Ever wonder who among us will become titans in tomorrows history books? Who are the ones currently plying their trade so deftly that they will be remembered as ‘great’: Americans like Thomas Edison, Jesse Owens, Arthur Rubenstein, Gregory Peck, George Patton became larger than life after their lives were over. I contend they are out there and we observe them in action on a daily basis but their value is often not recognized while they’re alive because headlines are monopolized by the bad actors in our society.
Normally one would expect to find a president or politician in such a list. Not on this one. Unfortunately we seem to have left the age where anyone devoting their life to public service strives to emulate the ideals and character of a true statesman, above any sense of partisan politics or social indiscretions that seem to bring down too many of those that embark on that path. Entertainment, business, military, and religion deliver BasicMan’s first installment of the greatest among us.
About to turn 80 years old, Clint Eastwood is the first of four BasicMan greats. Coming from the field of entertainment, Eastwood is a throwback to the days when leading men were manly and not necessarily muscular, pretty, and least of all, sensitive. Tobey McGuire and Jake Gyllenhaal need not apply for roles once carried by Brando, McQueen, and Newman. Eastwood proves he still has a spot at the macho table next to Bronson with his role in Gran Torino. In terms of his craft there’s more than the “Go ahead, make my day…”. characters he has played for 55 years. Ironically, he’ll be remembered more for the roles he played than his actual acting skill. With that said, he is at his best when directing; Invictus, Flag of Our Fathers, Million Dollar Baby, Mystic River, The Bridges of Madison County, Pale Rider, Unforgiven, The Eiger Sanction, and the best cowboy flick ever, The Outlaw Josey Wales. Enjoy his work while we still have him.
In 1955, free enterprise and capitalism got a shot in the arm with creativity and genius; Bill Gates was born. It took him a few years to get up to speed but by his 13th birthday Gates was in the computing game. Using a high school hall pass and an exclusion from math class he and fellow geek and future Microsoft partner Paul Allen exploited holes in a third party computer software program to sneak free computer time. The seeds for Microsoft had been planted He and Allen grew Microsoft into the software gorilla it is today. Inter industry squabbles from companies knuckling under their power, global legal battles over anti-trust issues, and general condescension from Apple users didn’t deter Gates and Microsoft from creating the greatest business contribution of our generation. Gates’ prowess as an innovator, business leader and industry genius provide the horsepower behind his philanthropic deeds. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is second only to his mentor, Warren Buffet, in terms of charitable generosity on a global scale.
General David Petraeus will go down in history as the military mastermind behind winning the Iraq War. Twenty years from now he will also be recognized for single handedly saving the legacy of George W. Bush’s second presidential term. When we think of military greats down through history the names of Washington, Grant, Lee, MacArthur, Nimitz, Patton, and Schwarzkopf come to mind. David Petraeus embodies the new style of military leader in a world where technology and socio-political importance has to work in delicate concert with the shock and awe of military might. Petraeus recognized that the art of war in the 21st century has changed. Victory is not achieved solely with more troops and deadlier ordnance but through enlisting the hearts, minds, and behavior of the exact people we are trying to influence with our might. The 2007 ‘Surge’ in Iraq, later known as the Petraeus Doctrine accomplished this philosophy and Iraq will be recognized in years hence as a dramatic military victory. General David Petraeus will join the names of those other military greats of our past.
BasicMan’s final choice was the easiest to make. As he approaches the end of his life, Rev. Billy Graham is an American icon. He is our pope, our Dali Lama. He has been called America’s pastor. He has counseled presidents and foreign leaders since Truman albeit with varying degrees of acceptance. For 67 years Rev. Graham has been the face of evangelical Christianity around the world. Beginning in 1948 with his first public crusade, Graham is said to have reached out to over 2 billion people worldwide. Being such a high profile figure in a portion of life that constantly comes under fire, he has remained steadfast in his beliefs and unblemished in the public eye. Aside from his example of modern day morality, unwavering support for civil rights, and global denunciation of racial and ethic segregation, the thing most striking about his character is his utter humility. One day soon we will hear that Rev Graham has passed away and the first thing that will come to mind for many is that we have lost a great man.
While this piece highlighted four public figures whose accomplishments stand alone it is important to remember that we live among those not so public that produce equally incredible value for our culture. I was prompted to write this following the recent death of Jaime Escalante. Even though Mr. Escalante and his remarkable work in the field of education were portrayed by Edward James Olmos in the 1988 movie; Stand and Deliver, he was never an A list celebrity. There are other Jaime Escalante’s around us. We live among greatness. We just need to be reminded to recognize them.
Leave a comment regarding others that deserve recognition and BasicMan’s adulation in Part 2 of this theme.