Few people in our lifetime have inspired so many
Man of the Year
The Western world is infatuated with a Jewish actor and comedian from Ukraine. As we watch in horror at the unprovoked Russian assault on Ukraine, we are enamored with the leadership of a regular guy who rose to success from his hard work, quick wit, and conviction to his ideals. While most world leaders are quick to run for safety, Zelensky announced to the world, “I need ammunition, not a ride.” Every day, I wake up and turn on CNN to make sure that President Zelensky is still alive and check on the status of the Ukrainian state and its brave people.
Some women on TikTok and Twitter have announced their sexual attraction to President Zelensky, calling him “so hot” and “daddy.” There are even calls for Jeremy Renner to portray Zelensky in the inevitable Hollywood movie (Asia Grace, New York Post). While I agree that President Zelensky is charming and adorable as Paddington Bear and as himself, for me, the attraction is not sexual; it is based on admiration and respect.
A mediocre president became an inspirational leader
Before the war, Zelensky got mixed reviews, but since December 2021, his approval rate has surged from 31% to 90% (Afiq Fatri, The New Statesman). Zelensky’s presidency began with the infamous phone call from Donald Trump that skyrocketed him to international attention and got Trump impeached. His failure to throw Trump under the bus, disappointed Democrats, but was a pragmatic move on Zelensky’s part. Elected on a platform of anti-corruption, he has been called out for ignoring acts of corruption within his inner circle. Used to adoration, Zelensky is said to be thin-skinned when it comes to criticism. He’s been accused of being more of a performer than a reformer, who like his predecessors surrounded himself with a gaggle of yes-men (Olga Rudenko, New York Times). However, when things got crazy with his monster of a neighbor, Volodymyr Zelensky stood up to tyranny and the invasion of his nation in a manner few politicians have attempted in our lifetime.
Heroes of our time
In the past hundred years, few men or women have risen to the occasion of true inspiration. The Greatest Generation had FDR, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Winston Churchill. The classic Baby Boomers had JFK, RFK, and MLK. Generation Jones and Gen X had Nelson Mandela and Barack Obama. Across the political aisle, many Republicans idolized Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump. There are few individuals in the public sphere with whom I have been as emotionally invested. The only other person I can compare this level of admiration for is Bobby Sands.
My personal hero from back in the day
Bobby Sands came to international attention as the first IRA (Irish Republican Army) prisoner to die from a hunger strike. Sands spent four years in jail (1972-1976) for IRA-related robbery and gun charges. Arrested again for possession of a gun after less than a year of freedom, Sands and other IRA inmates initiated a hunger strike at the Maze Prison in Northern Ireland. They demanded that “Special Category Status” that allowed them benefits including not having to wear prison uniforms and not being subjected to prison labor be returned to IRA prisoners. Before resorting to starvation, the IRA prisoners had a “blanket strike,” wherein they refused to wear prison uniforms and covered themselves in blankets, followed by a “dirty protest,” wherein they refused to wash themselves and smeared their cell walls with feces. Starvation was their last resort. In the midst of his hunger strike, on April 9, 1981, Sands was elected to a vacant seat in the British Parliament. A member of the “27 Club” — famous individuals like Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Kurt Cobain who died at age 27 — Bobby Sands died on May 5, 1981, following 66 days of only consuming water and salt. The strike finally ended on October 3, 1981, after nine more IRA members starved to death. Margaret Thatcher later conceded to many of the IRA inmates’ demands, but never returned “Special Category Status” to IRA prisoners.
The David vs. Goliaths of our world
Both Bobby Sands and Volodymyr Zelensky confronted giants. Bobby Sands stood up to Margaret Thatcher and the British government; Volodymyr Zelensky is standing up to Vladimir Putin and the Russian Federation. Sands gave his life up for the cause of a free Northern Ireland, and Zelensky is target number one in the fight for an independent Ukraine.
Thoughts and Prayers
The bravery of Zelensky and the Ukrainian people has captured the imagination of the entire world. We will continue to wake up every morning with the hope that the tide of war has turned, that the Russians have retreated, and that the refugees are safe to return to what is left of their homes. Our hearts go out to President Zelensky, his family, and the entire population of Ukraine.