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Where Have All the Heroes Gone?

October 25, 2005

This article from Sunday’s USA Today got me thinking.  Where have all the heroes gone?

Growing up, I had my fair share of heroes.  Some, like He-Man and Optimus Prime, were fictitious.  But a good many were real, living, breathing people.  Nolan Ryan.  Joe Montana.  Dan Marino.  Rick Mears.  Andy MoogNorman Schwarzkopf.  All were class acts and all were heroes in the present tense.

But as I have gotten older, it has been harder and harder to find any heroes in the present tense.  Sports have been ruined by greed and by rampant drug use.  Politics by partisan selfishness.  The military by the sanctioned torture of prisoners.

To find people who I can deservingly call heroes, I have to look to the past.  To Themistocles and Cincinnatus, to Scipio Africanus and the brothers Tiberius and Gaius Gracchus.  Belisarius.  Charles Martel.  Simon de Montfort.  Robert the Bruce.  Gustavus Adolphus.

From our country’s own history, I can look to George Washington, John Adams, Jefferson, James Madison, Andrew Jackson, Winfield Scott, Abraham Lincoln, Robert E. Lee, Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, Mark Twain, Thomas Edison, the Wright Brothers, Theodore Roosevelt, John Pershing, Franklin Roosevelt, George Patton, Ray Spruance, Chester Nimitz, Dwight Eisenhower, Albert Einstein, Martin Luther King, Jr., Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Arnold Palmer…I could go on and on, but you get the point.

History is full of heroes, of figures who overcame adversity, who dared to greatness, who did what they knew was right, no matter the cost.

But today?  Where have all the heroes gone?  Have they simply vanished with my childhood innocence, or is it something more?

My theory is that they have migrated.  That they are in the business world now.  They are the antithesis of the corporate criminals like Bernie Ebbers and Ken Lay.  They are the executives who have a passion for what they do, who truly seek what is good for the company over what is good for their own personal gain.

You want a few examples?  Okay.  How about Steve Jobs?  Or Charles Ghosn, who took Nissan from the brink of death and transformed it into one of the industry’s most profitable automakers in a matter of a few short years?

They and those like them are as close a thing as I can find to a hero in the present tense.

What about you?

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Tim permalink
    October 26, 2005 12:50 am

    Took it twice. First time scored very high on unorthodox, low on tactics, and got Vercingetorix.

    Good general. Had numbers and home base, but faced a technically superior force. Defended effectively against Caesar and the evil invading Romans for a long time, finally got cornered, got beaten, killed, etc. Could have his own Braveheat movie, except that his name sounds too much like a feminine hygiene product. It’d just never work.

    For grins, I took it a second time, bending my answers towards tactically conservative answers regardless of any other consideration. Got 100% on tactics, low on unorthodox, got Caesar. Caesar scores very low on guts, btw — just 6%.

  2. October 26, 2005 4:28 pm

    Intresting theory on the business execs. Last night I went to a dinner hosted by the World Affairs Council of Greater Dallas, and it was honoring Tom Engibous , the CEO of Texas Instruments. He came across as a wonderful guy, gave a moving and funny speech, and was a far cry from the Ken Lays of this world.

    Then the guest speaker, Neil Cavuto of Fox News, gave a very entertaining speech, with the theme being “the news media doesn’t pay enough attentionto the good guys, and the positive accomplishments that take place every day. Therefore, we get a cynical unbalanced side of the news. His example was that the corproate scandals hit 12 of the 12000 companies listed on the exchange… a tiny tiny percentage…which means the vast majority of the rest are stand-up types….types who ae innovative imaginative, helpful towards the community, and heroes. Don’t know about you but I find discreet inconspicuous heroes to be the best kind. With that said, MOOOOOG is still god.

  3. October 27, 2005 2:55 pm

    Part of becoming truly adult is losing one’s heroes. All human beings, men and women, have feet of clay – heroes or not.

    So celebrate your approaching adulthood. : )


  4. October 27, 2005 7:42 pm

    But that’s the thing – I still consider my childhood heroes as heroes to this day. They are still class acts, still honorable (well, except for Montana’s whoring out for Meryn’s…). I realize they are just men (I must be a sexist when it comes to my heroes), but they are good men, or have always come across as such. You don’t hear about Nolan Ryan shooting heroin or Dan Marino exposing himself to little children or beating his wife.

    But these days…I don’t see that same “upstandingness” in any but a very few and far between instances.

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