It is time once again for us to solicit nominations for the Al Copeland Humanitarian Award. The criteria of the Al Copeland Humanitarian Award can be summarized by quoting our original blog post in which we sang the praises of Al Copeland and all that he did for humanity:
Al Copeland may not have done the most to benefit humanity, but he certainly did more than many people who receive such awards. Chicago gave Bill Ayers their Citizen of the Year award in 1997. And the Nobel Peace Prize has too often gone to a motley crew including unrepentant terrorist, Yassir Arafat, and fictional autobiography writer, Rigoberta Menchu. Local humanitarian awards tend to go to hack politicians or community activists. From all these award recipients you might think that a humanitarian was someone who stopped throwing bombs… or who you hoped would picket, tax, regulate, or imprison someone else.
Al Copeland never threatened to bomb, picket, tax, regulate, or imprison anyone. By that standard alone he would be much more of a humanitarian. But Al Copeland did even more — he gave us spicy chicken.
Last year’s winner of “The Al” was Stanislav Petrov, who literally saved the world from nuclear destruction by refusing to follow Soviet orders to retaliate against what he suspected (and was later confirmed) was a false warning of a US strike. It’s not quite spicy chicken but it’s close. Petrov was selected from an excellent set of nominees, including Whittaker Chambers, Justin Roiland and Dan Harmon, and Russ Roberts.
The previous year’s winner of “The Al” was Master Sergeant Roddie Edmonds, who prevailed over a very competitive field of nominees, including Tim and Karrie League, Remy Munasifi, and Yair Rosenberg. Edmonds stood up against fascists at considerable risk to himself by declaring that he and all of his fellow prisoners of war were Jews to foil the Nazis’ effort to separate Jewish prisoners. It is this type of courage in the face of illiberalism that we need more of in these times.
The 2015 winner of “The Al” was the internet humorist, Ken M. Ken M did more to improve the human condition than just make us laugh by making idiotic comments on social media (although that would have been enough). His humor reveals the ridiculousness of people trying to change the world by arguing with people on the internet. Given how much time ed reformers waste on social media, especially Twitter, Ken M’s humor is a useful reminder that many of the people reading your posts are probably not much swifter or influential than the Ken M persona. Ken M beat a set of strong nominees, including Malcolm McLean, Gary Gygax, and John Lasseter.
The 2014 winner was Peter DeComo, the inventor of the Hemolung Respiratory Assist System. To save a life DeComo had to trick border control officials to bring a model of his artificial lung machine into the US from Canada because the device had not yet been fully approved by the FDA. DeComo won over a worthy field, including Marcus Persson, the inventor of Minecraft, Ira Goldman, the developer of the “Knee Defender,” Thomas J. Barratt, the father of modern advertising, and Thibaut Scholasch and Sébastien Payen, wine-makers who improved irrigation methods.
The 2012 winner of “The Al” was George P. Mitchell, a pioneer in the use of fracking to obtain more, cheap and clean natural gas. Mitchell won over a group of other worthy nominees: Banksy, Ransom E. Olds, Stan Honey, and Alfred Fielding and Marc Chavannes.
In 2011 “The Al” went to Earle Haas, the inventor of the modern tampon. Thanks to Anna for nominating him and recognizing that advances in equal opportunity for women had as much or more to do with entrepreneurs than government mandates. Haas beat his fellow nominees: Charles Montesquieu, the political philosopher, David Einhorn, the short-seller, and Steve Wynn, the casino mogul.
The 2010 winner of “The Al” was Wim Nottroth, the man who resisted Rotterdam police efforts to destroy a mural that read “Thou Shall Not Kill” following the murder of Theo van Gogh by an Islamic extremist. He beat out The Most Interesting Man in the World, the fictional spokesman for Dos Equis and model of masculine virtue, Stan Honey, the inventor of the yellow first down line in TV football broadcasts, Herbert Dow, the founder of Dow Chemical and subverter of a German chemicals cartel, and Marion Donovan and Victor Mills, the developers of the disposable diaper.
And the 2009 winner of “The Al” was Debrilla M. Ratchford, who significantly improved the human condition by inventing the rollerbag. She won over Steve Henson, who gave us ranch dressing, Fasi Zaka, who ridiculed the Taliban, Ralph Teetor, who invented cruise control, and Mary Quant, who popularized the miniskirt.
Nominations can be submitted by emailing a draft of a blog post advocating for your nominee. If I like it, I will post it with your name attached. Remember that the basic criteria is that we are looking for someone who significantly improved the human condition even if they made a profit in doing so. Helping yourself does not nullify helping others. And, like Al Copeland, nominees need not be perfect or widely recognized people.