(Guest post by Greg Forster)
This year, we will recognize our fifteenth ever Al Copeland Humanitarian of the Year. A few more months (or perhaps half of another honoree?) and the award will be ready to suit up like Al in his racing suit and drive.
That’s right, the Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded, so it is time once again to honor those who have bettered the human condition with the Al Copeland Humanitarian of the Year award! Nominations can be submitted by emailing a draft of a blog post advocating for your nominee. If Jay likes it, he will post it with your name attached. A winner will be announced after Halloween.
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.
The 2021 winner of The Al was Ken “Heinie the Tank Buster” Adam, a German Jew expatriate who first became known in the RAF for his proficiency with bombs, and then became known in Hollywood as a master set designer who helped his studios avoidbombs. Adam shaped our imaginations as we envisioned our world through stories, above all by inventing the original Bond villain volcano lair. Adam burst forth at the apex of a mountain of excellent nominees, includingNazar Mohammad Khasha, who gave his life for his right to mock the Taliban; Christopher Lee, real-life embodiment of The Most Interesting Man in the World; Ryan Peterson, who stunned the world by going out and doing actual shoe-leather reporting on the supply chain crisis that contributed new factual knowledge, instead of just regurgitating talking points; Joseph Friedman, inventor of the bendy straw; and John and Justine Glaser, integrationist inventors of the black and white cookie.
The 2020 winner of The Al was Nat Love, who overcame enormous adversity and injustice to live a magnificent American life: “I think you will agree with me that this grand country of ours is the peer of any in the world, and that volumes cannot begin to tell of the wonders of it.” Love conquered all amid a field including Nick Steinsberger, who helped pioneer fracking; Charles Hull, who invented 3D printing; and Hans Christian Heg, an immigrant abolitionist hero whose statue had been torn down by a “justice” mob.
The 2019 winner of The Al was Mildred Day, who brought parents and children together over delicious goodness by inventing the Rice Krispie Treat – following in the fine tradition of Al Copeland himself, improving the human condition by bringing us great food. Day came out of the Al oven ahead of political pranksters Chad Kroeger and JT Parr; and Bob Fletcher, who helped three Japanese-American families in California keep their farms after WWII-era internment.
The 2018 winner of The Al was Joy Morton, who was the first to find a way to effectively induce lots of people to consume iodine and thus prevent goiters – by marketing it, turning it into a profitable comparative advantage for his salt company. Great Al nominees were as copiously sprinkled as salt on McDonald’s fries in 2018, including Great Course lecturer Elizabeth Vandiver, musical disintermediator Leo Moracchiloli, Magic: The Gathering inventor Richard Garfield, scofflaw tech recycler Eric Lundgren, lemonade-stand paladins Adam Butler and Autumn Thomasson, and Virginian general in the Union Army George Henry Thomas.
The 2017 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 (as was later confirmed) was a false warning of a US strike. It’s not quite as important as bringing the world spicy chicken, but it’s pretty close! Petrov nuked an impressive set of runners-up, including Whittaker Chambers, witness against communism; Justin Roiland and Dan Harmon, creators of Rick and Morty; and Russ Roberts, author and host of EconTalk.
The 2016 winner of The Al was Master Sergeant Roddie Edmonds, who ordered all the POWs under his command to identify themselves as Jews, foiling a Nazi attempt to separate Jewish prisoners and kill them, and refused to back down even with a gun to his head. Edmonds cheated death among a very competitive field of nominees, including Tim and Karrie League, founders of Alamo Drafthouse movie theaters; political humorist Remy Munasifi; and humorous political journalist Yair Rosenberg.
The 2015 winner of The Al was internet humorist Ken M. He not only made us laugh by making idiotic comments on social media (which would have been enough), he revealed with his humor the ridiculousness of trying to change the world by arguing on the internet. Ken M laughed off a strong field of nominees, including Malcolm McLean, inventor of shipping containers; Gary Gygax, creator of Dungeons and Dragons; and John Lasseter, founder of Pixar.
The 2014 winner was Peter DeComo, the inventor of the Hemolung Respiratory Assist System. To save a life, DeComo drove all night to retrieve a lung machine from Canada, then demonstrated incredible quick wits when border control tried to block its entry into the US because it had not yet been approved by the FDA. DeComo snuck his win past 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 2013 winner of The Al was musical satirist Weird Al Yankovic. Weird Al brings joy to people of all ages, while puncturing the pretensions of puffed-up celebrity entertainers. He lampooned an impressive set of nominees, including performer/skeptics Penn and Teller, crowdfunding website Kickstarter, and WWII industrialist Bill Knudsen.
The 2012 winner of The Al was George P. Mitchell, a pioneer in the use of fracking to obtain more, cheaper and cleaner natural gas. Mitchell stuck oil in a field of worthy nominees: artist Banksy, car creator Ransom E. Olds, first-down-line inventor and two-time Al nominee Stan Honey, and bubble-wrap inventors Alfred Fielding and Marc Chavannes.
In 2011, The Al went to Earle Haas, the inventor of the modern tampon, proving that advances in equal opportunity for women come from entrepreneurs more than government mandates. Haas cycled to the front of the pack amid a strong flow of 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, who peacefully 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. His voice was heard over the din of The Most Interesting Man in the World, model of masculine virtue; Stan Honey, inventor of TV’s yellow first down line; Herbert Dow, subverter of chemical cartels; and Marion Donovan and Victor Mills, developers of the disposable diaper.
The 2009 winner of The Al – in the first year the award bore that name – was Debrilla M. Ratchford, who significantly improved the human condition by inventing the rollerbag. She rolled to victory 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.
Also noteworthy from 2009: History’s greatest monster, William Higinbotham, was declared permanently ineligible to receive The Al. He remains the only individual thus disqualified. In (dis)honor of Higinbotham, The Higgy award has been bestowed on (un)worthy candidates annually since 2012.
Al Copeland himself was honored in 2008 as the official humanitarian of the year of Jay P. Greene’s Blog. The award was renamed in his honor the following year.
Send in your nominees, and we’ll see you at Halloween with the winner!