Discovering the hero in ordinary people

History is fraught with the hero character.

This universal figure embeds itself within each and every culture and tangibly serves as an example of the virtues and ideals we desire to exemplify ourselves. From Jesus Christ to Martin Luther King, Jr., from King Leonidas to George Washington, history teems with individuals who appeal to nobler ideas.

It is important that we recognize the goodness in heroic individuals, because it is this basic reality which carries the human race.

The potential for heroism lies within each one of us. Heroism is not a particular vocation with which certain people have been blessed; rather, it is a universal beckoning that requires an internal fire and devotion to a cause that is greater than us.

We can all be heroes, and we must all strive to be heroes if we are to preserve the virtues of humanity.

In his “Citizenship in a Republic” speech, former President Teddy Roosevelt asserts, “In the long run, success or failure will be conditioned upon the way in which the average man, the average women, does his or her duty, first in the ordinary, everyday affairs of life, and next in those great occasional cries which call for heroic virtues.”

In evaluating the current state of America, it is not hard to acknowledge that we need individuals who are willing to accept the call to greatness. The blustery political season serves as a perfect example. Politics and personal philosophies divide us and seek to challenge the basic and foundational principle that we are a people that ought to be “one nation, indivisible”.

In order to unite the people of this country, we need leaders who are willing to serve others instead of self-interests. These leaders are not merely those bestowed with the title of congressman, judge, or president; rather these leaders, these heroes must also be you and I, the timid yet courageous individuals who understand the duty we owe to ourselves and to one another.

Although the specific functionalities of this duty are varying and complex, in the end a simple summation of our duty is:  How have we served one another?  This is what truly makes us heroic, as exemplified by the individuals mentioned above. They were heroes because they served an idea that was nobler than their humble existence.  Although the journey was not always smooth, their obedience and perseverance bore them through the turbulence.

So it must be with us.  We ought to strive, struggle and persevere with the talents that we have so as to best use them in service of one another.

As Roosevelt famously mentioned in the speech noted above, “The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming.”

As a country, we are deeply in need of individuals like the “man in the arena.” We need individuals who fight for life and for liberty for all peoples.  We need individuals who undertake their common duties with vigor and dedication.  We need these people because we need heroes.  The hero lies within us.

What are we waiting for?


Reach the columnist at or follow him at @csmneyrichard.


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