...hopefully will not have fallen on deaf ears, especially since the lesson was one of true heroism. In today's world of almost 'virtual' everything, it is often difficult to decipher the real from the fantastic, or from the make believe. The purely academic images presented by those who have never truly experienced more than little in life but what are products of the imagination are rampant; therefore mere conceptual views of what a hero should be are oft times confused with true heroism. Because of that confusion it winds up that people today often see a movie actor, a baseball player, a singer, a politician, a doctor, a teacher, a parent, a friend, as a hero; this when in fact that not even one of those folks may ever have completed one truly heroic deed among them in all of the combined years that their lives have spanned.
Indeed, heroism can take many forms, but in each and every instance there are certain aspects of heroism that are necessary before a hero can complete a heroic act. Some of these characteristics can also be found in many of our everyday endeavors; and because those other actions exhibit some similarities to heroism it is often mistakenly believed that someone who has reached a high level of achievement in those endeavors has done something heroic and is therefore a hero. For example, a baseball player breaks a long held record such as the home run record and he is hailed as a modern day hero. The truth be told, he is a great baseball, he has done a magnificent job at playing baseball,and hitter homers, but most probably has done nothing heroic in breaking said record. Another person maybe a doctor, a surgeon, who operates in a big hospital on a child and saves his life in a difficult new operation. The doctor often gets high praise from his/her colleagues, from the patient, from the parents of the child, from friends and relatives, and from the media. Many, especially the family of the child who was saved, see the doctor as a hero. Again, sorry to disappoint you, said doctor most likely does not qualify as a hero. The doctor probably is an excellent surgeon, someone who did a wonderful job, and who deserves lots of credit and thanks, but does not deserve the title of hero.
The term hero is an objective term. is is not one that was meant to be, or should be, subjective to the whim of the recipient of a good deed that does not meet those qualifiers. Great, fabulous, wonderful, competent, astute, lucky, skilled, proficient are all terms that fit the baseball players, doctors, and others to whom folks today all too often apply the moniker of hero. A true hero is a rarer bird than any of those you spot everyday, although a potential hero can be found among any flock because anyone can achieve heroism through a heroic act or acts. The commonality between heroism, heroic acts, and those other more mundane things things I mentioned above is that they all have some sense of being of impressive: size, intensity, effort, strength, duration. Heroism though goes beyond that, and any heroic act is one that requires much more than being impressive.
Heroism, besides being simply impressive, is truly outstanding act of bravery, (physical, mental, or moral) that is carried out not only in the face of adversity but usually in the face of overwhelming danger, and often while the person who is doing the act has already been afflicted by injury, pain or great difficulty. In addition a truly heroic act, although not always meant to be such by the hero at the time of the action, is one that supremely noble. It often subjects the hero to the distinct possibility of self sacrifice of life, limb or well being in order to achieve a higher purpose than the good of the person who does the heroic act. In other words a heroic act is usually an act of great loyalty to something above and beyond the individuality of the hero, to a greater cause than even to his/her family, close friends, job, team, and so forth. So again let me apologize, but breaking The Babe's home run record, while a great accomplishment, was not heroic, nor was breaking the new home run record.
So who then could be called a real hero? I guess there are a lot of people out there who are heroes to one extent or another, even within the definition that I have given; but I choose to look to a man who was laid to rest earlier today. The act that this man carried out was an impressive one indeed. It was also one that was carried out in not only the face of great adversity, but also one in which the hero faced what was overwhelming fear for those around him, they feared that they would lose their lives and some did, bit because this man acted heroically, many were also saved from death with but moments to spare. The hero had to face the same fears as the others, but something inside of him made him different than those around him. Instead of freezing in fear, or running for his life, he advanced toward the danger and did all in his power to protect the others so that they could escape. The hero had been through this before you see, that is he faced overwhelming fear, he felt something long ago, something those others around him did more recently also felt, abject helplessness. He had learned something very important though in his past experience. He learned that sometimes if you do not face danger, then life is not worth living, not your life or the lives of those you love. So he decided to take action, and the actions he took were of great loyalty, loyalty to other people whom he respected and possibly loved, whom he felt were worth saving, whom he felt were worth his own sacrifice – his students. So great was this danger from a raving mad-man that he lost his life in performing his act of heroism, but he saved many others in doing so.
One can only hope, that those whom he saved, and those to whom they tell their tale - of his outstanding heroism – will learn from his example. They will learn that life is just possibly not worth living without great sacrifice, without great loyalty, without true heroes. Today they laid a hero to rest, far away, across the sea, even though his heroism took place here in our own land. May Virginia Tech Professor Liviu Librescu rest in peace: he a husband, a father, a teacher, a survivor, a learned man, a risk taker, a fighter, a good man among good men, a hero among heroes - no greater loyalty could he have shown, no greater sacrifice could he have made. We need more people like him; I can only hope the lesson he taught was well learned by many.
All the best,
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