Guessing game: Who will the 2018 Rose Parade Grand Marshal be?

by Laura Berthold Monteros

There are two questions people ask when it comes to the Tournament of Roses Grand Marshal: Who will it be? and When will it be announced?” The answer to the second is probably the last week in October, but the answer to the first is up for grabs. Who will ride down Colorado Blvd. in a spiffy car at the Rose Parade on Jan. 1, 2018? Guess along with me.

Some clues

Courtesy Pasadena Tournament of Roses
  • The theme of the 129th Tournament of Roses is “Making a Difference.” Pres. Lance Tibbet describes it as celebrating “the power of kindness and the people in our communities that make a positive difference without reservation.”
  • There are some key words that stand out. “Communities” implies local difference-makers, those people who may not be terribly famous, but who see a need and meet it. “Without reservation” might imply that the person acts without considering what it might cost her personally, and without any idea of gaining from it herself. “Kindness” is especially important. The Grand Marshal will not be someone who only gives money.
  • The poster, which looks like a grafitti-covered wall, has a graphic that reads “human + kind” with u + i in light blue letters. This might mean that the Grand Marshal will be someone who makes a difference by enabling others to do so.

Some history

  • Will it be a woman? While it would be wonderful to have a woman—in 129 years, there have only been 14 different woman who sat in the Grand Marshal’s seat. All except two of these women were either entertainers or athletes. Five of them were co-Grand Marshals with men. (Though Shirley Temple, who served three times, was only in a group once.)
  • Only the two female presidents picked women who were not in the above classification. Libby Wright chose Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor in 2006, and Sally Bixby chose Dame Jane Goodall in 2013.
  • While Dwight D. Eisenhower was popular as a general and President, it is highly unlikely that any politician or general would be chosen today. The last politician was then-Congressman Ben Nighthorse Campbell, who was asked at the last minute to counterbalance the uncomfortable choice of His Grace Cristobol Colon in 1992.
  • Probably no First Ladies, either, though Michelle Obama with children’s health and Laura Bush with reading would honor both the office of the First Lady and the office of Grand Marshal.
  • Supreme Court Justices come with a double whammy: politics and the tendency for it to rain buckets when they serve.

Some conjectures from Facebook

  • Oprah Winfrey is at the top of the list for many people who follow “All Things Rose Parade” on Facebook.
  • Tommy Lasorda’s name was put into the hat, as was Jimmy Carter’s—two very different men.
  • Father Gregory Boyle, who founded Homeboy Industries here in Los Angeles, was a suggestion, because “He has touched so many lives despite great risk to himself at times.”
  • A list of women was submitted, with their accomplishments: Jody Williams who won the Nobel Peace prize, union organizer Dolores Huerta, the Mothers of East LA who prevented the prison from being built in their community, Penny Newman, who fought to get the Stringfellow Acid Pits cleaned up.
  • And from yours truly, Bill & Melinda Gates, for the work of their foundation; Gustavo Dudamel for the energy he has brought to music in Los Angeles, public schools, and all over the country; Josh Gad for calling critically ill children and speaking to them as Olaf from Frozen; or an organization, such as Doctors Without Borders.

These are all good guesses, but my peanuts are on Jimmy Carter and his wife Roslyn. They put their hands to the plow as well as in their pockets. They hammer and saw for Habitat for Humanity and travel around the world to monitor elections. Among many projects, the Carter Center has worked to eradicate diseases and vectors such as Guinea worm, river blindness, malaria, and others. Roslyn took an active part in the Presidency, sitting in on cabinet meetings and offering advice. Jimmy wrote many books on peace and reconciliation, including one directed at middle schoolers. He won the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize for the Carter Center’s work “to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts, to advance democracy and human rights, and to promote economic and social development.”

What are your guesses?


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