It’s always interesting when someone unexpectedly breaks from the backfield and grabs a high-profile plum from more worthy contenders. Dan Quayle, Harriet Miers, and Clarence Thomas leap to mind. Shakespeare in Love beating Saving Private Ryan for Best Picture, or Art Carney (!) beating Dustin Hoffmann, Jack Nicholson, and Al Pacino for Best Actor.
Sarah Palin recently joined the ranks of those unexpectedly thrust to the front of the line, to be met with a collective shout of “WHO??”
Now Harvard has given us another one.
Among many other fine programs and services, the Humanist Chaplaincy at Harvard University selects one person each year as Harvard Humanist of the Year — someone who has made a significant contribution to the promotion and understanding of humanism. The list of past recipients is impressive, including
Sociobiologist E.O. Wilson, author of Consilience, The Ants, and On Human Nature, winner of two Pulitzers, the Crafoord Prize, and the National Medal of Science;
Courageous Bengali human rights activist and feminist Taslima Nasreen, poet and essayist, winner of the Sakharov Prize and multiple international human rights awards;
UN Lieutenant-General Roméo Dallaire, a Canadian senator and humanitarian best-known for his attempts to halt the Rwandan genocide in 1993-94;
Rice University’s Agnes Cullen Arnold Professor of Humanities Anthony Pinn, author and Humanist liberation theologian;
Representative Pete Stark, the first openly-nontheistic member of the U.S. Congress.
This year, the good folks at Harvard chose someone so obscure that he doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page. Just think of that. Even Numa Numa Guy has a Wikipedia page.