a Cracker Barrel restaurant in Georgia in 2009 are all examples that the white community needs to take to heart.

Shootings, stabbings, and other attacks in this country and around the world do not have as their common denominator the race, sex, ethnic background, or religious belief of the attackers. What they do have in common is darkness and hate. At some point in the attackers lives, they chose to embrace the darkness over the light, and as with many who make such a choice, found their lives spiraling out of control.

We can all find reasons to hate others if that is what we want. Everyone is victimized at one time or another in their lives. From events as large-scale as the Nazi atrocities in World War II or the terrorist attacks of 9/11, to something as personal as a crime committed against us by someone of another race or group, events occur out of the hateful hearts of others that can often result in some of us responding with hate of our own.

Many respond to these circumstances by taking on their own darkness and hatred within their hearts against those who victimized them. This hate festers and grows and in the end perpetuates the overall hate in the world. Often these victims pass their hatred along to their children, helping racism and sexism grow, tainting any good that the parents may also try to teach those impressionable minds, such as positive faith messages.

The fact is that we are all called on to not only continually seek the light, but to become beacons of light in the world. We are called to this not only when the sun is shining and the skies are clear and there is a song in the air. We are called to this on the worst of days, when the evil in other men’s souls causes fear and hurt and death and destruction.

In the New Testament, Matthew writes famously in his Gospel: “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

Good men and women understand the premise that they are called to turn away from darkness and embrace light. This begins with the things with which you surround yourself, the ways in which you express yourself, the styles and colors in which you dress regularly, the people and writings and music which you allow to become influences in your life. Embrace darkness, and do not be surprised when darkness and negativity become regular occurrences in your life.

There is a place for darkness. It is a time and place and mood to be used for peace, quiet, and reflection. But darkness is not where we should be living, only a temporary place for rest, until the light returns. John writes: “The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.” Those who choose to live in that darkness, to make it a primary influence in their lives and in their hearts, grow increasingly incapable of understanding and embracing the truth of the good to be found in the light.

Do you want people to stop beating and killing gays, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, children, women, blacks, police officers? Do you want people to stop hurting and killing one another? Then what you really want is people to stop hating one another. You can start that process, by stopping the hate within yourself. Be that “city on a hill“, that lighthouse shining in the darkness, the light breaking through the clouds.

Paul says it best, calling us in his letter to the Romans: “The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.” Love one another, forgive one another. Give peace a chance. Choose to live in the light, and to become a beacon of light in what can often be a dark world. It is where you are called to live, how you are called to act, what you are called to be and believe.