First off welcome to the Penguin Awards. This is Rookerville’s attempt to wrap up the year. The one guarantee about awards shows and end of the year lists is that, inevitably, no one can ever agree on them. Rather than attempting to assign a numerical rank to something so subjective in nature, our approach to quantifying what took place during the previous calendar year is more broad – our own preferences in each individual category, with no definitive #1. The subjects of our end of the year series are those that we are passionate about, but ultimately, the person who truly decides the “best of” 2013 is you, the reader. After all, perception is everything. Welcome to the 2013 Penguin Awards, our tribute to the things that grabbed our attention over the last twelve months.
Malala Yousafzai (Andrew Rose)
When brainstorming my pick for this category, my thoughts initially went the way of Pope Francis, a champion of the poor and a breath of fresh air in the hierarchy of the Catholic Church. This felt a little bit too much like something a famous magazine named after an irreversible, non-spatial continuum would do, however, and when I really looked back at the entire year, the answer became much clearer. No other person overcame as much adversity and accomplished so much on such a global scale than the incomparable Malala Yousafzai.
At the beginning of the calendar year, Malala was recovering in a British hospital from a gunshot wound to the head, having been marked for death by the Pakistani Taliban for speaking out in favor of educational equality for all young girls in her home country. For a worldwide terrorist organization to have been intimidated so greatly by a single teenaged girl that they felt compelled to eliminate her is remarkable in and of itself, but what followed after three shots rang out on her school bus was nothing short of miraculous. Through a series of fortunate circumstances and goodwill, Malala was flown to the UK on a private jet outfitted as an ICU while under the care of pediatric neurology specialists, and managed to survive the ordeal. After she stabilized, the real work began. As someone who has personally worked with rehabilitating gunshot wound victims, specifically those with traumatic brain injuries, I’ve seen firsthand the difficult, arduous, at-times-seemingly-hopeless process of gaining back one’s ability to function both physically and mentally. Many – if not most – of those who endure this challenge never truly return to their former selves. But of course, none of them are Malala.
Her body may be weakened from the injuries she sustained that day in October, but if anything, her mind and her resolve have only been strengthened. She has become a symbol of hope in oppressed populations, and a catalyst of progress in public policy. She gave a rousing speech on the floor of the UN on her sixteenth birthday, and became the youngest Nobel Peace Prize in the award’s history. But most importantly, she carried herself with dignity and passion, preaching a message of forgiveness and tolerance while using her position in the limelight not to promote herself, but to affect positive cultural change. To use the words of another 16-year-old girl who had a pretty good year, she is a “pure heroine.” She is an inspiration. She is Malala.
The Geeky Team of Edward Snowden and Glenn Greenwald (Ted McLoof)
Hero? Traitor? Edward Snowden and Glenn Greenwald exposed what the NSA was doing to American citizens, but they also inadvertently exposed the utter incompetence of our media outlets. Stuck with an atypical figure who defied easy characterization, they did their damndest to fall back on easy clichés and failed miserably. Because the real truth is that Snowden is neither of those two things, and neither is Greenwald. Snowden was just a tech geek working in the IT department at the CIA who was shocked by what he saw happening from day to day on the job. Greenwald, the scrappy reporter to whom he spilled everything, was by all accounts a total asshole who enjoyed pissing people off more than anything in the world. The two of them are such an unlikely team that you just know a movie is going to be made about them: totally obscure, go-against-the-grain, intelligent underdogs who somehow managed to take down the entire system.
And there’s art! Snowden’s impromptu visa application to live in Russia—written on an airport napkin, and subsequently accepted—is the stuff of legend. Greenwald has stayed in his home in Rio since the leak, in an enormous mansion on the river with ten dogs and his partner. Did Greenwald take advantage of the kid’s story? Did Snowden solicit Greenwald because he was famous for making exposed documents famous? Who knows? But what we sure do know is that the gambit succeeded. If Greenwald really does love pissing people off, well: mission accomplished.
Lisa Fenn, Former ESPN Reporter (Pat Wong)
I thought about nominating Pope Francis for the shockwaves he has made with his vision for a modern Catholic Church or Nelson Mandela for his past accomplishments and importance to South Africa. However, I wanted this opportunity to nominate someone who proves that you do not have to be a Pope or President to make a difference in the world. During the summer, I captivated by a feature story on Sportscenter titled “Carry On: Why I Stayed” (http://espn.go.com/espn/otl/story/_/id/9454322/why-stayed ). It is a follow up story on a piece in 2009 former ESPN reporter, Lisa Fenn, did on two young wrestlers, Dartanyon Sutton and Leroy Sutton, called “Carry On”. Dartanyon was homeless and legally blind. His mother died when he was 8 years old. Leroy tragically lost his legs to amputation after he was hit by a freight train at 11 years old. Both boys are incredibly strong and bonded over wrestling. Their friendship extended to all parts of their lives (e.g. helping each other with academics) and they supported each other unconditionally. The follow up featured Lisa’s involvement with the boys after the 2009 story. She used the initial story to get attention for the boys to get donations. Moreover, she “vetted speaking invitations, deciphered financial aid forms, coordinated college visits and ensured Dartanyon and Leroy were finally fed on a daily basis.” Accordingly, she became a “guardian angel” to the two boys and helped them succeed in life and escape the rough neighborhoods they grew up in. With the help of the donations Leroy was able to attend Collins College in Arizona to study video game design. For Dartanyon, he received an offer from the United States Olympic Committee to train for the Paraylmpic sport of judo. Eventually, he earned a Bronze medal in the 2012 Paralympics in London. The story is an inspirational account of how Lisa guided these young men through significant events and continues to be a key figure in their lives. Lisa went above and beyond the call of duty as a reporter. It is a great story that shows one does not have to be a prominent figure to change the world. Lisa did her part by changing the lives of the people around her. No matter how big or small, we can all do our part.
And of course no list would be complete without…
Jennifer Lawrence (Nichole Louise)
She tripped into 2013 by accepting her oscar at the age of 22. Riding high on her Hunger Games/David O Russell success, I think most people can agree that JLaw had a stellar year – and it just keeps getting better for her!