Friday, December 31, 2004

2004 American of the Year: Pat Tillman

Pat Tillman is the website’s selection as it’s 2004 American of the Year,the first-ever such designation, and it really wasn’t a difficult choice. President George Bush was really the only candidate that came close, but Tillman’s ultimate sacrifice for his country pushes him to the top of the list of great American’s for the past year.

Pat Tillman was an athlete, an acknowledged football rat. The guy simply loved to play football. Getting him out of a game was a difficult measure at any level. Sports Illustrated’s Tim Layden, in selecting him as his Sportsman of the Year, reported a story from Tillman’s high school days when he continued to sneak back into a blowout game after being removed by the coaches, to the point where the only way they could keep him on the bench was to take away his helmet. He wasn’t trying to show up the other team, or rub salt in their wounds, he simply couldn’t stand not playing.

Tillman helped lead his college team, Arizona State, to the 1996 Rose Bowl, and then a year later was voted the Top Defensive Player in the Pac-10, one of the nation’s elite football conferences. When he graduated from Arizona State and became eligible for the NFL draft, his college coach, Hugh Snyder, was asked if Tillman could make it in the NFL. His reply was “If you don’t want him on your team, don’t draft him, because he won’t let you cut him.” The Phoenix Cardinals made Tillman their 7th round selection in the 1998 draft.

Tillman started his NFL career as many players do, making his mark with outstanding play on ‘special teams’, the kickoff-team kamikazes who throw their bodies around in their efforts to both preserve territory for their team, as well as set the tone for the rest of the game. His outstanding play led him to win the starting Free Safety position with the Cards, and in 2000 he broke the team record for tackles in a season. His coaches repeatedly had to slow him down in practice, so that he wouldn’t hurt any of his teammates. It wasn’t that Tillman was mean or overly aggressive, you just couldn’t slow the guy down.

He was offered a free agent contract by the St. Louis Rams, a winning organization coming off a recent Super Bowl win, but Tillman turned it down to stay in Phoenix out of loyalty to the team that had given him his chance to become a pro athlete. He then turned down a lucrative $3 million contract from the Cardinals for an even nobler reason.

When the United States was attacked by radical Islamic terrorists on September 11th, 2001, something began to stir in the soul of Pat Tillman. Along with his brother Kevin, a minor leaguer with the Cleveland Indians baseball organization, Tillman resolved to personally do something to protect and defend his country.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Introducing Condi Rice

The Italian musical term is “con doleeza”, a direction for one to play “with sweetness”. I am quite sure that when her parents so named her, they did not envision that she would have to develop many qualities exactly the opposite of that direction as her life’s work advanced.

Condoleezza Rice was recently nominated by President George W. Bush to become the new Secretary of State. This is one of the most key positions in any Presidential administration, yet so few people know very much about “Condi”, as her friends call her.

Condi was born on November 14th, 1954 in Birmingham, Alabama as the only child of John Wesley Rice, Jr and Angelena Rice, both of whom were Jamaican immigrants and both of whom became university professors.

Her father was a high school athletic director and assistant football coach who later became a minister. Her mother was a music teacher, and the family had dreams of her becoming a musician. Thus the influence on the choice of her name.

Born and raised during the time of segregation in America, Condi stated that she always felt the need to be “twice as good” as non-minorities. She was just nine years old when racism reared it’s ugly head in her life, when a schoolmate became one of four young girls killed in the bombing of a Baptist church by white supremacists.

She dreamed at first of becoming a concert pianist, and was able to read musical notes before she could even read words, but after enrolling in classes at the University of Denver at the young age of just 15 (she skipped both 1st and 7th grades), she took a course being taught by Josef Korbel, a Czech refugee and former diplomat, on international politics. This man would change the course of her life.

Monday, December 6, 2004

Finding the 'Right' Way

Embed from Getty Images
Gingrich (L) and the Contract With America led to my vote for Dole (R) in 1996

On a brisk November morning back in 1996, I walked into a polling place located inside the H.A. Brown elementary school in the Kensington section of Philadelphia, signed my name in the register, and walked into the voting booth.

Though I was about to turn 33 years of age in just a few weeks, I was about to experience a first in my life.

As I pulled the handle and the curtain closed behind me, I faced the list of elective offices on the ballot, including that of the President of the United States of America, and searched the list for the one name that I was looking for above all others.

When I found the name of Bob Dole, I pulled over the small lever next to his name, forcing an ‘x’ mark into a tiny window, signifying that he would receive my vote. I pulled the handle back and locked in my first-ever vote for a Republican candidate for President of the United States, marking the beginning of a new era in my life.

It was the first time that I voted the Right Way.