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Define "Hero"

What does the word "hero" mean to you?

I've been pushing one definition for quite some time now:

A hero takes personal risks for the common good.

It's a classic definition, rooted in the traditions of cultures around the world. Yet we keep calling ball players and actors and musicians "heroes." Can you think of any such people who are risking anything for the common good? We've honored a few as Giraffe Heroes, not for their careers but for their actual heroism. Try our profile of defensive back Mel Blount to see what I mean.

Maybe there's a solution to the vocabulary problem in the popularity of the show, America Idol. "Idol" expresses admiration for someone's accomplishments or talents. So does "icon." (My own admiration list would start with Yo Yo Ma ~ such an excellent musician/icon/idol that in my next life, I want to come back as a cellist.)

A charming new book was published last week, Heroes for My Son. Some of the people profiled in it fit the classic definition; others are simply people of admirable achievement. They're all good people for anyone's child to learn about, but I was delighted when a listener to an All Things Considered review of the book challenged the author's use of "hero." The listener pointed out that risk and the common good were missing from many of the stories in the book. Without those factors, you may be looking at a fabulous person, but you're not looking at a hero.

Any time you want to look at the real thing, head for Giraffe. And keep reading right now.

Yours for honoring the truly heroic, Ann Medlock

A Hero in the Media

Danny Schechter has been a Giraffe since his days of reporting what was really going on in South Africa's dreadful apartheid days. He's never stopped finding and reporting what he sees, no matter how annoying that may be to the powers-that-be and no matter how far he has to step away from living a comfortable, well-paid life. Independent and uncontrolled, Schechter follows no corporate or payroll directives ~ he calls it like he sees it ~ loudly, so others can know what he's found. Now he's done chapter and verse on "the crime of our time." His book Plunder details the thievery that has caused the world's economy to collapse. It's not a pretty tale.

A Hero in Elder Care

Kathy Freund risked everything she had to start and maintain theIndependent Transportation Network, a service that's impacted thousands of lives for the good. If there are elders in your family or neighborhood, you've got to click through for Freund's profile and for what ITN is doing to be sure seniors can keep moving about in the world safely. Even if you don't know any elders, it's a great story. Enjoy. Give thanks for creative heroes like Freund.


"Courage is being scared to death and saddling up anyway."

~ John Wayne

The quote may well be an urban legend ~ nobody seems to be able to find the movie in which he said this. But it's fun to imagine The Duke's snarly macho voice talking about being scared to death. (You don't know John Wayne? Oy! Look him up. Talk about an icon...)

The Fine Print

The mavens at every nonprofit advisory group tell us that we must always always always put our donate button down here. Our history has been to give you stuff every month and to just once a year ask you to give back. Now we're going to see if the experts are right. We'll put the button here every month. If you feel like hitting it, fine. (Actually, we'd be thrilled.) But if you've given recently, know that you're appreciated--treasured, in fact. We just don't have the resources to separate current donors when we send these emails out. And if you're a commended Giraffe Hero, you never have to do a thing more than keep your own work going--you're close to forbidden to hit the button.

You know what else is really helpful? Forwarding this to friends and family. Nobody seems to like the forwarding function at the foot of the message (there are tracking stats that tell us what people do with these messages, so we actually know this) but if you use your own e-mail software to send this on, that's a real help. We need to build this list, so thank you for getting your people to Subscribe!