Announcing 2011’s Overachiever of the Year

When my mother turned 27, my father awakened her with the words, "By the time Albert Einstein was 27, he had already developed the theory of relativity. By the time T.S. Eliot was 27, he had already written ‘The Wasteland.’ And by the time Joan of Arc was 27, she had already been dead 8 ...

JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images
JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images
JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images

When my mother turned 27, my father awakened her with the words, "By the time Albert Einstein was 27, he had already developed the theory of relativity. By the time T.S. Eliot was 27, he had already written ‘The Wasteland.' And by the time Joan of Arc was 27, she had already been dead 8 years." He probably also said "Happy birthday."  At least, I have to assume he said something nice because they're still married 55 years and two more children later. I say more children because I was already nine months old at the time, a not inconsiderable achievement on the part of my mother that I think my father was short-sighted to overlook.  After all, none of the three people he had mentioned had ever given birth, much less to me.

That said, my father's litany of over-achievers (if you can consider being burned alive for heresy an achievement...which, by the way, in my family, we would...) would have to be seriously revamped thanks to the arrival on the scene of the pleasingly plump young leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-un.  Kim is also 27 (or 28, depending on which government-propaganda, ministry-generated hagiography you choose to believe).  But why quibble?

At whatever age he is, Kim was just named the Supreme Leader of North Korea, which is quite an accomplishment for an under-30. I mean this is a guy who looks up to Britney Spears as an older woman -- and he is already the youngest-ever human being to control his own nuclear arsenal. I hadn't even bought my first new car by that age. Can you imagine what most twenty-somethings guys would do if they had their own nuclear weapons?  Certainly, they would use them to get laid (but of course, that's what most twenty-something guys would try to do if they had a new bowling ball to brag about).  But Kim has turned his mind to more serious pursuits (as far as we know). For example, he has already been Supreme Commander of the Korean People's Army for almost a whole week. And he seems a shoe-in to become General Secretary of the Worker's Party of Korea and chairman of the Central Military Commission.  And he has been characterized as "a great person born of heaven."  If that can't get him a little action, I'm not sure what can. (Of course, being the dictatorial head of a police state pretty much ensures his social calendar is as filled as he wants it to be.  This is a guy who has never heard the words, "Sorry, Jong-un, but I'm washing my hair this Saturday night.")

When my mother turned 27, my father awakened her with the words, "By the time Albert Einstein was 27, he had already developed the theory of relativity. By the time T.S. Eliot was 27, he had already written ‘The Wasteland.’ And by the time Joan of Arc was 27, she had already been dead 8 years." He probably also said "Happy birthday."  At least, I have to assume he said something nice because they’re still married 55 years and two more children later. I say more children because I was already nine months old at the time, a not inconsiderable achievement on the part of my mother that I think my father was short-sighted to overlook.  After all, none of the three people he had mentioned had ever given birth, much less to me.

That said, my father’s litany of over-achievers (if you can consider being burned alive for heresy an achievement…which, by the way, in my family, we would…) would have to be seriously revamped thanks to the arrival on the scene of the pleasingly plump young leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-un.  Kim is also 27 (or 28, depending on which government-propaganda, ministry-generated hagiography you choose to believe).  But why quibble?

At whatever age he is, Kim was just named the Supreme Leader of North Korea, which is quite an accomplishment for an under-30. I mean this is a guy who looks up to Britney Spears as an older woman — and he is already the youngest-ever human being to control his own nuclear arsenal. I hadn’t even bought my first new car by that age. Can you imagine what most twenty-somethings guys would do if they had their own nuclear weapons?  Certainly, they would use them to get laid (but of course, that’s what most twenty-something guys would try to do if they had a new bowling ball to brag about).  But Kim has turned his mind to more serious pursuits (as far as we know). For example, he has already been Supreme Commander of the Korean People’s Army for almost a whole week. And he seems a shoe-in to become General Secretary of the Worker’s Party of Korea and chairman of the Central Military Commission.  And he has been characterized as "a great person born of heaven."  If that can’t get him a little action, I’m not sure what can. (Of course, being the dictatorial head of a police state pretty much ensures his social calendar is as filled as he wants it to be.  This is a guy who has never heard the words, "Sorry, Jong-un, but I’m washing my hair this Saturday night.")

Big things clearly await. In just over a week, he will celebrate another birthday.  And with some luck (and the approval of the various clucking aunts and generals who are his would-be puppet masters), in no time at all he will be blackmailing superpowers with threats of invasion, missile launches, and deranged behavior just as his dear old Dad used to do. Of course, it does raise the question of where he is going to find one, not to mention a suitable handful, of wives who understand him both in terms of their age and their accomplishments. So far, only Lady Gaga comes to mind. But what a couple that would be.  And as the head of the world’s third largest army, its most repressive society, and a place known for such bad malnutrition that a generation has been raised that is inches shorter than its contemporaries in the South, he is one of the few people in the world who could rival Gaga in terms of his own following of "little monsters." 

David Rothkopf is visiting professor at Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs and visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. His latest book is The Great Questions of Tomorrow. He has been a longtime contributor to Foreign Policy and was CEO and editor of the FP Group from 2012 to May 2017. Twitter: @djrothkopf

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