Adrian Masunda, one of our students, clearly revelling in the opportunity granted to him by you-our heroes.

“Hero:1.a man of distinguished courage or ability, admired for his brave deeds and noble qualities. 2.a person who, in the opinion of others, has heroic qualities or has performed a heroic act and is regarded as a model or ideal”

The idea of a hero is one of humanity’s most basic needs. Since time immemorial, societies have sought something to believe in; to make them believe they can be better; someone to represent them in a realm not necessarily accessible to the layman. Historically, heroes have been political and military figures (Hannibal, Caesar, Joan of Arc etc), academics (Plato, Archimedes), and other societal leaders (Jesus, Martin Luther King)

In recent times, however, there seems to be a hero crisis in the world. As 1) communities have become more empowered and 2) information has become abundant and easily accessible, it has become much harder for people to be universally impressed by the exploits of one as a hero. Opposition for political leaders is now so loud that one can hardly be unified in declaring an individual’s heroism. Religious doctrines are being brought under more scrutiny than ever before, and thus their leaders are being challenged and, in some cases, debunked by many. When questions regarding the legitimacy of the hero honors bestowed upon the redoubtable Nelson Mandela are being raised, it takes no further convincing that the world does not impress as easily as it has in years gone by.

In what may be in reaction to the downfall of the heroes of yesteryear, society now seems to fill their void for someone to look up to with celebrities. Consider this: ‘Honey Boo-Boo’s show had higher ratings than the US presidential debates! I am not even going to venture into what to make of that fact.

“I’m not a role model… Just because I dunk a basketball doesn’t mean I should raise your kids.” 

                                                                                                               – Charles Barkley

Yet, indeed, most of these ‘heroes’ are just people with a talent (albeit an amazing one.) They do what they love and make a living off it. As basketball legend Charles Barkley suggests in the above quote, most of them did not even set out to do anything more than the one thing they are passionate about. Yet societies, through little fault of their own, place their faith in sport and entertainment icon. When, however, scandal and revelations mar their ‘heroes’ (see Tiger Woods, R Kelly, Michael Jackson, Joe Paterno, Lance Armstrong, Michael Vick… you see where this is going), society feels hard done by; as if their faith has been betrayed.

 My intention is not to take fault away from public figures- after all, with great power comes great responsibility. The reality, however, is the ‘hero’ status handed to several of these individuals is more than they bargained for and, dare I say it, more than they deserve. They entertain and excel (and we need that); and their credit should be for that, but only that. To be fair, some of those listed above have earned their hero status outside of their field. For example Lance Armstrong has done wonderful work for cancer research, and we must never let what scandal may befall him take away from the real heroic work he has done to save lives.

The point, however, is to reevaluate what traits we, as a society, are looking for as we choose our heroes.

             “Life’s most urgent question is: What are you doing for others?”- Martin Luther King

For the past few years, CNN has been running a ‘CNN Heroes’ celebration, focusing on individuals around the world who have been nominated for their activism and philanthropy in their communities. If you take a moment to read/watch through the stories, there is not a doubt in my mind that you will feel inspired and walk away with a slightly elevated belief in the goodness of humanity. At CLUBHOUSE, we are inspired by these men and women, and we only hope tomake a fraction of the impact they have made.

Heroes don’t ride in on white horses anymore. They don’t slay dragons and rally 300 men into war with thousands. They most likely don’t dunk basketballs or sing high notes in front of multitudes (they might be heroes, but that is not what makes them ‘heroes’). Heroes are all around us. The volunteers who spent their time teaching immigrants the language and culture of a new place; organizations funding anti-drunk driving campaigns; people bringing hope to areas ravaged by natural disasters; everywhere.

Our heroes are alive and well; we just need to change where, and how, we look for them.

Check out CNN Heroes for 2012 and vote here:

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