Who should we conservatives choose as our Person of the Year for 2009?
Should it be Sarah Palin who in the waning days of the year is picking up steam toward a possible presidential run in 2012, rousing up big and enthusiastic audiences for her book signings, and expressing our collective convictions with her personal conviction?
How about Glenn Beck, the breakout political commentator who, with all good humor and an incisive intellect and a mountain of facts, is helping millions of us to better understand how government is seeking to unduly intrude into our lives?
What about Carrie Prejean, the Miss California contestant who has been smeared – and has courageously refused to knuckle under to gay and media pressure – for expressing an opinion about traditional marriage that is held by a majority of Americans?
Or maybe even our stalwart and principled former vice president Dick Cheney, who has spoken out forcefully against the Obama agenda and who suddenly is increasingly popular with his wisdom and candor?
They all are good candidates and each will have a role to play in 2010 and beyond. But there is one significant person who best represents the American spirit in these trying times, and that person is a true gentleman who has every quality of an American conservative – US Airways captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger who safely landed Flight 1549 on the surface of the Hudson River in New York City on January 15, giving us all hope that indeed miracles can happen when we are prepared to accept them.
What is it about captain Sullenberger that has seized the American imagination?
It is that he is one of us regular folks who was doing his job when fate intervened. He is the friendly guy next door who you never knew much about except that he was some sort of airline safety expert and pilot. He is like tens of millions of us who go through life unheralded, just doing what we think and know is right. He is your father or brother, or your sister or niece who you know is a person of unquestioned integrity, who speaks softly and never complains that life somehow is not everything he wanted. Because it never is. For anybody.
And it might seem presumptuous for conservatives to be honoring him as one of “us”. But in fact he is. We knew it all along. Sully is a registered Republican in his town of Danville, California.
But that is not what made us think he is a conservative. No, just judging from his temperament and his cool actions under fire and his humility and his professionalism, and his decency and honorable service, we know what kind of person he is. And we know that he represents our conservative principles through and through, no matter his actual registered political persuasion.
Sully is true-blue Americana, one of those exemplary characters precisely for whom the Founders wished to establish a free and opportunity-filled nation. Because he showed us that the brave, sensible, rational and thoughtful individual, acting in his own self interest to simply be the best that he can be in his chosen field, can and ultimately will contribute to the common good through deeds that usually go unnoticed. And Sully certainly could have gone through life known only by a few in the field of airline safety had not a flock of geese flown into his Airbus 320’s flight path, shutting down not one but both of its engines.
No, Sully might have worked his entire life anonymously behind the scenes to make us all safer in our travels without our even knowing it or having a chance to thank him for it. But that historic flight revealed him as the face of American ingenuity, hope and decency and of responsibility to our fellow man.
And how do we know he is a conservative?
Because he did not panic in the emergency because conservatives don’t panic. Because he did not curse or give in to fear because conservatives do not curse or accede to emotion. Because he did his job as best he could under enormous pressure because that is what conservatives always do.
Because he mustered all his knowledge to land that plane safely on the river. Because conservatives build knowledge for no other purpose than to hopefully increase the knowledge of the world. He later told Katie Couric: “One way of looking at this might be that for 42 years, I’ve been making small, regular deposits in this bank of experience: education and training. And on January 15 the balance was sufficient so that I could make a very large withdrawal.”
Because he did not abandon his airplane until every passenger was accounted for because conservatives are always more concerned for the well-being of their fellow man than for themselves.
And that is how conservatism always builds durable, honest and worthy cultures.
Captain Sully has been lauded from coast to coast for his cool professionalism and he has seemed oddly unaffected by all the hoopla, and stunningly humble.
Because that is a conservative trait. We would expect nothing less.
He is stopped in airports by people who want just to shake his hand and say “Thank you for a job well done. I could never have done it.”
Because so many people look up to a man who is extraordinary while being completely ordinary, as conservatives usually are.
Yet he has not sought to get his own reality TV show or become a celebrity. He has written a book because certainly people want to know his thoughts. But mostly he smiles gently and speaks only softly, never mugging for the cameras or being loud or rude or attention-seeking like some insecure, left-wing Hollywood showboat or New York socialite dying to see his or her picture on the society pages. Or some publicity-hog Democrat politician who rightfully would feel wholly inadequate in the presence of a real man with real accomplishments like Sully.
He is humble to a fault, because he never sought notoriety, and never will. Because for a good conservative like Sully, duty comes first, and all the rest is just icing on the cake.
That sounds like our ‘conservative’ military, does it not, like all those good soldiers who serve without thanks except maybe a pat on the back from friends and family?
Indeed. Because Sully was a military man.
Wouldn’t you just know it…
That is how he got his start in the commercial aviation industry. And this is the prism through which we can start to appraise his life. He enrolled in the United States Air Force Academy in 1969. He graduated with a BS degree and received the Outstanding Cadet in Airmanship Award given to the top flier in each graduating class. He also got a Master’s degree from Purdue University.
He then served as a fighter pilot in the Air Force flying F-4 Phantoms from 1975 to 1980. He advanced to become a flight leader and a training officer, and attained the rank of captain He also was a member of the official aircraft accident investigation board.
Sullenberger has been employed as a commercial pilot by US Airways or its predecessor airlines since 1980.
Chesley Sullenberger surely is a worthy Person of the Year for 2009. and certainly will be remembered for many, many years to come. “Sully” is a true American classic.
Please visit my website at www.nikitas3.com for more. You can print out for free my book, Right Is Right, which explains why only conservatism can maintain our freedom and prosperity.