So long and thanks for all the fish
Pundits, columnists and editorialists are good at saying who and what they don’t like. But what is it that they do like? All opinion-makers should be required to pen regular accounts of who and what they admire. As my two-year stint as a Reuters weekly columnist concludes – you’re not out of the woods, I may pop up occasionally – let me offer an incomplete accounting of ideas, organizations and people I view as worthy of praise:
World Vision: Many Christians conveniently ignore Jesus’s teachings about the poor. Many Americans don’t care about the billion people globally who are impoverished. World Vision, an evangelical organization, combats both problems by working to end poverty in developing nations. World Vision has done more to help the global poor than most governments, is pragmatic regarding economics, and its staffers don’t proselytize. There are few organizations one can admire without reservation: World Vision is one.
Barack Obama: His “next year we will get serious about the national debt” act is wearing thin. But in the main, Obama has been a good president – and Americans are turning post-racial so quickly that already we seem to shrug about the incredible historic significance of an African-American in the Oval Office.
Obama took command of the country at a low point: a deep recession, a costly quagmire in Iraq. If he’d come onto the national stage under the conditions encountered by the previous two chief executives – Bill Clinton took the White House at the start of an economic boom, George W. Bush took the White House just before 9-11, which ensured him a five-year honeymoon as the nation rallied – Obama might already be viewed as a great president. And he might still cross that threshold. ObamaCare was a major legislative achievement, and though it has bureaucratic-nightmare potential, bear in mind that few of its advantages have yet taken effect.
Doctors Without Borders: In the parts of the developing world where there are medical emergencies, workers of Medecins Sans Frontieres are viewed as saints walking among men. That’s the way I feel, too.
Cass Sunstein: Obama’s regulatory czar wants regulations to be necessary and cost-effective, which offends both ideological extremes. He’s doing a fine job.
Third Way: The Brookings Institution and American Enterprise Institute continue to do good work. But Third Way is the future of think tanks, focused on pragmatic solutions, not panel discussions.
International Justice Mission: Founded just 14 years ago, IJM already has achieved results in pressuring the legal systems of African, Asian and South American countries to recognize human rights and to take concrete action against human trafficking, government corruption and police brutality.
Red Cross/Red Crescent/Red Star of David: The structure of the Red Cross, Red Crescent and Red Star of David societies can be confusing. But in a world of situation ethics and I’ve-got-mine-Jack, the brave personnel of these organizations represent the embodiment of selfless virtue.
Stephen Carter: Author of important nonfiction books, of bestselling novels and a chaired law professor at Yale University, for my money Carter is the nation’s leading public intellectual. A political and religious moderate – not many Ivy League professors have written a column for Christianity Today, which is traditionalist on spiritual issues and liberal on social questions – Carter is a fine candidate for a Supreme Court opening. Yes, he writes novels that contain conspiracies, including an evil Supreme Court justice. They’re novels! Surely even the Senate Judiciary Committee can understand the difference between scholarship and entertainment. Carter would bring to the highest court intellectual heft, equability and humility, all of which the Supremes need.
The deficit commission report: It’s the map for the only clear path out of America’s primary domestic problem.
Berea College: Founded to aid the poor of Appalachia, Berea College is a private institution that does not charge tuition. “Financial need” is a requirement for admission. As top colleges and universities increasingly become preserves of the well-off, Berea College tirelessly works to end college-based class distinctions.
Mitt Romney: So he flip-flops. If this is the worst thing about him, he’s a welcome addition to national politics. Romney has been a success as a business and a government executive. He behaves honorably and treats others with respect. At a time when American discourse grows bitter and divisive, an Obama-Romney presidential race could set an example for high-minded public behavior.
The Pew Charitable Trusts: The Pew Trusts is the nation’s leading progressive philanthropy, campaigning for reform in health care, the environment, energy policy and other subjects. Its divisions concerned with state government and public opinion do great jobs. The founding impulse of Pew was a left-wing Christian – a flavor missing in national discourse. Its president, Rebecca Rimel, is a self-made woman who began her career as a nurse.
Reuters readers: I thank all readers who followed this column. You’re number one on my list of What I Like.
PHOTO: People stand together as they create the biggest human smiley in the world on the Zagreb main square May 6, 2011.