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Americans admire Presidents


According to this year's annual USA Today/Gallup poll, the living man who Americans admire most is Barack Obama, who was named by 32% of respondents.

That doesn't surprise me too much. What does surprise me is that George W. Bush came in second, named by 5% of respondents.

It turns out that GWB has come in first in the annual survey for the past seven years. A Gallup article about last year's survey explains that "the sitting president has been the most admired man every year since 1981, and in 50 of the 61 times the question has been asked overall."

I was a little surprised by that, too, until I noticed that the pollsters don't prompt respondents with suggestions, and that the percentages for this year's top six men (three-way tie for fourth place) add up to only 46%. (Percentages for this year's top five women also add up to under 50%.) So I suspect that an awful lot of respondents say things like "My father" or "Mr. Gryzbowski who owns the corner grocery store"; but if less than about 20 people in the 1000-person survey name a given person, that person won't make the top-5 list.

Still, I'm a little surprised to see politicians and religious figures feature so prominently. I would have expected the top spots to include some musicians or actors, maybe news (or fake-news) anchors, maybe athletes (especially in an Olympic year), and so on. But I guess in those areas the field is again too wide--even if half the respondents named an actor, they would probably all pick different actors.

Hillary Clinton tops the most-admired-woman list, as she's done in 13 of the past 16 years; this year, Sarah Palin came in second. Interesting to see that three of the top five women this year are black: Oprah, Condoleeza Rice, and Michelle Obama. Oprah and Rice were both in the top three last year. Oh, interesting: last year Angelina Jolie came in fourth. And Benazir Bhutto and Maya Angelou were both in last year's top ten.

Anyway, on this particular pair of questions I'm more interested in personal and individual choices than in the polling aggregate. So: what man living today do you admire most? What woman living today do you admire most? And, for both, why? (Skip any questions you don't want to answer.)

I realize I've unfairly seeded the ground with suggestions in the above, so this isn't unprompted. Then again, it's an Internet survey, so it's not scientifically valid anyway.

Three clarifying notes: (1) it's fine for you to put one of the people who made the top of the poll; (2) I welcome responses from anyone in the world, not just Americans; (3) you can name people from anywhere in the world. (But they do have to be alive.)


Hmmm. That IS a tricky one. The three men I admire the most (the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost--took the last train for the coast--no, no no, wait)...

One does automatically start reviewing celebrities, clergy, philanthropists, who's been in the news--if you're not going to go with fathers and family members. I do admire my father and brother and Matt quite a bit, but I'm not sure I admire them the most of anyone living.

Hmm. I heard a story the other day from one of the guys working in our lab--his family is Lebanese, but he grew up here in the US. His father grew up in Lebanon in a place where it was all militias and killing, and came to the US to make a better life for his family. He was injured on the job a few years ago--a heavy crate fell on his head and crushed his spine, he's been in a wheel chair ever since. Then his wife (the mother of the guy who works in our lab) comes down with inoperable cancer, and insists on going back to Lebanon to die in the bosom of her family. So the whole family moves back to Lebanon, his wife dies; and he sets up a clinic. He looked around his home village and realized that the closest doctor was 30 miles away, and there were so many land mines in the area from the battles with Israel over the decades that kids mistook them for soccer balls and were constantly blowing their legs off. So he and his son built a clinic to help out; and the local militias blew it up. So he rebuilt it!!

Mind you, it got blown up a 2nd time, and that's when he said fuck it, you all deserve what you get, and moved his son and daughter back to the US. But to a) think about staying there and helping out, and b) rebuild it when it was blown up the first time--while his life sucks, he's paralyzed and his son has to change his diaper every day--I have to admire that. There's a man who understands compassion for others.

Wow -- that's an amazing story. Setting up a clinic under any circumstances is presumably hard; doing it after becoming paralyzed must be even harder; and, yeah, the rebuilding, especially under those circumstances, is astonishing. Thanks for posting that!

Hee re last train for the coast -- I meant to throw in a "Day the Music Died" joke somewhere in this entry, but forgot, so thanks for that too.

Maybe I should open this up a little: if, after thinking about it, y'all don't come up with a single Most Admired Man and Woman, feel free to mention people who would be high on the list; doesn't have to be only one of each gender.

About the survey--remember that there are a bunch of people (I might be among them) who will tell a pollster whatever they think is good for their Party or their preferred policies. At this point, I wouldn't be surprised if 5% of the populace or so (a quarter, maybe, of the 20% who think that Our Outgoing President did a good job for eight years) would tell a pollster that he's the fellow they admire most in all the world, just because they feel like he's got a bum deal and should get the little edge of support that they can give him. Er, and that 20% number I parenthetically referenced up there? My guess is that at least a quarter of those are people who think that he stunk on ice, but are certainly never going to tell a pollster that the President of their party was less than great.

That said, if asked out of the blue by an old college buddy, I might actually have said Barack Obama--I do admire him tremendously (although I am angry with him at the moment about Pastor Warren), and he's in my thoughts every day just now, so it would likely be the first thing out of my mouth. I'm not sure how I measure admiration--what are the units? Teresas? Or do you pick a baseline of, say, Jerry Brown, and measure in MilliBrowns? Or would you confuse those with WillieBrowns? And how do you balance Peak Value vs Career Value, with a Dean Kamen or someone who had, say, three really admirable years, and then a couple of above average years, and then possibly a longish decline phase measured against a Jimmy Carter, who just keeps being admirable, year after year? Isn't it easier just to say screw it, I'll tell 'em the President?

OK, for the male category, I'll say Sir Ian McKellan, for his acting and advocacy, and for the females, I'll go with Eartha Kitt, for—what? Oh, crap.


I rarely think about "mosts". I often think about people I admire and why I admire them. Recently, I've been admiring Ellen Million, of Ellen Million Graphics in Alaska, for being self-employed in a business mix she has constructed for herself and which works: unique services (like portrait adoption), her own art, printing service, retailing services for artists, publishing, writing, online magazine, world-building, and the occasional freelance engineering when EMG is slow.

I admire here because she's persistent, creative, a planner, a connector (bringing people into her projects with her) and practical. I aspire to be more of all those.

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