Christmas Greetings and Thank You

To ...

Non-officer members of the U.S. armed forces serving abroad at Christmastime (written as an American) (not that I have anything against officers—I was once lucky enough to be one)

99% of cops—who are routinely in harm's way

Firemen who do insane things to save lives

Community bankers who lent only to those who could pay back their loans—then kept the loans on their books

Small business owners who come to work every day with a PMA-damn the torpedos philosophy

Airline employees who do their damndest despite the odds

My fellow Vietnam Vets who were "in country" with me for Christmas 1967 (and to my C.O. for giving us a half-day off on Christmas Day—I'm not being sarcastic, we were there to get the job done)

Historical figures like Grant and Nelson who inspire me

My friend and former boss Walt Minnick who passed up a lucrative CEO job to run (successfully) for Congress at age 66 and be of service

America's revolutionary privates and corporals in the winter of 1776

Herb Kelleher, who founded and put in 37 years at Southwest Airlines

Workers in Mumbai who reopened the Taj and Oberoi in short order

Larry Janesky, Basement Systems Inc, who created a star out of the most mundane activity imaginable

Employees who smile

Authors (and I don't mean me) who labor for years to have their say about an idea they think is worth broadcasting

Founders of the Weather Channel—who were held up to relentless ridicule, but who beat the odds

Nurses, the superstars of the healthcare world

Those small business people who beat Wal*Mart or Starbucks by producing matchless local Excellence (though I have no gripes with Wal*Mart or Starbucks)

All Olympians for their insane dedication to Excellence

Any manager who practices MBWA with reckless abandon

Anyone who says "Thank you"

Anyone who accepts accountability and says "It's my fault"—when it more or less is

Florists who add color to our lives (especially those of us in cold, gray climates)

My stepson Max, who truly believes he can improve our environment and change a nation's behavior in the process (and for his 4,000-mile solo bike ride across the U.S. to demonstrate his commitment to a more gentle way of inhabiting the planet)

Those under 25 who voted in our presidential election—not for their choice of candidate, but for showing up and exercising their precious franchise

Kids in the ghetto who avoid peer pressure and go on to accomplish great things

My late Mom who Mommed with a passion as representative of so many Moms

Those who hold three jobs to make ends meet

Those who go to college at night at age 35 despite a grueling daytime job

Charming rascals

The players at Cirque du Soleil, who deliver Excellence every time

Comedians—we need 'em right now

Theatrical bit players who bust their buns to make their 45 seconds unadulterated Excellence

Startup CEOs

Women business owners

Steve Jobs who is relentless in pursuit of Excellence again and again and again

Those who live and die to pursue Excellence—and inspire us

George Bush and Dick Cheney, whom I didn't vote for twice and am furious at for the damage they've done to my country's reputation—but who, excesses notwithstanding, have helped us avoid a sequel to 9/11/01

Barack Obama with selfish prayers for your forthcoming service—and for lifting our spirits and aspirations

And so many others who anonymously do vast quantities of good work for their communities without a shred of recognition

Not. Bernard Madoff—not for his fiscal malfeasance, but for screwing his longstanding friends
Not. Robert Mugabe