My Top-10 Favorite Americans
I have previously listed my favorite Germans and who I think are the most important Finns. Now it’s time for me to focus on the US. It was surprisingly hard to come up with a list of only ten people so I decided to spread the persons out more by field this time than in my German and Finnish persons lists.
10. Barack Obama
Without a doubt one of the most significant people in the US’s presidential history and no-one can claim otherwise. The first black president and a breath of fresh air after the insular and facepalm-worthy terms of George Bush.
In addition a man of character, Obama has received nothing but hate and insults from his political opponents since stepping into office. The fact that he doesn’t let the political nutballs harass himself, the fact that he’s able to do his job despite the combined moronic assault of the Tea-Party, Birthers and Fox News shows that Obama is fearless.
I will concede that the Nobel prize committee jumped the gun a bit with the Peace Prize and the continued press-attention Obama’s had has perhaps distracted him a little bit. Never the less, this list would not be complete without him and I hope he will have a much better time during his second term in office.
9. Francis Scott Key
You may not recognise the name, but Francis Scott Key has contributed something which is so utterly American to the world that you wouldn’t be able to think of the USA without it. Fracis Key wrote the lyrics to the American National Anthem, The Star-Spangled Banner. The music itself was written some 40 years prior by an Englishman called John Stafford Smith, but it’s Key’s lyrics that made it a classic.
The Star-Spangled Banner is one of my favorite anthems and actually one of the hardest to sing due to its wide melodic range. However, you listen to it and you instantly think of the USA. It’s grandiose, it’s magnificent, it’s even a little corny, but it’s absolutely awesome.
8. Thomas Edison
Inventor of the lightbulb and an early developer of both recorded voice and motion picture. How could Edison not be on the list. There are many American inventors and scientists that could have potentially made the list but Edison’s inventions so dramatically influenced everyday life that it would be wrong not to put him up here.
I also considered putting Benjamin Franklin on the list since his inventions were also intended for human betterment but Edison, with all due respect, just had a touch more pizzaz to him. So my apologies for the hundred-dollar Founding Father.
7. Mario Andretti
As a Formula One fan of course I couldn’t ignore the greatest American driver to have ever entered the sport. Andretti’s appearance in the sport was anything except consistent – but in 1978, he became the champion thanks to his superior driving in his Lotus car. Andretti drove in several other series as well and is only the second American driver to have won the Drivers’ Championship (the other being Phil Hill in 1961) and the last American to have won an F1 race.
An unfortunate side to Andretti’s championship is that the runner-up for the title, Ronnie Peterson, happened to die in the aftermath of the third-to-last race of the season.
6. Amelia Earhart
Earhart was one of those types of ladies who was willing to show that women can do anything men can. She had quite a reputation beforehand, but when in 1928, she became the first woman to fly a plane across the Atlantic, her reputation as one of the greatest aviators in the world was solidified.
Not only an inspiring woman but Earhart also has an element of mystery to her as no-one knows what exactly became of her. She famously disappeared during her 1937 attempt at flying around the world.
5. George Lucas
George Lucas is notable for far more than just one of the greatest sci-fi film series of all time. Lucas struggled through the 1970s to make a name for himself after the disastrous failure of his first feature-film THX-1138. With barely 10 million dollars to spend on the first Star Wars movie Lucas had to bring together and even develop entirely new special-effect techniques for the movie, which eventually lead to the creation of Industrial Light & Magic.
Lucas has done more for the film industry and particularly the science-fiction film genre than most people are willing to admit. Lucas also definitely contributed to the creation of “summer block-buster” which not all film-lovers necessarily appreciate. However, I love the man. He may not be the greatest director alive, but modern cinema would not be what it is without him.
4. Edgar Allan Poe
Just for the record, E.A. Poe is not simply my favorite American author, he is my favorite author of all time. Father of both modern horror and detective fiction, Poe has inspired numerous authors, film-makers, artists etc. Though his work was appreciated, Poe found it difficult during his life-time to make a living off his work.
Some of my favorite stories from the man include Hop-Frog, The Black Cat and of course his iconic poem, The Raven. I first read Poe’s work translated, so the quality of his writing is impressive even if not observed in his native language (though obviously, I’ve since read a good number of his stories in their original form).
Poe is one of those authors whose work have not only aged well but are excellent to just pick up and read when you’re bored.
3. Michael Jackson
Without commenting on his personal life, Michael Jackson was easily one of the most influential musicians in history. Jackson contributed to making music which appealed to all people. To put it simply, the man was a genius. I could make a whole blog just describing my favorite songs from the man.
Bad was one of the earliest ones I heard and it’s deviously catchy tune and attitude have never become repetitive to me. Beat It with its awesome guitar-solo by Eddie Van Halen is still worth listening. Earth Song and Black or White both showed that Jackson cared about the world around him and with songs like They Don’t Really Care About Us wrote extremely powerful lyrics.
Of course there’s also inherent comedy value in some of his earliest works like Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough and Thriller. The fact that people still listen to his music to this day just shows how universal his appeal was.
2. Martin Luther King Jr.
Without a doubt the most important person from the point of view of civil rights in the USA. His 1963 speech, I Have a Dream, is legendary. Martin Luther King was not just a man who was seeking equality for blacks but, as his legendary speech states, equality to all people:
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.” I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood. I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice. I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today.
Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968. He won the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is observed on the third Monday of January.
1. Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln, honest Abe, was president during the most tumultuous period in the history of the United States, The American Civil War. Lincoln organised the Union war effort, united the senate and most famously freed America’s slave with his Emancipation Proclamation.
Lincoln is also notable for showing that a man of moderate, non-extremist political views could lead a country successfully through even the harshest chaos. Lincoln was particularly hated amongst the extreme ends of the political scale in his day.
Lincoln was a great speaker and didn’t let his political enemies get the best of him. Sadly, Lincoln would end up paying the ultimate price for his views when John Wilkes Booth assassinated him, just six days after the Confederacy surrendered, on April 5, 1865.