Thursday, January 13, 2005

The Most Influential Person in America

I've been following this discussion between Hugh Hewitt, Joshua Claybourn, and a few others about who the most influential individual not in government in America is. Hugh is rallying round James Dobson's flag.

Josh Claybourn thinks it's someone like Oprah or Dr. Phil. (It would have to be Oprah over Dr. Phil seein' as how Oprah begat Dr. Phil.)

Joe Carter says it's Rick Warren. No . . . I don't think so. Rick Warren may have launched a thousand study groups with "The Purpose-Driven Life," but his influence is limited outside evangelical churches. I'd even say it's limited within evangelical churches.

John Mark Reynolds says it's the Pope, but realizes that's breaking the rules, so he switches to Phillip Johnson, a UC Berkeley law professor whose books, Reynolds says, "have totally reshaped the discussion for everyone on the right regarding secularism and science." You might say, "Hey, if he's so influential, why do you have to explain who he is?" But Reynolds says that "the most influential man is the man who influences the people who influence the most influential people on some issue of cosmic significance."

I have to disagree with the choices of Rick Warren and Phillip Johnson. We'd like for them to be the most influential, but I'm afraid that Dobson is still more influential than both of them.

But Oprah beats all three.

Hugh defines influential to mean "actually changing the way people live their lives," but I still say Oprah.

Actually, I'd probably say that Oprah's influence peaked prior to 9/11 and has been waning since then, but I can't think of anyone else in ascension right now to replace her.

Tonight at dinner I asked my wife the question to get her perspective. "Who would you say is the most influential person in America; and it has to be someone not in the goverment."

She thought quietly for a long time, and then said "Satan."

"Well, . . . okay it has to be someone not supernatural, too."

Then, curious about her choice, I asked "Why did you pick Satan?"

"I couldn't think of anyone else, and you said it had to be someone not in a garment," she said, "which is a pretty strange qualifier."

(I swear I am not making that up.)

But that brings up another question. When we say "influence" should we automatically assume that we're talking about a positive influence? There are certainly people in America whose influence is great, but not at all positive.

I'm still leaning toward Oprah (though I'm remaining agnostic on whether she's a positive or negative influence) but I think I'll ask around at work and see what kind of responses I get.


At 3:18 AM, Blogger Lara said...

So I work for this college and each spring we survey a randomly selected group of students and ask them questions about who else (other students) they go to for information or advice or if they question or concerns. Then we tabulate their answers and put together a list of the top 30 (or so) 'students of influence'.

Then we bring these students together to talk about issues on campus, to disseminate information to the student body and to just basically get a feel for who the students are and what their characteristics are that they become the most 'influential' within their community.

It's really quite fascinating and an interesting study in social networks and how people interact with each other in the context of a closed community.

Of course our society hardly can be translated by an 'experiment' done on the campus of a mid-sized university, but I also wonder what exactly we mean when we say "The Most Influential Person in America."

I'm pretty sure it's not James Dobson. (Or Rick Warren).

At 4:54 AM, Blogger The Anchoress said...

Most influential person not in government?

Instapundit. :-)

or, bloggers in general.

At 10:19 AM, Blogger djchuang said...

Rick Warren is more influential than your comment made it out to be; he's been on the New York Times best sellers list for many weeks, and garnered the attention of Larry King Live, Today Show, and other MSM venues. Granted, not quite as influential as Oprah, whose influence can single-handed change the fate of a book, but wanted to note that for the record. :)

At 12:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Satan is a great answer! There truly is no influential force more powerful than sin.

My vote: Nemo


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