When Tim Russert died unexpectedly, I was moved to name others who I feel are living human national treasures whom we do not appreciate enough.
These are talented, diligent men and women who are successful enough that we have heard of them. But they stand above other prominent people for their character. They seek position and ratings and raises, but not at the cost of doing what’s right. Their highest priority is doing what’s right, not what gives them status or money or fame. They comply with the ideal set forth in the Frank Sinatra song My Way.
They are also like John F. Kennedy’s Profiles in Courage heroes only without the one big, famous, dramatic conflict. But we have to know that these people on my list below have fought a million little, behind-the-scenes battles to maintain their integrity as they have lived their lives. They tell people what they need to know, not what they want to hear. They also remind us of Henry Clay’s statement, “I’d rather be right than be president.” That is, they have a vision of how they want to live their lives and they will not compromise it for any of the enticements that tempt others to live their lives so as to win the approval of others. People who do this are extremely rare.
|Scott Adams, Dilbert cartoonist, lives a couple of towns away from me; we each were recruited to our first post-civilian-university jobs by Crocker National Bank in San Francisco; I left Crocker the year before he arrived; his cartoons are based on his experiences at Crocker and at PacBell where he subsequently worked, as well as on ideas from readers|
|Glenn Beck, radio and Fox news TV host, libertarian who is more than any of his competitors a teacher of facts and logic pertinent to the major policy issues of the day. As with Limbaugh, he is dismissed by the polite-company crowd because of his clowning around. When asked about that, he made some answer along the lines that he regretted the loss of the serious people but that he would rather that than to have Charlie Rose’s audience size. The best teachers and professors also use dramatization and clowning effectively. If Beck and Rose viewers were quizzed on the issues of the day, Beck’s viewers would outscore Rose’s by a large margin because of his persistent teaching. PBS was originally called “educational TV.” The Glenn Beck show is educational TV. PBS, on the other hand, has been running Rich Dad Poor Dad get-rich-quick infomercials.|
|John C. Bogle, author, founder and former CEO of Vanguard Mutual Fund Group|
|Dr. Michael Burry, erstwhile medical doctor who switched to stock market investing, tells people what they need to know, not what they want to hear, incentivizes himself to serve his investors first, limits their number and prohibits withdrawal for at least one year, very contrarian approach (I am the author of The Contrarian Edge for Football Offense), has no filter|
|Ward Connerly, effective opponent of affirmative action, former University of California regent, leader of several state ballot initiatives to ban affirmative action in CA, MI, and NE|
|Jamie Dimon, top banking executive at American Express, Commercial Credit, Citigroup, Bank One, and JPMorgan Chase—a guy who frequently did the right thing when most of his peers were doing the wrong thing (he graduated five years after me at Harvard Business School)|
|Steve Eisman, honest stock market analyst (all but a contradiction in terms other than Eisman), the hero of Michael Lewis’ book The Big Short, called the subprime crisis before it broke, has no filter|
|John Gagliardi, head football coach, St. Johns University; most all-divisions victories of any college football coach; unique approach to coaching|
|Bill James, author, baseball statistician, historian, Senior Advisor on Baseball Operations for the Boston Red Sox.|
|Steve Jobs, Apple cofounder and CEO, Apple Computer, Macintosh, Pixar, iPod, iPhone, iPad|
|Charles Krauthammer Psychiatrist, conservative newspaper columnist, Fox News contributor|
|Michael Lewis, author of Liar’s Poker, The New New Thing, Moneyball, Blindside, The Big Short, started at Salomon Brothers as a liberally-educated Princeton, London School of Economics kid who got paid hundreds of thousands for nothing and thought that was so stupid he quit|
|Rush Limbaugh, Conservative radio talk show host, pioneer of the genre, savior of AM radio, leading conservative in the U.S., appreciated fully by his fans, but not by non-listeners who underestimate him because of his mixing clowning and satire in with well-researched reporting and analysis|
|Joe Paterno, head football coach Penn State University; most Division I victories, bowl games, and undefeated seasons of any coach in football history; longest single-college tenure of any football coach in history; turned down numerous offers to “move up,” probably the biggest bargain of all coaches receiving just $500,000 a year in salary as a coach|
|Jane Bryant Quinn, fearless personal finance author and formerly at CBS TV news and Newsweek, now Bloomberg News personal finance columnist (in the interest of full disclosure, Jane is also my friend)|
|James (“Amazing Randi”) Randi, magician, escape artist and debunker of fakes, winner of a MacArthur Foundation “genius” award|
|Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI), His Roadmap for America’s Future is the only legitimate proposal for fixing America’s runaway fiscal train, chairman of the House Budget Committee; America’s best chance to avoid federal government “bankruptcy” or hyperinflation|
|Thomas Sowell, economist, columnist, author, Hoover Institute Senior Fellow, has no filter|
|John Stossel, fearless Libertarian investigative reporter on ABC 20/20, switched to Fox News 9/10/09, goes out of his way to do provocative stories like one with the theme “greed really is good”|
|Walter E. Williams, relentlessly logical, powerful advocate of liberty and free-market economics. Economics professor at George Mason University, syndicated columnist, libertarian; takes great delight in using logic to prove all sorts of politically-incorrect conclusions, occasionally guest hosts for Rush Limbaugh having Limbaugh’s announcer introduce him as “black by popular demand”|
I’m sure I will think of more later. I urge readers to suggest people to me. One reader suggested Milt Rosenberg a WGN Chicago radio talk show host. He may be deserving, but I know nothing about him so I cannot put him on my list.
Why Charlie Rose is not on the list
Another suggested Charlie Rose. I generally like his show, but my impression is that he is too afraid to displease guests for fear of getting a reputation that would discourage that guest or others from accepting his invitation to appear on his show. If I did such a show, I would not have liars on and if one slipped through, I would either call him on the spot or after investigating his false statement. That would cause the liars in question to refuse to ever appear again on my show and would cause other liars to refuse to come on to begin with.
Who are the liars? Elected or appointed officials, mass market corporate executives, corporations that rely on government contracts, political activists, etc. Who tells the truth as they see it? Generally, authors, tenured professors, retired people, true experts.
They say of the fellowships:
The MacArthur Fellows Program awards unrestricted fellowships to talented individuals who have shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction. There are three criteria for selection of Fellows: exceptional creativity, promise for important future advances based on a track record of significant accomplishment, and potential for the fellowship to facilitate subsequent creative work.
I wish there were a similar award for the combination of accomplishment and moral focus exhibited by the sort of people I have named above—and that it were not restricted to obscure persons as the MacArthur grants seem to be. It is easier to be moral when you are obscure than when you are involved in large organizations or mass markets.
I have no money to give to the folks I named above. Most of them probably already have more money than I do. But I tip my hat to them.