Politics, faith, education, service to either country or community. These have been the hallmarks of the previous 8 honorees as this websites '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. I disagree. 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.