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Wednesday, January 1, 2014

My 2013 Person of the Year

Another year has come to an end and with it another opportunity to look back and reflect on the people and events that helped to shape 2013 into the year it was.  And as has become tradition on my blog, the conclusion of another year affords me the opportunity to select my "Person of the Year."

Time Magazine has, since 1927, continued this tradition.  My humble little blog is only in its third year (you can see my previous selections by clicking on the following links.  My 2011 winner can be found by clicking here and my 2012 winner by clicking here).

So, without further delay, I offer up my selections for 2013's Person of the Year:

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10.) Lance Armstrong
Professional athletes who have confessed to using performance enhancing drugs is nothing new. The case of Lance Armstrong, however, is unique.  After all, no athlete was more passionate about his innocence than Armstrong.  Compounded with his triumph over cancer, Armstrong had been a beacon of moral integrity and purity of athletic ability.  For over a decade, Armstrong had vehemently defended his position that he had never used drugs of any kind while competing.  In January of this year that all changed.  In a dramatic confession to Oprah Winfrey, Armstrong admitted to using drugs throughout his career.  His subsequent downfall, which is arguably the most dramatic of any professional athlete who has admitted to drug use, led to his dismissal from his Livestrong foundation and the loss of virtually every sponsor that Armstrong ever had. Armstrong's fall from grace was one of the most dramatic stories of the then infant year that was 2013 (you can read a previous blog post that I wrote on the Armstrong scandal by clicking here).

9.) Sheryl Sandberg
2013 was the year that saw Facebook successfully evolve from being what Founder Mark Zuckerberg called "a really cool website to a really profitable company."  And one of the chief reasons for that successful evolution was Sheryl Sandberg.  After being "stolen" away from Google and made COO of Facebook, Sandberg set to the task of guiding Facebook into the world of a publicly-traded company.  It was a task she understood very well and succeeded at accomplishing. But this was only part of why Sandberg had such a successful year.  In March, Sandberg released her first book, Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead. The book, which became an instant best seller and stayed at the top for quite some time, addressed the issue of women in the workplace, particularly women (or the lack thereof) in leadership positions.  Sandberg was both critical of society and of women, stating that both could do a better job of establishing greater gender equality and of promoting qualified women to leadership positions.  Sandberg's example has catapulted her to the highest echelon of the business world as one of the few women to break into that club.

8.) Margaret Thatcher
April saw the passing of a British legend.  Margaret Thatcher, the "Iron Lady," Great Britain's longest serving Prime Minister of the 20th century, made her grand exit from the world after a stellar career as a staunch conservative politician and leader.  Thatcher's resume needs no review here on my humble little blog.  The bottom line is she was one of the most charismatic and influential world leaders of the 20th century.  Her iron will and uncompromising, unapologetic devotion to conservative ideals, which had been forged over a lifetime, made Thatcher one of the most imposing figures in both her nation and on the greater world stage.  Her name has become synonymous with tough, unforgiving yet still elegant British politics.  Her name deserves to be uttered with the likes of Churchill and other great British leaders who are now larger than life.  Farewell, Iron Lady! Heaven added one formidable woman to its ranks in 2013!


7.) The "Culture Warrior"
Duck Dynasty, George Zimmerman, Paula Deen, Miley Cyrus, racism, gay marriage, war, corporate greed and corruption, gun rights, Ted Cruz, government shut downs, Anthony Wiener, talk radio, yadda, yadda, yadda.  2013 was, like many before it, inundated with a vast assortment of polarizing issues that were hijacked by eager culture warriors who were more than willing to spin their rhetoric in a way that was sure to pull at the heart strings of their respective listeners. Like Baskin Robbins does with ice cream, 2013 offered up a flavor of cultural sensationalism that appealed to the palette of everyone.  The culture warriors did a magnificent job of ensuring that these issues, and many others, became larger than life and stole the headlines when other stories deserved the air time. They successfully stole the communal microphone and forced us to listen to their ilk whether we wanted to or not.  Thank you, brave culture warriors, for helping us to complicate the obvious and get all worked up over stuff that doesn't really need to preoccupy our time.

6.) Peter Higgs
In March, the incredible scientists at CERN (the large hadron collider in Europe) went public with a remarkable discovery that has defined particle physics.  The Higgs Bozon, the particle that essentially gives all matter in the universe its mass, was confirmed to be a real phenomenon of nature.  The discovery of this so-called "God Particle" was the life work of one Peter Higgs, a British physicist and Nobel Prize winner who first postulated his theory of the Higgs Bozon in the 1960s.  With CERN's confirmation that the Higgs Bozon is not merely a theory but a fact of nature, particle physicists are now able to to better determine how everything in our universe (stars, planets, etc.) came into existence.  And make no mistake, this discovery is one of the "big ones" that will go down in the history books for as long as humans study the universe.  Undoubtedly the biggest science story of 2013.

5.) Kathleen Sebelius
The implementation of the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. "Obamacare") was meant to be one of the crowning achievements of President Barack Obama's second term.  The hope was that millions of Americans, who either couldn't afford or qualify for health care, would find respite in the new law, thereby granting all Americans access to needed medical services.  The problem, however, was the fact that signing up for "Obamacare" became more difficult than crossing the Arctic Circle in flip flops.  And the blame for Obamacare's roll out (whether deserved or not) was placed squarely on the shoulders of the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius.  Sebelius' office, which was responsible for creating and maintaining the Obamacare website, completely jumped off the boat and missed the ocean.  In addition, Sebelius came under scrutiny when she was unable to specifically explain to a congressional committee where approximately $12 billion in funding for Obamacare had gone.  In short, Kathleen Sebelius became one of the largest scapegoats and whipping boys of 2013.

4.) Edward Snowden
Unless you've been hiding under a rock, you have heard of Edward Snowden.  Whether you consider him a hero or a villain is a question that will likely continue long into the future. Snowden, a computer specialist who contracted with the CIA and NSA, released documents to various media outlets that revealed the questionable surveillance practices of those and other agencies.  Snowden, who has since his "treason" sought asylum in various nations, has become a focal point in the debate over government's duty to protect its citizens v. the 4th Amendment right to privacy. Again, the question of whether Snowden is a hero or a villain is not going to be solved any time soon, but the information he has brought to light is going to fuel the debate of surveillance v. privacy for years to come.  Where does government's duty to protect its citizens go too far?  How does technology come into play with regards to this debate?  Only time will tell but what is certain is the fact that Snowden has provided ample ammunition for those on both sides of this argument.

3.) Hassan Rouhani
In June, the Iranian people saw the ascension to power of its seventh president, Hassan Rouhani. Rouhani, who is not a newcomer to the stage of Iranian politics, is a controversial figure to say the least.  Unlike almost all of his predecessors, Rouhani is determined to reconcile his nation with the Western world.  Rouhani has stated, on multiple occasions, his desire to see Iran become an ally of the United States and even Israel.  Unlike previous Iranian leaders, Rouhani admits that the Holocaust was a real and terrible event and that Israel and the rest of the Muslim world can and should reconcile with one another.  In addition, Rouhani has been a vocal supporter of women's rights, freedom of the press and ending poverty. Rouhani is also opposed to the nuclear programs that have landed his nation in hot water with the rest of the world.  Americans, along with the rest of the world, should be very excited at the fact that a man like Rouhani is in a position to effect change in a nation that has been at odds with the Western world.  Rouhani may very well be the beacon of change we all have been hoping for and that his people deserve.

2.) Nelson Mandela
There is little doubt that the most prominent figure to depart the world in 2013 was none other than Nelson Mandela. Like Margaret Thatcher mentioned above, I see little reason to review Mandela's unprecedented resume of accomplishments here on my little blog.  The bottom line is Mandela was one of those figures who transcend history.  His fight for equal rights in his home nation of South Africa will be praised long after we have all taken that magic carpet ride into the sky.  Mandela is proof that one man with courage, integrity and endurance can change the world for the better.  Mandela endured more challenges and trials that any person should be asked to bear, but he did so with his head held high and his feet firmly planted on the ground.  His legacy is an inspiration to anyone who dares to believe that the world can and will be changed for the good of all mankind.  Farewell, Madiba!!!  The world is a much better place because you lived in it.

And now, the winner of the Corazon's Corner 2013 Person of the Year Award is..............

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1.) Pope Francis
This is actually the first time in my three years of doing this that I have agreed with Time Magazine's selection of Person of the Year. Simply put, Pope Francis is, in my opinion, the most impressive Catholic Pontiff in over 1,000 years.  Like the fictional character King Midas, it seems that everything Francis touched in 2013 turned instantly into gold.  This is, of course, due to the fact that Francis has a perfect understanding of a very key principle of Christianity: actions speak MUCH louder than words!

I cannot even begin to emphasize how much I love this guy!  Pope Francis makes me wish that I could be both a Catholic and a Mormon.  His example of humble and authentic discipleship is something that I sincerely hope every leader of every congregation of every brand of Christianity (or any faith or no faith for that matter) will take note of and attempt to emulate.  Whether it be Francis' example of washing the feet of convicted criminals, his sincere embrace of a disfigured man, his dismissal of Catholic leaders who live off the riches of others, his vehement opposition of greed, or the many other examples he has set, Francis' actions are those that have made Catholicism relevant again.

I for one will be the first to invoke the words of the Late Reverend Krister Stendahl, who coined the phrase "holy envy."  I have holy envy for Catholicism because of the works and example of one Pope Francis.  He makes me want to be a better Mormon, a better father, a better human.  If there is a better selection for 2013's person of the year I don't see it.  Pope Francis is, in my estimation, the clear winner...and this may not be the only year he wins!

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There you have it, folks.  Thank you for reading.  And may I take this time to wish each of you a happy, safe, prosperous and joyous 2014.  Love and peace to you and yours in the year to come!

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