Who Would You Grant Knighthood to in America?
I was in a discussion about music with a couple associates recently and somehow the topic turned to Bryan Adams.
Yes, the Bryan Adams of “Cuts Like a Knife” fame. Bazillion records sold. Worldwide fame, etc.
The dubious assertion was made that, in fact, Bryan Adams had been knighted.
Really, I thought?
Sir Bryan Adams? I don’t think so.
It’s the kind of discussion that in previous generations – situated as it were at a neighborhood watering hole – could have stretched far into the evening.
Thank god for Apple and Google.
Near as I can tell – honestly, I had to quit reading, no one needs to know that much about Bryan Adams – he’s not a knight.
He’s a Canadian, of course, so there was a little bit in my mind that thought, you know, maybe. He is the holder of something called the Order of Canada, which maybe is the same thing, only they use a big hunk of back bacon instead of sword.
Even though the Bryan Adams thing was nipped in the bud, it didn’t stop the conversation from splintering.
Why aren’t there American Knights? Then I found out. Don’t Google it. So we’ll go with Knights of America. Wait, you can Google that one but it’s clearly taken. I think USA Knighthood is safe.
But it’s not quite the same as a title. Being the freedom-loving rebels that we are, Americans have long rejected the notion of titles. It has such a landed gentry feel to it. That was what we were trying to get out of, after all.
But for our purposes, we’re going to let those three centuries of angst fade for a bit.
Who would our knights be? What are the criteria?
This was at least a more worthy conversation.
Who fits? The British knight and dame all kinds of people. Musicians, athletes, actors, public servants. We just think of the knights but it’s more complicated than that. There are a lot of levels of British honors.
You can probably get a degree in it somewhere.
We’re here to discuss USA Knighthood. My criteria is simple:
- They have to be alive. Going back into history is asking for trouble.
- They have to demonstrate service to the broader society beyond themselves. That doesn’t mean completely selfless – they don’t have to be saints – but they must have contributed something to the betterment of community.
- It’s not gender specific. We won’t worry about separate titles. A knight is a knight is a knight.
That’s really all we came up with for now. Sins can be forgiven. Mistakes glossed over. This is a way to recognize people who transcend our human failings to do something great.
It’s harder than you think, as you’re immediately drawn to celebrity, or politicians. Both are eligible, but who else?
Scientists? Absolutely, but we usually don’t know who they are. Is Neal deGrasse Tyson a true innovator, or just a celebrity?
Actors can teach us something about ourselves with a performance that we never really considered. But that’s rare.
Athletes? You can’t just be really good at something. There has to be more.
We landed on a few that I like:
- Jimmy Carter. The much-maligned former president left public office in 1981. Much has been made about his revival through work with Habitat for Humanity and rightly so. At 92, he’s still out there pounding nails, building homes for people who wouldn’t have one otherwise. He’s also been an ambassador for freedom as an election monitor around the world. Despite what you think of his politics, Carter has spent a lifetime in public service and changed untold lives for the better. Note: None of the other ex-presidents have approached Carter’s selflessness and thus aren’t considered.
- Bruce Springsteen. Sure, he’s a big famous musician, so what. The thing that separates Bruce from other deserving artists is that through it all, from the early days in Jersey to his memoir to the latest interviews, he has stayed committed to the ideal that there’s value and honor in every day life at the lower ends of the socio-economic ladder. He’s spent a career exploring those stories and showing them to us in ways we may not have otherwise noticed. Bob Dylan is a worthy suggestion. I would argue his reclusiveness keeps Dylan from getting my attention for American Knighthood.
- Oprah Winfrey. Hold on now. Just settle. Oprah is easy to not like for some of you. I get that. But you can’t discount what she’s done not only as a powerful woman in the entertainment business, but her work building girls school in Africa and using her money and image for good works is undeniable. Her acting roles have been great. She’s not afraid to ask people of power tough questions or explore the guilty pleasure of celebrity. Honorable mention for retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. Sitting on the Supreme Court doesn’t do much to spread your image in popular culture. But as the first woman on the bench, her influence on the law and constitution are immeasurable.
Those are three that I came up with upon reflection. I know there are many more. We’re just getting started with this whole knighthood thing after all.
What are yours? I’ve had a few come in through Facebook and we’ll talk about those through the rest of the show.
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