Turn to your heroes

Matthew White

One of the most important words in the English language is “hero.”

This word speaks of someone with distinguished ability and noble qualities; it speaks of someone who is selfless, humble and high-achieving.

But I would argue there’s an essential part of the word “hero” that is left out of the above definition. And that is how the person inspires us to be better than we actually are: A hero is someone who motivates us to go above and beyond what is normal for us.

As college students, we are in the unique position to mold ourselves into the people we would like to become. And while it can be a pretty messy process, there’s almost no one better to turn to than the people we consider heroes. As we confront challenges and take advantage of opportunities, our heroes can serve as guides.

The truth is, a hero can be nearly anyone. My heroes tend to be a mix of people, some of them special for their actions and others because of the strength of their characters.

My first hero is my dad who sets a great example of responsibility. He’s reliable when no other person is. He struggles every day with a job he dislikes and sacrifices a lot so I can be here at school, pursuing a better future. These qualities – selflessness, reliability and responsibility – are definitely heroic.

Other heroes of mine are Rep. Mike Pence and Sen. James Inhofe, who are wonderful advocates of freedom. Truly, they represent leadership in an extremely difficult time. If we had more men like the two of them representing us in Washington, D.C., then the entire nation would be in much better shape.

And then there’s Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. Scalia is a great advocate for religious liberty, consistently standing against those who would strip it from America’s public life in his opinions. Thomas, meanwhile, has achieved great things as a black man when all of society was set against him.

And I certainly can’t forget the best man to never get elected president – Barry Goldwater – and the man who followed on his coattails 20 years later, Ronald Reagan. These two men helped establish a durable philosophy of self-reliance and self-responsibility.

The last hero I’ll highlight was a great general and military leader and an imperfect president. Dwight D. Eisenhower led American troops in a terrible but necessary cause – the great war against fascism: World War II. It is thanks to his strong leadership that we are all free today.

When choosing heroes I like to think big. I turn to people who have strong moral traits or who have accomplished significant things in the face of real challenges. When given a heavy burden, each of these men asked for stronger backs rather than lighter loads, and that is definitely heroic.

It’s almost a given that different people will possess different heroes just as they have different ideas about everything else. More important than who your hero is, is that you’ve thought about what makes them heroic.

Matthew White is a senior magazine journalism major and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].