- The Washington Times - Friday, January 2, 2009

It’s probably not a surprise to many that Barack Obama topped the list as the most admired man in America, according to a USA Today-Gallup survey of 1,008 adults. The president-elect beat out the man who had been the most admired man in America in the past seven annual Gallup Polls - and in view of the maligning he has taken in recent years, it may be somewhat surprising that that man is George W. Bush.

Speaking of sometimes-maligned figures, Hillary Rodham Clinton led the most-admired woman list, for the 13th time in the past 16 years. Gallup has been asking the most-admired question since 1948. Since then only one other president-elect — Dwight D. Eisenhower, a great leader of men and hero in World War II — topped the list, in 1952. The standing by Mr. Obama reflects, as the USA Today article put it, “soaring expectations for an incoming president who will take over daunting challenges on Jan. 20.” It may also reflect what columnist R. Emmett Tyrell Jr. astutely and auspiciously pointed out: Mr. Obama is “the first motivational speaker to be elected to the presidency.”

Mr. Obama promised his children that he would get them a dog. Leaving aside President Harry S. Truman’s famous quip — “If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog” — there is new research that the incoming president will benefit from a dog.

A recent study in the journal “Psychosomatic Medicine” found that dogs are more effective than the antidepressant Prozac in reducing stress, lowering blood pressure, slowing heart rate, and relaxing muscles much more rapidly than pills. Dogs can accomplish this medicine by just being close to a person for as little as five minutes, while prescription medications can take weeks to work. The research also showed that dog owners visit their doctors less often and are more physically active than non-dog owners. Elderly persons who have dogs are four times less likely to get depression. According to University of British Columbia professor and author Stanley Coren, “The data is absolutely unambiguous. This actually works better than having a loved one next to you.”

No doubt Mr. Obama will continue to need Michelle, Sasha and Malia by his side, and the goodwill and prayers of all Americans. But getting that dog (we recommend the Washington Animal Rescue League, a superb source) should be near the top of the to-do list, right next to managing those soaring expectations.

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