The 2011 Teddy Awards

Our columnist announces this year's picks for political courage

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Photo-Illustration by Hieronymus for TIME

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Presidential campaigns are not likely venues for political courage, but former Utah governor Jon Huntsman has stood up against the Republican Party's silliness from the start, especially on the questions of evolution--I mean, really!--and global warming. More recently Huntsman proposed the only plan offered by any candidate, including Obama, to break up the big banks and move our economy, in the long term, back toward productive investment and away from speculation.

Diplomats are not often cited for courage, although they should be. U.S. foreign-service officers risk their lives in war zones, as members of provincial-reconstruction teams and embassy staffs, just as surely as the military does. This year Robert Ford, the U.S. ambassador to Syria, receives a Teddy for his service during the massacres perpetrated by Bashar Assad against his people. Ford refused to remain in the embassy. He went out into the streets, around the country, witnessing the carnage and expressing U.S. support for the demonstrators. He has now returned to Damascus; travel safely, Ambassador Ford.

And, as always, I close with appreciation for the troops--with a special word this year for those who've retired, like Petraeus, and those others, the people I celebrated in an August cover story, who are coming home intent on continuing their public service as civilians. They are a great hope for the future during a dark and muddled time.

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