James Leroy Wilson's blog

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Most Influenctial Americans

The Atlantic has a list of the 100 Most Influential Figures in American History.

I think care must be taken in these lists. There are people whose unique abilities and choices changed history, and then there are people who merely did something first, or by accident came to lead something that would have happened anyway. The list should favor the former group. Edison, for example, invented things other people didn't even imagine. On the other hand, if the Wright Brothers didn't successfully fly in 1903, somebody else would have later in 1903 or in 1904.

With that in mind, I would put at the top of the list George Washington and John Adams for providing the military and politcal leadership that won Independence. Hamilton and Madison for their efforts in establishing a central government. Then, Jefferson, Polk, Lincoln (for annexing the Confederate states), McKinley, JQ Adams (as Monroe's Sec. of State for getting Florida) and Seward (A. Johnson's Sec. of State for getting Alaska.) for their land acquisitions. Where and when we got land can not be underestimated in determining the course of American history. For example, if we didn't acquire colonies in the Pacific in the 1890's, would we have fought Japan in the 1940's?

After that, I'd put Wilson, FDR, and Truman for their domestic, military, and foreign policy disasters, er, "accomplishments" that were living with today.

Then I'd have inventors and innovators like Edison and Ford, and tycoons like Rockefeller, Carnegie, Morgan, and even Disney. And then, some other Presidents, statesmen, reformers, Justices, and the writers and philosophers who inspired them.

Then the executives and entreneurs that gave us the beer, circuses, soda pop, and fast food. And architects, artists, and novelists. At the bottom would be athletes and entertainers.

If you disagree that they should be at the bottom, imagine what life would be like if Elvis or Bob Dylan had never been born. And then imagine what life would be like if the inventor of refrigeration, the air conditioner, or the washing machine had never been born.

1 comment:

  1. You should get a book called, "1000 Years, 1000 People", which ranks 1000 influential people from the past Millenium.

    I wrote a review of it on Epinions.com