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.
 
 

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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.