For a decade straight, from 2004-13, this website named an American of the Year.
With my writing emphasis switching to baseball over the last two years or so, that tradition was tabled.
Baseball is still my primary writing subject. But here at my home website, I’ll be getting back to covering political, social, spiritual and other issues once again in the coming weeks and months.
Over the course of those first ten years honoring an American of the Year, nine different men were honored, as well as one heroic group of them. The complete list is available at the end of this piece.
Now, for the first time, a woman is receiving the honor. And this particular woman is a genuine surprise, because when this year began, frankly, I had never heard of her.
In 2016, Kellyanne Conway became the first woman in the history of American politics to run a winning U.S. Presidential campaign.
She did it in basically two and a half months, not taking over as the head of Donald Trump’s campaign until August 17, at which point the possibility of his election was very much in doubt.
Conway is actually a local girl. She was born in Camden, New Jersey as Kellyanne Elizabeth Fitzpatrick on January 20, 1967. She was raised in the Atco, New Jersey area by her single mother and other female family members after her parents divorced when she was just three years old.
“I grew up in a house with my mom and her mom, and two of my mother’s unmarried sisters,” she explained to Ronald Kessler of Newsmax back in 2008. “So four Italian Catholic women raised me.”
At age 15, Conway won the New Jersey Blueberry Princess pageant. She frequently has credited her eight summers working on a blueberry farm for developing her strong work ethic.
Conway graduated from Trinity College in Washington, D.C., graduating magna cum laude with a degree in political science.
She then studied at Oxford University, and was elected to the prestigious Phi Betta Kappa honors society. Then in 1992, Conway earned her law degree with honors from George Washington University.
After graduation from law school, Conway served a clerkship with D.C. Superior Court Judge Richard Levie. Conway then got into the research and polling field for a couple of years before finally starting up her own polling company, aptly named ‘The Polling Company’, in 1995.
Over the next couple of decades, Conway made television appearances as a pundit/commentator, and worked for numerous Republican politicians, usually helping those pols efforts to appeal to female voters. One of those politicians was the late actor and Republican U.S. Senator Fred Thompson from Tennessee, with whom she was romantically linked for a time.
She also spearheaded numerous high-profile projects with ‘The Polling Company’, doing research and consultancy for major organizations such as ABC News and Major League Baseball.
In 2001, Conway married New York lawyer George Conway. The couple then built a family with four children, including twins. They now live in Alpine borough, New Jersey’s northeastern most situated county and the most expensive ZIP code in the country according to a 2012 Forbes magazine ranking.
In 2005, Conway penned a book titled “What Women Really Want” as co-author with Cellinda Lake, a female Democratic pollster.
Conway worked for the losing presidential campaign of John McCain in 2008, as well as Newt Gingrich’s failed run at the 2012 GOP nomination. In working for McCain, Conway found political inspiration in his running mate choice, Alaska governor Sarah Palin.
Per Kessler, Conway stated that Palin “signaled to many professional women, myself included, that maybe you can have it all, all at the same time; but you just need to be a very organized, time-efficient person who completely strips your life of extracurricular activities.”
In 2006, Conway had been living with her family in one of Donald Trump’s buildings when he first met the future POTUS. While serving on the board at Trump World Tower, the man himself would often show up to meetings in order to hear residents concerns, which made an impression upon her.
When Trump began to organize his run for the Republican nomination, he met with Conway and offered her a job with the campaign in March of 2015, a role that she declined to take on at the time.
Instead, Conway accepted the job of running a super PAC for the Ted Cruz campaign. But the honor and responsibility of the job as Trump’s overall campaign manager was eventually too good to pass up this past summer.
Conway got to work, tirelessly putting together candidate Trump’s schedule and doing her best to keep him on message. She also displayed unwavering loyalty in standing up for Trump when various fires erupted down the stretch that had more to do with personal attacks than the actual political issues.
In the end, all of Conway’s work was vindicated by the voting public. And that was a real key: she, her candidate, and their campaign staff simply outworked the favored Democratic Party candidate Hillary Clinton.
Conway “played a crucial role in my victory,” Trump said in the transition team statement per Reuters. “She is a tireless and tenacious advocate of my agenda and has amazing insights on how to effectively communicate our message.”
2004 – Pat Tillman
2005 – Bill O’Reilly
2006 – Rev. Billy Graham
2007 – P/O Chuck Cassidy (for the American police officer)
2008 – George W. Bush
2009 – Glenn Beck
2010 – Ron Paul
2011 – Seal Team 6
2012 – Michael Phelps
2013 – Ted Cruz
2014-15 (none named)