100 Most Influential of the Last 100 Years


Time Magazine last week released it's list of the World's 100 Most Influential People. With any list, there is a lot of subjectivity and varying methodologies for inclusion. (For a great discussion on the merits of this list, please visit my friend Matt over at Matt-Speak.) While I agree with many names on this list, the majority of them I don't. So, being the arrogant and opinionated individualist that I am, I decided to compile my own list of the 100 Most Influential over the last 100 years.

Feel free to comment and tell me which names you agree with and which names you think I must have been out of my mind to include. ;-)
  • ABBA: I'm totally serious. Though they haven't been together for 25 years, they are more popular than ever thanks to no less than 20 tribute bands performing around the world right now; Hollywood (Muriel's Wedding, Priscilla: Queen of the Desert, Ugly Betty, The Office), and the respect and influence their peers have given and acknowledged over time (U2, Phil Collins, Marshall Crenshaw, John Lennon, John Lord of Deep Purple and more). Not to mention that juggernaut of a jukebox musical called Mamma Mia! which has raked in over $2 billion and seen by more than 30 million people worldwide and which will take the world by storm in 2008 thanks to the movie being released July 18th starring Meryl Streep.
    The thing about ABBA that appeals to so many is that their music is generally happy. Who can listen to Dancing Queen for five seconds and not begin to smile? In the 1970s, with Vietnam, Watergate and rising energy prices, the world needed to escape, if only for a little while. In the last decade, with the Iraq War, the faltering economy and rising energy prices, the world needs to escape again, if only for a little while. ABBA music and Mamma Mia! provide that escape with their feel-good rhythms and infectious melodies. Oh, and the 360 million albums they sold while they were together still ranks third behind only Elvis Presley and The Beatles, who are also on this list.

  • Anthony, Susan B.: credited with gaining women the right to vote in the U.S.

  • Ball, Lucille and Desi Arnaz: perhaps the funniest comedic pair ever to grace television; I Love Lucy is still on the air more than 50 years later. But more than that, they innovated a 3 camera system for broadcasting television, and were the first to record their shows on tape. Their television company, Desilu, is also famous for being the studio to produce another series some of you might have heard of as well: Star Trek.

  • Bannister, Roger: the first human being to run a mile in under four minutes.

  • The Beatles: the greatest group of all time, mostly because they were the first rock group. Their lyrics were sometimes hokey, but their music was always original, groundbreaking, and has proved to stand the test of time. They were major influences in almost every other musical act that came after them, including ABBA.

  • The Bee Gees: along with ABBA, Olivia Newton-John, Andy Gibb, Donna Summer, Kris Kristofferson and Earth Wind and Fire performed at the charity concert at the United Nations in 1979: "Music for UNICEF". At this concert, each artist donated the royalties in perpetuity of one of their songs to UNICEF. This was well before the "Band-Aid" and "We Are The World" charity events. The Bee Gees are also inextricably linked to Saturday Night Fever and the Disco Era, having written, performed, or both most of the recognizable hits of that genre.

  • Begin, Menachem: Prime Minister of Israel, and along with Anwar Sadat of Egypt, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize for working towards peace in the Middle East.

  • Bin Laden, Osama: makes this list in infamy for his abililty to spread terror throughout the world.

  • Birdseye, Clarence: founder of the modern frozen foods industry.

  • Brower, David: Longtime environmentalist and leader of the Sierra Club.

  • Cameron, James: filmmaker. Titanic is still the highest grossing film of all time and has received more Oscars than any other film, excepting The Return of the Kingwhich is tied with Titanic. Cameron is also known for other, smaller films, such as Terminator.

  • Carson, Rachel: with her groundbreaking book Silent Spring, Rachel Carson almost single-handedly launched the modern environmental movement. Earth Day was soon created following the publishing of this book.

  • Churchill, Winston: Prime Minister of Britain during World War II.

  • Clinton, Hillary: In addition to her life-long advocacy in support of children, Hillary Clinton made history in 2008 as the first legitamate female candidate for President of the United States.

  • Comaneci, Nadia: with her string of 10s in gynastics under direction of her coach Bela Karoyli for Romania at the Montreal Olympics in 1976; Nadia changed women's gymnastics forever.

  • Couric, Katie: the first woman to anchor the storied CBS Evening News.

  • Cronkite, Walter: following in the footsteps of Edward R. Murrow, Walter Cronkite is a journalistic legend and longtime anchor of the CBS Evening News.

  • Cruise, Tom: still arguably the most popular actor in Hollywood history.

  • The Dalai Lama: Spiritual Leader of the Tibetan people and main figure humanizing the Human Rights struggles in China.

  • Disney, Walt: in addition to Mickey Mouse, the films we have all adored as children, the creator of DisneyLand and DisneyWorld; Walt was a humanitarian as well.

  • The Dixie Chicks: Grammy winning country music stars who stood up to the Bush Administration following the beginning of the Iraq War. Following their unpopular convictions at the time, they incurred great personal costs, death threats, and more--including harassment by the US Government; and have been vindicated by time.

  • Einstein, Albert: King of Physics.

  • Elizabeth II, Queen of England: Perhaps the longest-serving monarch presiding over her country during the period of greatest change the world has ever seen.

  • Fleming, Alexander: Discoverer of Penicillin.

  • Fleming, Peggy: America's first true Ice Princess and Olympic Gold Medalist in Ladies Figure Skating.

  • Ford, Henry: Fine-tuned assembly-line production and put America to work

  • Gandhi: Non-violent resistance.

  • Gates, Bill and Steve Jobs: Creators/Innovators of MS-DOS, the disk operating system of PCs which is the underpining behind Windows; and the GUI (graphical user interface) which was the initial uniqueness of the Mac and Apple Computers. Where would we be right now without our personal computers?

  • Gordon, Doug, Jamie McEwan, Tom McEwan, Roger Zbel and Wick Walker: Although you've never heard of any of them, they are the ones responsible for first descent of the Tsang Po River--the whitewater equivalent of Mt. Everest.

  • Gore, Al: Nobel Prize Winner, advocate for the environmental movement, and world statesman. Wouldn't it be interesting if Al Gore were drafted at the Democratic Convention to be the Democratic Nominee for President of the United States?

  • Hamill, Dorothy: Olympic Gold Medalist in Ladies Figure Skating in 1976, Dorothy was everywhere with her "Short and Sassy" Hairdo, the Hamill Camel, nad the spokeswoman for Campbell Soup.

  • Hamilton, Laird: Big Wave Surfer, Model, Fitness Guru.

  • Hawking, Stephen: Physicist primarily known for his theories in cosmology and quantum gravity.

  • Hefner, Hugh: Founder of Playboy, created an empire, and through his publication helped to inform about and liberalize sex and sexuality.

  • Hemingway, Ernest: Nobel and Pulitizer Prize-winning American Novelist, Short Story Writer and Journalist.

  • Herzl, Theodor: Wrote an essay entitled The Jewish State, which became the rationale for and put in motion the creation of the State of Israel.

  • Hillary, Sir Edmund and Tenzing Norgay: First to Summit Mt. Everest.

  • Hitler, Adolph: Very inspiring dictator with dreams of creating a superior race while conducting genocide: most famously the Jewish Holocaust, but with an equal number of non-Jews as well. If any good can come from Adolph Hitler's life, he should be kept in the front of everyone's mind as an example of the need to be wary of inspirational speech.

  • Jackson, Michael: The King of Pop.

  • The Kennedy Family: The closest the United States has ever come to having its own Royal Family, this one family has probably had more influence in American Political, Social, and Literary life than any other.

  • Korbut, Olga: Before there was Nadia, there was Olga: the darling of the 1972 Munich Olympic Games for her Uneven Bars Routine.

  • Krakauer, Jon: author of Into The Wild and Into Thin Air, Krakauer is the preeminent outdoors writer of our time.

  • Kroc, Ray: though not the founder of McDonald's, he made them what they are.

  • Kwan, Michelle: Perhaps the most accomplished ladies figure skater of all time, Michelle Kwan dominated the World Figure Skating scene for 13 years, and although she never won the Olympic Gold Medal, with her five World Championships and nine US Championships, and her grace, elegance, humility and true love and respect for the sport, Michelle Kwan has probably influenced more young girls than any other sports champion.

  • Leinweber, Ruth: My Debate Coach, Honors Lit, World Lit and AP English Teacher. We all have had one or two special teachers that have been major influences in our lives. Ruth Leinweber was mine, and she makes this list as a representative of her profession which shapes the lives of every generation in ways we can only imagine.

  • Lombardi, Vince: Legendary Football Coach who spoke on what it takes to win.

  • Lucas, George: "May the force be with you," creator of Star Wars.

  • Luther King, Jr., Martin: Pivotal leader of the American Civil Rights movement.

  • Madonna: Master of Reinvention, Unabashed opponent of hypocrisy and double-standards, particularly as they pertain to sexual and religious mores, one of the greatest female recording acts of all time--acknowledging her influence by ABBA with the 2006 global hit Hung Up, which is primarily a sampling of the ABBA hit Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!

  • Mandela, Nelson: Former President of South Africa, anti-apartheid activist and leader of the African National Congress.

  • Meir, Golda, one of the founders of the state of isarel and its 4th Prime Minister. She was also only the third woman to ever be a Prime Minister or President of any country, and the first woman in the world to do so without a relative being head of state.

  • Mom and Dad: No one influences anyone more so than our parents. Without any teaching, without any training, without any guidebook, our parents collectively have the power to create the world we hope for, or to destroy it. No group is more important.

  • Morrison, Toni: Nobel and Pulitzer Prize-Winning American Novelist.

  • Muir, John: Founder of the Sierra Club.

  • Murphy Brown: As the only fictional character on this list, Murphy Brown--played by Candice Bergen--actively engaged Dan Quayle--then Vice President of the United States--over the issue of deciding to have a baby out of wedlock and be a single-mother. Dan Quayle actually sent a stuffed animal to the fictional Murphy Brown. The writers of Murphy Brown skewered Dan Quayle unrelentlingly, and undoubtedly contributed to the failure of George Herbert Walker Bush being re-elected President of the United States.

  • Murrow, Edward R.: Murrow set the standard of modern television journalism, beginning the storied era of the CBS Evening News by taking on McCarthy in the 1950s.

  • NASA: The Moon Landing, Voyager, Galileo, Cassini, the Mars Rovers, Satellite Communication, and all the applied space sciences that effect our lives in countless ways every single day. Nuff said.

  • Navratilova, Martina: Not only the greatest tennis player, male or female that has ever lived with more championships than anyone else; Martina Navartilova is a courageous leader who defected from Czechoslovakia to the United States in defiance of the Iron Curtain, gained US Citizenship, came out of the closet as a lesbian at great personal cost when it was not "popular" or "acceptable" to do so, and then later, in protest of Bush Administration policies, regained her Czech Republic citizenship. Martina Navratilova is a great athlete and a great human believing following her own personal convictions and is a role model for us all.

  • Newton-John, Olivia: Loved all around the world for her performance as Sandy in Grease, a participant in the Concert for UNICEF, breast cancer survivor and spokesperson; Olivia Newton-John helped kick-start the fitness movement with one of the biggest hit songs of all time in 1981: Physical, and has been a leading activist for environmental issues throughout her long career.

  • Nobel, Alfred: the inventor of both Dynamite and the Nobel Peace Prize.

  • O’Connor, Sandra Day: Not just the first female Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, but for the better part of three decades, Sandra Day O'Connor balanced the court in it's decisions and held swing votes keeping the court from swinging either too far to the left or to the right.

  • Oppenheimer, Robert: The father of the Atom Bomb.

  • Owens, Jesse: an African American track and field athlete. He participated in the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, where he achieved international fame by winning four gold medals: one each in the 100 meters, the 200 meters, the long jump, and as part of the 4x100 meter relay team--much to the consternation of Adolph Hitler and his ideas of African Americans being an "inferior" race.

  • Parks, Rosa: By her simple refusal to give up her bus seat to a white man, Rosa Parks made international news and helped put an end to segregation in America.

  • Pele: widely regarded as the greatest soccer player of all time.

  • Picasso, Pablo: Groundbreaking artist and founder of the Cubist movement.

  • Presley, Elvis: The King of Rock n Roll. No other performer in music has as much influence in the industry. From his many blockbuster movies to his swiveling hips on the Ed Sullivan Show, Elvis was a performer the likes of which we'll probably never see again.

  • Rather, Dan: Followed where Cronkite left off on the CBS Evening News.

  • Reagan, Ronald: The "Cowboy President," Ronald Reagan hugged us as a nation following the explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger shortly after lift-off, and was in the right place at the right time to help end the Cold War for good with his challenges to Mikail Gorbachev to "tear down that wall,". Not only was the Berlin Wall torn down, Gorbachev put into place a program known as perestroika, which eventually led to the break-up of the Soviet Union and changed Europe forever.

  • Redfield, John: author of The Celestine Prophecy which was pretty much the beginning of the golden age of new-age and pseudo-religious literature.

  • Regret, Genuine Risk, Winning Colors: Before women were allowed to vote and Susan B. Anthony proved victorious, in 1915 Regret became the first filly to win the Kentucky Derby, proving once and for all that the girls can compete with the boys. In the 134 years of the Kentucky Derby, only three fillies have ever won: Regret, Genuine Risk in 1980, and Winning Colors in 1988. Last Saturday, the latest filly to attempt this feat, Eight Belles, finished second and moments later collapsed with two shattered ankles.

  • Retton, Mary-Lou: The first American Woman to win the All-Around Gold Medal in Olympic gymnastics. Like Nadia, Mary-Lou was coached by Bela Karolyi.

  • Rockne, Knute: an American football player and is regarded as one of the greatest coaches in college football history. The legend around the "Gipper" only enhances the storied history of the Notre Dame football program.

  • The Roosevelts, Eleanor and Franklin Delano: FDR was the only 4-term President of the United States. Following his last term in office, a constitutional amendment was passed to limit Presidents to just two terms. Through his public works programs, FDR worked dilligently to bring the US out of the Great Depression. Eleanor Roosevelt, as First Lady of the United States, supported the New Deal policies of her husband and assumed a role as an advocate for civil rights. After her husband's death in 1945, she continued to be an internationally prominent author and speaker for the New Deal coalition.

  • Rowlings, J.K.: The author of the Harry Potter series, perhaps the greatest achievement in children's literature of all time.

  • Rudolph, Wilma: Inspirational Olympic Gold Medalist. Wilma Rudolph overcame the crippling of her legs from polio to win three gold medals in track and field in the 1960 Rome Olympic Games.

  • Russert, Tim: Perhaps the most respected journalist on the air today, Tim Russert is the host of Meet the Press, a frequent Presidential Debate Moderator, and author.

  • Sadat, Anwar, along with Menachem Begin, Sadat shared the Nobel Peace Prize for the Camp David Accords. He was assassinated shortly afterwards.

  • Sagan, Carl: Cosmologist and philosopher, his favorite phrase was "Billions and billions...."

  • Salk, Jonas: Inventor of the Polio Vaccine.

  • Schembechler, Bo: Legendary football coach of the University of Michigan, Bo ranks among the greatest coaches of all time and led what is still the winningest football program in all of college football.

  • Sinatra, Frank: Old blue eyes. Before Elvis Presley and the Beatles, there was Frank Sinatra.

  • Spencer, Lady Diana: World Humanitarian, she was larger than life.

  • Spielberg, Stephen: Schindler's List, E.T., Munich, Indiana Jones.

  • Spitz, Mark: Still the first and only winner of 7 Gold Medals in a single Olympic Games, Mark Spitz won gold for the U.S. in swimming at the 1972 Munich Games. As an American Jew, Mark Spitz competed despite the risk to his personal safety while the Israeli team had been taken hostage and assassinated.

  • Stalin, Joseph: like Hitler, responible for the genocide of 20 million human beings, but unlike Hitler, Stalin happened to be on the United State's side at the time.

  • Steinam, Gloria: Leader of the Femininst Movement in the U.S.

  • Streep, Meryl: Perhaps the greatest actor that has ever lived, with more Oscar Nominations than anyone else in history. See her this summer in Mamma Mia!: the movie version of the global smash musical based on the songs of ABBA.

  • Tolkien, J.R.R.: He gave us The Lord of the Rings, the greatest science fiction/fantasy trilogy ever written.

  • Truman, Harry: Thankfully to this day, the only human being who ever had to command the use of the atomic bomb, and by doing so, ended World War II.

  • Twain, Mark: or Samuel Clemens, but better known by the pen name Mark Twain, was an American humorist, satirist, lecturer and writer. Twain is most noted for his novels Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, which has since been called the Great American Novel, and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. He is also known for his quotations. During his lifetime, Twain became a friend to presidents, artists, industrialists and European royalty. Twain enjoyed immense public popularity, and his keen wit and incisive satire earned him praise from both critics and peers. American author William Faulkner called Twain "the father of American literature."

  • Weber, Sir Andrew Lloyd: Along with Tim Rice, Weber invented the Rock Opera with Jesus Christ, Superstar and changed the course of musical theater with his other groundbreaking productions of Evita, Starlight Express, Cats, Joseph, and The Phantom of the Opera.

  • White, E. B.: Before there was Harry Potter, there was Charlotte's Web, Stuart Little, and The Trumpet of the Swan.

  • Winfrey, Oprah: When Oprah talks, people listen and spend their money.

  • Woods, Tiger: The greatest golfer of all time, and is now more and more regarded as teh greatest athlete of all time.

  • Woodward and Bernstein: Exposed the Watergate tapes and put an end to the Presidency of Richard Milhouse Nixon.

  • Wright Brothers: Well, I guess you could say that without them, the airlines wouldn't be going bankrupt right now; nor would there be almost instanteous spreads of deadly diseases around the world; but neither of those characterizations would be fair. Air travel has shrunk the planet. No invention, except the internet, has contributed more to the evolution of a truly global society, for better or for worse.

  • Yamaguchi, Kristi: Last on my list, and not least, Kristi Yamaguchi, Olympic Gold Medalist in Ladies Figure Skating was the last true American Ice Princess prior to Michelle Kwan. She was a role model for young girls the same way Michelle Kwan was with her grace and class and humility; and now she is entertaining again as the favorite to win Season Six of Dancing with the Stars; and she is inspiring again a whole new audience with her grace and class and humility in tact.

Thanks for reading.

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Jewels said...

I agree with a majority of them. My list however would not contain as many music personalities. I'm sure Elvis, and The Beatles and possibly the Rolling Stones deserve a spot.

When I think of "Most Influential" music does come to mind, but more so poeple who had impact on our life whether we were fans, listening to the radio, watching a movie, etc.

Madalyn Murray O'Hare for one is one that I feel had a "influence" that plagues me to this day.

Charles Manson , maybe..

Jim Jones~ First time I ever heard of cults this large or even a cult related to religion.

and on the GOOD influence:


Parents (of course) heheheh

Lance Armstrong

Peers- Peer pressure is a term describing the pressure exerted by a peer group in encouraging a person to change their attitude, behavior and/or morals, to conform ...(wikipedia.org/wiki/Peer_pressure )
Think of how your peers influenced you over the years.

That's all I have time for today.
Great post!

May 08, 2008 9:43 AM
Valerie said...

How did you have time to think of all those people. That list got a bit overwhelming to me, but definitely the Dalai Lama and a huge fan of the Dixie Chicks, as well as JK Rowling.

May 08, 2008 10:34 AM
Valerie said...

Oh and definitely Walt Disney too.

May 08, 2008 10:34 AM
Henson Ray said...

Wow. Much too extensive a list to look through at one time. But a few of my favorites are ABBA (I mean, really, how can you not like ABBA? Even if it's in secret, you can't help but like them), Walt Disney (DEFINITELY!), and Luci and Ricki. I don't think any actor or comedienne hasn't been influenced by them.

I will have to dissect more of this at another time. Great comments, though.

May 08, 2008 3:46 PM
Matt said...

Terrific post, Matt. I, too, am very imressed with some of the people on your list, and the fact that you knew about them. I suppose all of us would have quite different lists, and I don't have too many problems with your list except for one GLOWING exception. Valerie will get upset with me for this but I would never put the Dixie Chics on a list of most influential anything. And I don't say that out of personal dislike for them (although I despise how they decided to protest), but for the way in which they "stood up" to Bush, as you put it.

Instead of protesting their concerns here in America they chose to do it over seas to audiences that have nothing to do with the U.S., or with any chance of changing our government. It serves no purpose at all to spew the vile comments that they did in front of foreigners. It only helps to give our country a bad name (which they succeeded in doing). And I have to disagree with them being vendicated, as most of their commentary was directed at Bush, calling him everything under the sun, which (in my opinion) is childish and immature. That kind of thing never happened when Clinton completely embarrassed our country by lying on national televsion about his "doings" with Monica Lewinski, only to be found out and then have to aplogize to the entire nation on national televsion. If anyone deserved that kind of ridicule it was him, for making a mockery of the office of President, but you never saw it happen, at least not overseas like all the Hollywood celebs who choose to do it that way.
I guess I just have a problem with the manner in which the Dixie Chics did what they did, not that they spoke out against something they felt stronly against. But I respect your right to include them on your list. Great job, overall, Matt. Keep up the good work.

May 08, 2008 3:54 PM
Matthew S. Urdan said...


Keep the comments coming folks, this discussion is great.

Jewels, regarding the inclusion of so many music personalities, I'll have to just say that if you take away music from the soundtrack of our existence, our lives would be pretty darn empty. In everything we do, music is present. On television, in movies, in elevators, in shopping malls, when get up in the morning and brush our teeth, when we sing in the shower, when we get in the car and go to work, when we meet our friends or loved ones in a restaurant or bar, when we propose in a fine restaurant, when we have sex. Almost everyone has a "song", or if they hear a song on a radio they are transported back to a specific time and place when so and so song was popular. Science has shown that our memories are more specific and intense when multiple senses are involved. You might never remember a Shakespeare sonnet or a quip from Mark Twain, but I'll guarantee you'll remember the lyrics instantly to Bad Bad Leroy Brown, I'm All Shook Up, Leaving on a Jet Plane, and yes, even Dancing Queen. Music influences our moods and our desires, and the most unique musical artists, and the most popular ones and even the most despised have made indelible impressions in all our lives. On many levels, musicians are the greatest influencers of them all. Why else would John McCain, Ron Paul, Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton all be linked through one song and countless YouTube mashes to ABBA's Take a Chance on Me?

Valerie, it's really very easy to think of 100 people. You can do it too. If you start thinking about politics, history, literature, music, movies, etc...I guarantee at least 10 names in each category will leap into your head. The hard part is limiting such a list to 100.

Henson, Thanks for taking the time to peruse the list...it is unusually long for a blog post. I couldn't agree with you more about what you said about ABBA, Disney, and Lucy and Desi--that's one reason why they're all on the list.

Matt, I really respect your opinion about the Dixie Chicks and there was a time when I agreed with you. But I would like to point out two things:

The first is that the Dixie Chicks didn't plan to diss the President of the United States at a concert in Europe. It was an impromptu remark that generated a shit storm. However, at the time of the remark, it was very un-American to even question what Americans were doing and what our foreign policy was at the time. What grew out of the Dixie Chick's remark was a discussion about patriotism and what it meant to be American during a time of terror and war. Here we all are, poised to blog about China and Human Rights violations on May 15th, but back when Natalie Maines said she was ashamed that George Bush was from Texas, indicating her displeasure over his decision to go to war in Iraq, virtually all Americans turned against her while the rest of the world actually cheered because they agreed that the US should not have gone to war. In hindsight, maybe we should have gone to war or maybe we shouldn't have, but we defintely went for the wrong reasons and we went based on lies that were told at the time.

But what is chilling is how fast America turned on the Dixie Chicks, refusing to play their music, burning CDs, banning them from radio, issuing death threats. That is un-American behavior. In America, the land of the free and the home of the brave, all of us have the right to voice our opinions peacefully, no matter how unpopular they may be, and we cherish the right to do so. That so many Americans, and our government and radio would cave in to pressure and infringe upon that right by open retaliation is just as chilling as what China is doing in Tibet.

But the "act" of impromptu defiance and uttering the phrase heard round the world is not the reason the Dixie Chicks are on my list.

The reason they are on my list is because of the three and four years after the fact. All this is documented in the Documentary: "Shut up and Sing," which I encourage you to watch, even if you don't like the Chicks because of what it says about the freedom of speech and our constitutional rights. In the aftermath of the Dixie Chicks concert statement, almost 1984 Orwellian Scenarios were demonstrated by our government, media, and countrymen. Despite all this, the Dixie Chicks consciously decided not to apologize and instead to stand their ground because deep down inside their core, they believed they did the right thing. They believed we should not have gone to war in Iraq. And they were willing to put their careers on the line and stand by their convictions despite the threats against them and the destruction of their meteoric career. That makes the Dixie Chicks heroic and role models for us all.


May 08, 2008 4:17 PM
Fiendish said...

I'm not sure if Rachel Carson merits inclusion based solely on positive criteria. I think she was instrumental in having the use of DDT cut back, which resulted in massive rises in the incidence of malaria in developing countries.

Give me spots on my apples... riiiiight... ;)

May 08, 2008 5:52 PM
Matt said...

Well, I had to think hard about whether or not to rebutt your comments about the Chics, but I know you (like me on my blog) appreciate people's opinions, even if they differ from your own, so in the spirit of debate I decided to do so. This is one of those instances where we'll have to agree to disagree. I think the comment you mentioned about the Chics being embarrassed that President Bush is from Texas is hardly what angered everyone. I heard some actual recordings of them in their concerts overseas, and the stuff they were saying was completely out of line and certainly unsolicited. No one asked their opinions about American politics (they were there to perform, not bloviate) and they just started going off on Bush and other things that did not involve their FOREIGN hosts. I guess it would be like someone in your family having issues with you and then going and bad-mouthing you to neighbors who know you. So I personally think Americans were totally justified in their boycott of all things Dixie Chics. You said yourself, in your comments to me, that it is our right as Americans to protest what we do not agree with, so why shouldn't the fans of the Dixie Chics protest what they did if they didn't agree. I certainly don't approve of death threats but the boycotting, in my opinion, was totally justified. Furthermore, if you are a celebrity, making money from fans who like your music, acting or whatever, shouldn't you be mindful that your actions dictate your standing with your fans? And if you decide to do something so controversial, of your own free will, then shouldn't you be subject to the will of those same fans who you let down? After all, (I never saw any actual figures) but I believe the vast majority of Americans supported the boycott, at least for the first year, then many people decided to let it go. Majority rules, I always say.

The other thing I take exception to is to say that the fans actions were on the same par as what the Chinese are doing in Tibet. Wow, surely you don't assimilate brutal repression by a dictatorial government with the choice of a free society to rightfully boycott anything they strongly disagree with? I'm pretty sure I understand the point you were trying to make but the comparison just took me by surprise.

Your serve! lol

May 08, 2008 11:49 PM
Matthew S. Urdan said...

I love a good debate!

Matt, you know, I'm not even really a fan of the Dixie Chicks? I don't own a single one of their CDs.

I agree with you. Fans, non-fans, and any population or group have the right to boycott products or people or protest what they don't agree with. I'm pretty much a fomenter, myself when it comes to certain issues. (Nice vocabulary word, btw.)

But I think the point I'm trying to make, is that in the heated days following 9/11 and as we were leading up to the war on Iraq, our government and the American public pretty much were not thinking as rationally as they should have been. We were all teetering on the edge of a razor blade, and we were all calling for blood. Any Anti-War voice at that time was quickly squashed and looked at as un-Aemrican. That's the comparison I'm making between China and Tibet and how close we came to being like that. The Dixie Chicks, for better or for worse, started with an off-hand remark, and then elaborated--perhaps in unfortunate ways, but in ways that are still protected as speech in America. It's fine to have an opinion, to express your opinion, and to stand by your opinion. For those that don't agree, it's fine to boycott, it's fine to disagree, it's fine to disagree vocally.

But some of what happened was scary. Radio personalities were basically inciting riots against the Chicks for being un-American. The Bush Administration in their comments and press releases encouraged that. Death threats were called-in against the Chicks.

That kind of reaction is the most un-American at all. If we're concerned for our liberties and our freedoms--one of the most cherished being free speech--then as a people, we can't move to extinguish that speech, no matter how unpopular it was at the time. Suppressing free speech is un-American. That is what was taking place, and while I don't agree with the way the Dixie Chicks handled themselves necessarily, I admire them for holding their ground and standing up for what they believed in. If they tried that in China, if they tried that in Soviet controlled countries during the cold war, they would have disappeared in Siberia. And the scary thing here was that the Bush Administration seemed to be willing to go that far, and I really believe they were partly behind the large public outcry against the Chicks.

We had a conversation earlier regarding Olympians and Athletes whom the people admire working within their own countries to effect change. As role models, I think it's incumbent on them to speak up. But look what happens to Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins and Barabara Streisand at the Oscars. Yes, Brangelina can go and do their thing one child at a time. But if a celebrity speaks out, why should they be ostracized?

In a free society, no one will ever agree with anyone else every time. And they shouldn't. Debate and discussion and free speech and opinion are the lifeblood of society. It's when that speech is threatened, by a government, or by a mob mentality, that all of our freedoms are threatened.

And the way it all went down was indicative of the Bush Administration being behind it all. Again, I encourage you to watch "Shut Up and Sing" just to get the other side of the story. I saw it too long ago to list all the specific examples that I probably needed to in this response.

Have an awesome day!

May 09, 2008 7:31 AM
Jewels said...

Matt and Matt,

If I may throw my two cents in? I do not enjoy either of your gift of articulation. However, I will express my aphonic (ha) opinion.

M. Urdan~ I suppose music does have quite a bit of recollection value. But do you feel it really "Influences" us?

Music does bring me back to good and bad memories. It is a great tool to take us back to a feeling or time in our life that had/has impact.

I guess when I think of "Influental People", I think of those who changed the actions of others from what they would have done to another path.

I can't think of an instance where music has done that for me personally. Perhaps tho, the artist mentioned influenced many other artist as henson ray stated.

Great polemic! (wearing out my thesaurus)


The topic of a celebrity speaking out has come up a time or two and I have mixed feelings about it.

I feel that it is the right of the celeb to voice their opinion or back a politician if they wish.

They certianly don't have to give up their identity because the public puts them on a pedistal.

It is awesome when we agree with their actions and efforts ie: Angelina Jolie. However when their actions or opinions are divergent from our own, we tend to hold them to higher standards than the general public enjoy.

Regarding the Dixie Chics!
I was embarrassed and offended by what they said. I personally chose not to purchase their music at the time (I am a fan of their music) as my little attempt at boycott.
Do I feel they had the right to say what they said?
Yes. Good bad or indifferent, it is a right many Americans have died to protect.

Was it in good taste or showing any patriotism? In my opinion, No.
They exercised their right of free speech and at the end of the day had to "sleep in the bed they made".

The awesome thing about our country is the fact that we are allowed to be individuals. We can shout our views from the tallest building. However we better be willing to face the consequences that come with that freedom.

Not everybody will agree with my views about this. Thats their right as well.

I chose to think that the hosting country would consider the source of where that tantrum came from and that was that.

I know you too well Matt! Like your brothers, you are proud to a fault. You can't imagine showing that kind of disrespect for your country, ESPECIALLY in front of foreigners.
It is unthinkable to bash our great nation to another.
It reminds me of our family life growing up.... "I can say that about my brother but I will kick your butt if you do!!"

May 09, 2008 10:37 AM
tashabud said...

Matthew S.
Are you a walking Almanac or WHAT? My personal list consists of my husband, daughter, Mom and Dad, the American Soldiers, President Ronald Reagan, President George W. Bush, Ghandi, Dalai Lama, Disney, Bill Gates, Atomic Bomb, ABBA, Elvis Presley, The Beattles, Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, Princess Diana, Prime Minister Toni Blair, Prime Minister Howard.

May 09, 2008 4:33 PM
Roxiticus Desperate Housewives said...

Hmm....that's odd. I didn't seem to make this list.

Thanks for stopping by to admire my Mother of the Year award. I will definitely have it framed.

Have a terrific weekend!


May 10, 2008 1:02 AM
Matt said...

Being the fair-minded person I am (shameless self-promotion) I apprecite all the points made here by each of the participants. Jewels, as usual, made her points in a very fair, unbiased and articulate manner. Tasha added a few, enlightening recipients to the list, and, of course you always make your points in an intelligent, passionate manner, Matt. Boy, I love this blogging stuff. This is what it's all about.

My last couple of points on this issue and then I'll lay it to bed. While I agree that we would never want to extinguish anyone's right to free speach, I feel it is encumbant upon every individual to use good judgement in practicing that right. Just like it is stupid to shout "fire!" in a crowded place, I think it was very stupid to take your (the Dixie Chics) views of our government and president overseas when all those fans were paying for was your performance, not you political views about your own country. What did those fans in others countries have to do with our government, anyway? In others words, sometimes it is better to just keep your mouth shut. THAT is often the purest form of free speech!

Lastly, " And the way it all went down was indicative of the Bush Administration being behind it all." is a very scary statement to me, Matt. I simply cannot understand why people continue to blame everyting on Bush just because they hate him so much. And, I know, you said the Bush administration's response to the Chic's comments helped incite the calls for death threats, boycotts, etc. Sorry, but you are in a great minority on that. How you can come to that conclusion is beyond me, but I just think it is dangerous to keep blaming one man for everything that goes bad in this country. Do you honestly think, with all the serious problems a U.S. Presidents has to deal with (especially in these times) that he would go out of his way to retaliate against a trio of female country music singers who matter NOT in the grand scheme of things? He's the President, so sure he is going to be the source of a lot of people's frustrations, but when will people stop looking for others to take the blame that lies directly on their own shoulders. Hurricane Katrina is the best example of this. It is not even a debate as to whether or not there was proper warning given to all of the Coastal states, and in particular New Orleans itself. However, a democratic mayor and a democratic governor did absolutely nothing BEFORE OR AFTER the hurricane so they quickly decided to blame Bush all the way up in Washington, because they know people hate him and he would absorb the blame from people who were looking for someone to blame to cover their political asses.And yu have to admit, it worked like a charm.

I know you will never agree with me on this issue, but I only ask that you search deep inside yourself and ask if it is right to keep placing the blame for our own actions, or lack of appropriate actions, on a VERY unpopular president. If people would accept responsibility for their own actions there would be so much less hatred in the world.

Thanks for the sounding board, Matt. God bless.

May 10, 2008 12:08 PM
Matthew S. Urdan said...

Jewels, thanks for your comments. They are definitely very valid. That's the crux, really. As long as there is human point of view, perception, and interpretation, the discussion can continue indefinitely. Ultimately, that is why my list will be different from your list and different from Matt's list. What influences us does so because of who we are and the experiences that make us who we are. Maybe music doesn't influence you because you haven't needed it to. But for me, I needed it to. ABBA and Fleetwood Mac wrote music of couples going through divorce when my parents were going through their divorce. Trust me, their music helped me get through that difficult time. Music, people, events all influence people in different ways. It's one of the beauties of each of our own uniqueness.

Tasha, thank you so much for your comments. It's great to see that others agree with some of the people on my list. And YES, I AM a living, walking, talking Almanac! It's very kind of you to notice. ;-)

Matt, Matt, Matt, Matt, Matt...

We're going to have to agree to disagree on this one. I think we've both said our peace. But I do want to point out that I never even hinted at mentioning Katrina. Of course, there are many people to point fingers at. but since you brought it up, three years before Katrina hit I saw a Discovery Channel program on the levees and disappearing marshlands surrounding New Orleans. The special highlighted that the disappearing wetlands and marshlands made the city far more vulnerable to a hurricane. The Army Corps of Engineers was working to restore the wetlands, when the funding to do was cut off by the Bush Administration in order to provide the American People with a tax break. Three years prior to Katrina. OK, so after paying countless billions in the aftermath of Katrina, New Orleans is still not safe from another Hurricane, and what we saved in a quickie tax break, we have more than paid back since. While it might not have been George Bush's decision per se--it could have been Karl Rove's or Condaleeza Rice's, or Scooter Libby or Donald Rumsfeld or his budget guy--I don't know nor care, ultimately, the buck does stop with the Bush Administration on that one. And if George Bush didn't know about it, someone that he handpicked and put into position to know such things should have.

OK, can we hug now? ;-)

May 10, 2008 6:10 PM
Pengo said...

Regarding: Ruth Leinweber

She was my world lit teacher 30 years ago - and very much influenced my life. The last time I saw her - she was going to keep my back a year because I'd flunked her class - and didn't have enough credits to pass. She made me write an extra credit paper to earned those credits - and said that she was shocked to discover that it was the best paper that she'd ever received in her career (it was on Crime and Punishment) - and asked me why I wasn't performing all along - and that led to a LONG conversation. Our meeting ended with her saying the following: "Chris there is no hope for you - only God can help you" funny thing - it was just the right thing to say - and - it turns out she was right!

We had many conversations even as long as 15 years later.

Thats it!

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