[Introduction: Ethics Alarms opined that the President’s proposed “Garden of American Heroes” was badly conceived, and his initial nominations for inclusion proved the point. Mercurial commenter Valkygrrl took the initiative to devise a process for Ethics Alarms readers to compile a better list, and also to organize the results, which I found fascinating. Any further reactions will be confined to the comments.]
1: No presidents, always some controversy, we have other ways of honoring them.
2: Any person who held office must be chosen for something they did outside of said office, no honoring for using the mechanisms of the state no matter how beneficial to society.
3: No Confederates (obvious divisiveness.)
4: You may have only one living person on your list.
5: Your list must be made in good faith. You may not choose anyone you believe will upset or anger me; no “owning the libs”. Honest mistakes accepted.
6: Do not remove someone from your list because they were mentioned by someone else. I want to see if we can find some consensus. That means people Trump or Jack mentioned are allowed.
Here’s the list of nominees as submitted by participants (editorial descriptions mine);
Marian Anderson: Singer, Civil rights activist, Medal of Freedom recipient.
Neil Armstrong: Aviator, Astronaut, First human to set foot on Luna
Isaac Asimov: Teacher, Author of the Foundation series; Seven-time Hugo Award winner (Plus one Retro-Hugo awarded in 2016), Democratic party activist, serial sexual harasser
Irving Berlin: Composer of famous patriotic music
John Brown: Hero, undaunted, true and brave, And Kansas knows his valor when he fought her rights to save; Now, tho the grass grows green above his grave. Popular legend holds that his soul continues to march.
John Moses Browning: Industrialist, Firearms designer.
George Carlin: Humorist, Mentor to time-traveling Gen-Xers.
Andrew Carnegie: Industrialist, Philanthropist, Union buster.
Joshua L. Chamberlain: Union General, Medal of Honor recipient.
Meriwether Lewis and William Clark: Explorers, Naturalists. Two very different people presumably nominated for a single achievement alone. Clark was a bit of a bastard.
Samuel Colt: Firearms manufacturer, used assembly line principals before Henry Ford.
Clarence Darrow : Country lawyer, Civil libertarian, Attention whore, Cigar aficionado.
Walter Elias Disney: Artist, Writer, Movie Producer, Television host, Murderer of Bambi’s mother. Named names to the House Un-American Activities Committee
William J. Donovan: Medal of Honor recipient, Head of OSS, Part of Robert Jackson’s Nuremberg team.
Desmond Doss: Combat Medic, Medal of Honor recipient. Ethics Hero emeritus.
Frederick Douglass: (Nominated thrice): Former slave who escaped bondage, Publisher, Orator, Abolitionist, Advocate for women’s sufferage
Charles Drew: Doctor, Greatly improved use of and storage of blood products, Subject of school play when I was in 4th grade.
Wyatt Earp: Gunfighter, Lawman, Played by Kevin Costner
Thomas Edison: (nominated twice) Industrialist, Inventor, Elephant killer.
John Ford: Filmmaker, Filmed portions of D-day invasion, purple heart recipient, Academy Award winner.
Henry Ford: Industrialist, user of assembly lines, anti-semite, recipient of the Grand Cross of the German Eagle, admired by Adolph Hitler.
Benjamin Franklin: (Nominated thrice) Author, Humorist, Postmaster, Signatory to the Declaration of Independence, Inventor of the stove.
Robert Fulton: Inventor
Ursula K. Le Guin: Author, political thinker, SFWA Grandmaster 2003
Virginia Hall: Spy, Cross between Emma Peel and Kira Nerys, Ethics hero emeritus.
Martin Luther King Jr.: Minister, Civil Rights activist, Posthumous Medal of Freedom recipient, Star Trek fan. Currently honored with a federal holiday.
Henry Knox: Son of Liberty, Major General Continental army, Secretary of War, Has a fort full of gold named after him.
Douglas MacArthur: Modern Major General, Field Marshal (Complete with baton,) Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in the Southwest Pacific Area, Medal of Honor recipient, oversized pipe aficionado.
Alfred Thayer Mahan: Naval Captain, Historian, Military strategist.
George Mason: Author of 1776 Virginia constitution, activist for the rights of man, second-largest slaver in Virginia during his lifetime.
Audie Murphy: Actor, Medal of Honor recipient.
Joshua Abraham Norton: Norton I, Emperor of the United States, Protector of Mexico. Unconstitutional Monarch.
Dolly Parton: Singer, Songwriter, Actor, Producer, Philanthropist, National Treasure.
Sylvia Plath: Teacher, Poet, Novelist, Patron saint of moody teen girls
Sally Ride: Astronaut, third woman in space, first American woman in space.
Jack Roosevelt Robinson: Hall of Fame baseball player, National League MVP 1949. Ethics Hero emeritus.
Fred McFeely Rogers: Presbyterian minister, Beloved children’s show host, awarded Medal of Freedom in 2002
Will Rogers: Humorist, Actor, Liker of men.
Deborah Sampson Gannett: Revolutionary war veteran, Lecturer, Mother of four.
Harriet Beecher Stowe: Author, anti-slavery advocate.
Nikola Tesla (nominated twice): Inventor of radio control, wireless power transmission, various AC power generators, VTOL aircraft, the Tesla coil. Tesla Motors is named in his honor.
Harriet Tubman: Former slave who escaped bondage, abolitionist, advocate for women’s suffrage, Union army scout, leader of the Combahee River Raid. A real-life Sarah Conner.
Orville Wright and Wilbur Wright: Inventors of heavier than air powered aircraft.
Alvin York: Known colloquially as Sergeant York, Medal of Honor recipient, nuclear weapons proponent, inspiration for jokes about actors Dick York and Dick Sergeant.
Thanks to Jack, Steve-O, Andrew Nelson, and Phlinn for making nominations.
Jack has objected to the addition of people still living. Steve-O has declined to change his nomination to the full Apollo 11 crew. For both those reasons, Dolly Parton has been struck from the list.
We’re left with forty-three names that break down very roughly into four categories with some overlap.
US Military and/or Continental army. They wagered their lives in battle for the sake of the American people. Heroes in the traditional sense.
Joshua L. Chamberlain, William J. Donovan, Henry Knox, Douglas MacArthur, Alfred Thayer Mahan, Audie Murphy, Deborah Sampson, Alvin York
Artists and speakers (12). With their art and with their words they still inspire us. Our culture would be poorer had they not lived.
Marian Anderson, Isaac Asimov, Irving Berlin, George Carlin, Walt Disney, Frederick Douglass, John Ford, Ursula K. Le Guin, Sylvia Plath, Fred Rogers, Will Rogers, Harriet Beecher Stowe
Industrialists scientists and inventors (9) They changed discovered and built and in so doing they changed the world.
John Browning, Andrew Carnegie, Samuel Colt, Charles Drew, Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Robert Fulton, Nikola Tesla, Orville and Wilbur Wright
Icons and folk heroes (14). Their deeds have captured our collective imagination. Stories made flesh and flash made stories, it can be hard to remember they were human beings, flawed like the rest of us.
Neil Armstrong, John Brown, Lewis and Clark, Clarence Darrow, Desmond Doss, Wyatt Earp, Benjamin Franklin, Virginia Hall, Martin Luther King Jr, George Mason, Emperor Norton, Sally Ride, Jackie Robinson, Harriet Tubman
Great, but what about good? How are we to judge them? One framework has already been provided to us ; the Ethics Alarms post even mentions some of the above names. Some of these otherwise inspiring people were barbarous blackguards, bigots, bastards, barraters, and bores. Should we grant them honors here at Ethics Alarms? Who has fatal flaws? You decide!
The Rules, Part II.
1: If you like someone on the list say so, and if so inclined, rewrite the Twitter-style bio attached to their name. Have fun, be clever.
2: If you’re unsure of someone ask. Discuss. There’s no need to jump right in with derision. This is a group participation project.
3: If you’re sure that a name is unworthy then say so. You need not say why but it is preferred. Limit one. (two for, Jack, Steve-O, Andrew Nelson, and Phlinn, that’s the first round participation bonus.) Further objections may be counted if your level of participation in the discussion is high and your reasons are explained.
Jump on in!