(16 of 20)
In an era in which many Americans bemoan a decline in traditional values, Bennett, 52, has made himself the virtual CEO of what might be dubbed Virtue Inc. His 1994 anthology of moral tales, The Book of Virtues, has sold 2.3 million copies and has spawned two best-selling sequels and a TV cartoon show. He is a fixture on the Sunday TV talk shows and the lecture circuit, where he commands $40,000 a speech.
Bennett's appeal is rooted in a combative Brooklyn childhood, a classical education (Ph.D. in philosophy), late-in-life experiences as a husband and as the father of two young boys, and a gift for framing public issues in provocative ways. His central message is simple and passionately argued. Virtue, he insists, must be aggressively taught to the young, especially by upholding exemplary characters and stories. Americans should not hesitate to speak out on matters of right and wrong--but must make clear that they don't mean to censor anyone. They should shame and boycott entertainment companies--including Time Warner, a favorite Bennett target--that they judge to be trafficking in violent lyrics and trashy TV shows.
While some find Bennett preachy (and taunt him to prove his own self-discipline by losing some weight), he speaks openly, and often humorously, about his shortcomings and challenges even like-minded audiences. He urged Christian Coalition members to avoid a "fixation on homosexuality" and instead turn their attention "closer to home," to the epidemic of divorce that poses a far worse threat "in terms of damage to the children of America."
FRANK O. GEHRY Architect
In the end, the character of a civilization is encased in its structures. We see the grandeur of Rome in the Coliseum, the culture of Greece in the Parthenon and the faith of Egypt in the pyramids. What historians would divine of late 20th century America through its architecture is largely in the hands of Frank O. Gehry. More than any other living architect, he has created, if not a signature American style, then a singular way of approaching building. And while some archaeologists might postulate from his jutting, slightly junked-up structures that 20th century U.S.A. was dissonant, disparate and dysfunctional, others will see its democratic nature, its willingness to embrace new ideas, its ingenuity, its will.