Captain Richard Phillips of the good ship Maersk Alabama – and Sully Sullenberger splashing down his crippled airliner in the Hudson River – broke through the poisonous smog of economic depression and Wall Street skullduggery with a reminder that pure individual heroism is a daily occurrence if we know where to look for it. — Tina Brown
You have to feel sorry for kids today. Who do they look up to – who are their heroes? In my youth, we had plenty of heroes. We had parents who’d either fought in the war, or who’d worked at home to supply the guys winning the war. We had a President – Ike – who’d led the Allies’ to victory against the Nazis. We had the Splendid Splinter – the last to hit .400 in a season – who also flew combat missions in Korea. We had Bobby Clemente who tragically died delivering supplies to the victims of an earthquake in Nicaragua. We had great lawyers like Joseph Welch, who dared to call out the mighty Tailgunner Joe McCarthy for his lack of decency. We had legendary journalists like Edward R. Murrow, and Huntley and Brinkley, who gave us the news without inserting their own political views.
If you get your news from the politicized and highly partisan press, all you read about are draft-dodging or dictator-doting ego-driven caricatures of Ike and JFK. Wannabe Lincolns, they are barely Fords. Today, we have too many sports stars (decidedly not heroes) whose most lasting legacies will be the bastards they’ve sired. We have a legal “giant” lauded by the media for taking on the Donald but who actually is a conman and an extortionist. And we have too many biological parents who mistake being a pal for parenting.
And yet… And yet, there are still heroes. Take the young black kid in rural Mississippi who works nights in a convenience store to pay for his days going to community college to become a draftsman. If he’s lucky, he’ll get an internship so that he can concentrate on his studies. If he’s good, he’ll get the chance to go to college and become an engineer. He wants to better himself but he also wants to provide for his family.
Peggy Prescott managed a truck stop, and occasionally drove a big rig, so her sons could play football and get a scholarship and go to college. She wanted them to have opportunities she never had. Her youngest son earned both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree, and has become a leader both on and off the football field. In honor of his mother, he founded the Faith Fight Finish Foundation which has raised hundreds of millions of dollars to help kids find strength through dealing with adversity.
What about the hundreds of captains of boats who answered the Coast Guard’s call on 9/11? Ordinary men and women, they “Boat Lifted” 500,000 of their fellow citizens away from the death and destruction on Manhattan Island. A marvel of self-organization, their collective action was both inspiring and heroic.
Or more recently, the two cops who were involved in a high speed car chase. The car they were chasing crashed and caught fire. They quickly changed from law enforcers to first responders and and pulled the two young women out of the car at great danger to themselves.
Every community has heroes like these hiding in plain sight. They work hard to better themselves and their families. They are too ordinary to make the news. But when adversity strikes, they are the ones who step up to pull themselves and their communities out of the muck. These hidden heroes are the core of a community’s resilience. We need to recognize the nobility lurking in their normal lives; we need to nurture their spirit.