A jack of many trades and master of the deadpan delivery, Ben Stein recently added one more title to a list that already includes actor, economist, educator and writer: that of exceptional public servant.
For his contributions to the men and women of the armed forces, Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England presented Stein with the Office of the Secretary of Defense’s Exceptional Public Service Award during a ceremony at the Pentagon.
The award also was presented to Bonnie Carroll, chairman and founder of TAPS, Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors. TAPS is a national organization for all those who have lost a loved one serving in the military.
“We don’t have too many opportunities in the building to really recognize great Americans who are hugely supportive of this building and our military,” England said. “You both have been absolute yeomen in supporting the [military], and this is our day to say, ‘Thank you for your great work on behalf of our military members and their families.’”
Stein, perhaps best known for his role as the monotone economics teacher in the hit movie, “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” has written books and screenplays, studied law and shed light on injustices in American society. He’s also no stranger to Washington and politics, having served as a speechwriter for presidents Nixon and Ford, though he makes it clear in his biography that he did not write the line, “I am not a crook.”
He’s also a fervent supporter of the military, and despite his iconic status, his comments often belie the humility he feels for individuals who wear the uniform and their families.
“My work is incredibly trivial and unimportant compared with their work,” Stein said. “My whole 63 years, [what I’ve done is] not as important as what a man or a woman going out on patrol in Basra or Ar Ramadi or An Nasiriyah does in five minutes, maybe five seconds.”
One of his latest public acts of gratitude to the military is the book “The Real Stars.” It’s an answer to a question Stein, who has a home in Malibu, Calif., hears frequently regarding living among the real stars. His verbal answer to askers is that he doesn’t live among the real stars, but highly paid entertainers.
Stein admitted receiving the award was an honor, but he continued to deflect the gratitude back at the service-members and their families.
“[What I do for the military,] it’s nothing compared to what the military does for me,” he said. “People whine and moan about their taxes. People whine and moan about jury duty
©2008 Community News Group
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