This year, SFGN names as its Person of the year an individual whose career and credentials have been marked and modeled by accumulating a resume of accomplishments.
We choose Anderson Cooper. His life and legacy are a testimony to LGBT success in a straight world.
Bucking the tide and standing up to the status quo, a willingness to shatter taboos and break new ground is always a consideration for candidates who are nominees for persons of the year. But our choice must do more than recognize singular deeds. We want to celebrate the person as well.
When our paper selected Peter Thiel last year, it was not because we particularly liked his politics. It was because we discovered in his history not just a singular worldview, but an honorable entrepreneurial career of supporting noble and sometimes unpopular causes.
In a year marked by political indecency at the national level, complacency at the local level, it occurred to me that the individual celebrated as our ‘Person of the Year’ need not necessarily have won a marathon, been elected to office, nor have garnered Oscars.
A fundamental principle of my life that I have so often advocated is to pay homage to the value of hard work and commitment. These are values and standards I discovered years ago reading the works of ancient Greek and Roman scholars. They bear truth still today.
“If Athens shall appear great to you,” wrote Pericles, “consider that her glories were won daily simply by good men doing their duty.” Then there was my buddy Archimedes, always bold and confident of his future, who authored the line, “Give me a place to stand, and I will move the world.”
So, it is in a year where national figures from Harvey Weinstein to Matt Lauer to Donald Trump have been shamed by wrongfully concealed acts of sexual harassment, that I think our nominee ought simply to be a gay man or woman whose career has been marked by class, not crass; credibility and consistency, not indignities or embarrassment.
The LGBT community today has many known national figures. Their sexuality is not hidden, but their worth is known by their work and good deeds. These fine people are recognized for being outstanding jurists, distinguished broadcasters, recognized professionals, and prominent athletes. Their status is a reminder to everyone that we are a part of our community, not apart from it.
So let me ask you this. Who quietly jumps out at you as a symbol of LGBT stature more than Anderson Cooper?
Here is a man who was a war correspondent years ago now with the versatility to host CNN New Year’s Eve celebrations.
Who represents perseverance and versatility more than Anderson Cooper? He can host an interview of a worldwide leader in a studio one night, and then go out a day later during a 165-mph hurricane to interview a family that just lost their home.
Who more than Anderson Cooper shows that a gay man, with a simple microphone and compassionate voice, can distinguish himself with his clothes on, as a spokesperson of responsible journalism, exposing a world full of discrimination and inequality?
You know, I don’t need to do an interview with Cooper to make this choice, but I will put it on our agenda for this year.
What I do need to do is say here is a man, who when he came out of the closet, did not need to hold a party. All he needed to say, and did, back in 2012, when he wrote that now famous letter to Andrew Sullivan on the Daily Beast was that;
“The fact is, I’m gay, always have been, always will be, and I couldn’t be any more happy, comfortable with myself, and proud.”
Anderson Cooper did not hit any special home runs in 2017. But once again he did his job every day, and he did it well, enhancing not just his stature but also that of the gay community. He proves we can all meet challenges, overcome obstacles, and be who we are, along with what we want to be, simply by being ourselves.
For Cooper, he seems as comfortable making jokes with Andy Cohen as he does washing rescued elephants in Myanmar. He is just a good and gracious man who we welcome into our homes daily. I can’t wait to hear what he says from Qatar at the Olympics. Boy, are they in for a surprise.
In a year where the American community had too few role models, Cooper remained one. It should be special to us, because he is our role model, a 50-year-old gay man who showcases his talents on 60 Minutes and CNN; who won an award for exposing famine in Somalia in 1993 and hosted a presidential debate in 2016.
Cooper’s career narrative has won the test of time. He has authored books, narrated documentaries, hosted syndicated radio shows, and won awards for his work in the fields, like the specials on the earthquake in Haiti back in 2009.
The CNN Heroes Award every year is just another vehicle where he illuminates the good lives and deeds of others, using his talents to showcase daring accomplishment over adversity.
Just a few years ago, GLAAD recognized him with their Vito Russo Award. Today, he gets a classy statue from SFGN, with us not knowing if he has ever picked up our paper. But we like to think we are doing what he does – our job well.
Thus, as we close the door on 2017, a year that will live in disgrace for men and masculinity, we celebrate the life and career of a distinguished gay journalist who fulfilled the admonition of Rudyard Kipling- he has given the unforgiving minute sixty seconds worth of distance run.
We start 2018 by recognizing Cooper’s achievements and accomplishments over time, helping make him one of the most prominent and distinguished gay men in the world.
Anderson Cooper is our 2017 Person of the Year, an honor he richly deserves for a career well performed, a character worth emulating, and a community well-served: our own.
Every good citizen adds to the strength of our nation. Anderson Cooper, a gay man, has added to ours, because excellence is more than an individual act you win by a singular deed. It is a habit, and you win it by being tested over time.