Consider a few decisive moments. Early on, Al Gore faced a pivotal decision about his legal strategy. He had a choice between suing for recounts in Democratic counties or asking for recounts statewide. The first choice was the cuter one, the more calculated one, the one he chose. Had he filed suit for a statewide recount at that moment (as he eventually did), everything could have evolved differently. He didn't--not because he was evil but because he was small-minded.
George W. Bush had a choice of whether to accept Gore's eventual offer for a statewide recount. Choosing the statewide recount would have put his victory at risk but given the election legitimacy. He, too, chose the tactical rather than the honorable path. Defensible, to be sure. Shrewd, apparently so. But not Great.
But rather than wallow in the inadequacies of Bush or Gore (or the courts or the media or the chads or the state of Florida...), we'd like to offer an alternative: Search for the courage we didn't find in the election in the wider world.
And this brings me, believe it or not, to Beliefnet's Most Inspiring Person of 2000. Today, we begin a two-step process of selecting the Most Inspiring Person of 2000. We asked our community of columnists to nominate the men and women who most exemplified vision, courage, and the best of the human spirit. Today, we unveil their nominees.
In contrast to most of the behavior we've seen in the election campaign, these folks did the unexpected and the extraordinary.
There's Omri Jadah, a Palestinian man who in the midst of fighting (that should put the Florida scuffles in healthy perspective) decided to save the life of a drowning Israeli boy. Many men would have done the easy thing: stayed on the beach, stayed on his side of the divide. If he'd done nothing, no one would have noticed. Instead he saved the boy--and drowned in the process.
Azim Khamisa and Ples Felix should give pause to those who say reconciliation between Democrats and Republicans is too hard. Azim's son was murdered in San Diego. He went to find the killer's family and met Ples, the grandfather of the murderer. Instead of offering recriminations, Azim extended his hand, and Ples reciprocated by visiting a room full of Azim's grieving family. Now the two of them go together into schools to talk to children about violence.
Debi Faris illustrates another lesson that might have served us well in the past month: Just because you can choose the easy path doesn't mean you should. Faris discovered that babies that had been left to die in dumpsters were never given funerals. Had been that way for years, and the world went on. But she decided that they deserved the love of proper burial and has done that for more than 41 babies, leading a movement to try to stop the tragedies from happening in the first place.
Each of these people could have made different choices, and no one would have thought them bad people for it. In fact, it would have been expected. But they did the unexpected, put themselves at some emotional or physical risk--and inspired us all.
So if you're feeling despondent about what has happened in Florida, please read through the biographies of the first batch of people who have been nominated for Most Inspiring Person. Tell us what you think. And tell us if there are other people who could serve as role models for our public leaders.