Empowered - Writer's Island - 3/5/08

Who do you think is the most empowered person in America? The President, Bill Gates, Oprah, Tiger Woods, any of the Presidential Candidates? Not even close. For about 20 years it was a man named Alan Greenspan, who served as the Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve. Simply put, that title means he was responsible for the nation's economy, and in turn, the world's. He was appointed by President Reagan in 1987 and by every subsequent president. He answered to no one. The checks and balances system did not include him. He could make champions of industry wet their pants by a simple remark over dinner. The entire financial world hung on his every word. Investors were so confident in him that any comment he made would immediately affect the stock market. He retired in 2006, but is still used as a consultant, even though he is in his 80s.

O.K., Greenspan is gone. Who is the most empowered person in the U.S. now? His successor? I couldn't even name him and you probably can't either. Though he holds the same position, he does not command the same respect as Greenspan. That may take years, if ever.

My nomination for the most empowered person in America is not even an American. He is a Brit named Simon Cowell. In case you have been living underground for the last seven years, he is the co-creator and judge of the number one television show in America, American Idol. He is the primary reason that this juggernaut attracts nearly 30 million viewers each episode. There are lots of talent shows on today's "reality" based television, but none attract that kind of attention.

Simon is acerbic and caustic, but in our politically correct world, where we don't keep score and everyone gets a trophy, he is a refreshing change. He is actually a voice of reason. If someone is bad he lets them know in no uncertain terms. He does not coddle. These people have been coddled for long enough. He gives no false hope. Friends and family have pumped the contestants with enough false hope. He goes by the premise that you have to be cruel to be kind. But he also gives just as enthusiastic positive evaluations if they are warranted. I think after seven years, hopefuls should expect they are going to receive an honest, though sarcastic critique from Simon. If you are thin-skinned, it might save some pain to get an impartial person to evaluate your vocal skills before showing up for auditions. Mom is not the person to provide that. She also probably thinks you are pretty.


Simon is a great contrast to the other two judges who tend to think everyone is wonderful, particularly Paula Abdul. She could give positive comments to someone burping the alphabet. "I love your shoes". As a result, most contestants don't even really hear the opinions of Randy and Paula, waiting with bated breath to see what Simon says (pun intended). The audience boos him and competitors make futile attempt to argue with his judgment, all the time knowing in their hearts that 90 percent of the time he is right on the money. It is no coincidence that the people eliminated each week are those that he said, "I liked the ending, when it was finally over." He revels in the role of villain, though I would wager his approval rating is much higher than any politically correct politician on CSPAN. Who else reaches 30 million people each week? Certainly not the President, the Pope, or Joel Osteen.