Jeremy Hernandez refused to have a photo op with the President. He refused to be used by the White House for any political grandstanding. Jeremy is the young man who kicked out the back door of the bus and saved 50 children when the bridge collapsed in Minneapolis. All the Presidential candidates should learn a lesson from Jeremy. It’s not about taking a picture and basking in someone else’s glory. It’s not about inviting someone, who has suffered some tragedy or performed some act of heroism, to endorse a campaign or a policy, or a candidate. People who are heroes don’t necessarily need to be thanked in a public forum where the agenda is about good by association. For Jeremy the best news is that a school is going to acknowledge his quick thinking by giving him the opportunity to finish school—which will present him with many opportunities in his future.
What exactly does it take to be a hero? Are there different degrees of heroism? And does it take some catastrophic event to make a hero? I’m not sure. Yes there are. And no it doesn’t. There are jobs that, by circumstances can put people in a place where there is tremendous hero awarding potential. Like police officers, or fireman, doctors, or aides in health care facilities. But there are also people who are heroes who go pretty much unnoticed and they have real impact on lives. My friends Pam and Joyce are heroes. They teach in urban schools where there are metal detectors on the doors and attitude in the classrooms. Joyce is a school counselor. Pam is an English teacher. They both chose to teach in schools where not a great many creative educators want to be. Pam could certainly teach in a private school or in an upscale community where they would support her incredible creativity with money and resources. Joyce could probably do the same or maybe even private counseling for rich troubled youths—there are plenty of those around and in these days of “My kid is entitled”, she would probably have a lucrative practice. But they chose to be in an environment where they might just make a change in some young person’s life—they might make a difference. I think that everyday they go to work they are committing an act of heroism. The White House hasn’t called them for a photo op. I wonder why.
When my Dad awoke every morning he knew that he faced a day of challenge. As his disability was such that he had no use of his arms or legs but his mind was fine. He knew he couldn’t turn the page on the book he was reading, and he loved to read. He knew that he couldn’t change the station on the television when he didn’t like a program—not even with a zapper. He couldn’t eat a hot dog without help and he couldn’t run along the beach, or dance, or travel – all things he loved. But he faced the day with the kind of courage I could never have. He made jokes about his disability and he laughed at how ridiculous the whole thing seemed to him. He never let you know when he was depressed and he never looked for pity. He was an avid listener and interested in everything happening in the world. No one ever thought of him as being sick, he simply couldn’t walk. When he died, he did it without much fanfare. He seemed happy for the release but he never made anyone feel as though they didn’t do enough. He was truly a hero. As far as I remember, the White House never called and asked him to take a picture with the President.
Karen had breast cancer. I say had because she has had surgery and radiation and is now on some horrible medications but she insists that she is fine and all her friends are convinced she is right. When she found out the tumors she discovered were malignant she didn’t sulk at home and feel sorry for herself. We went out to dinner at the Reservoir Tavern, a favorite Italian restaurant in Boonton N.J., and we drank a great deal of wine and ate an enormous dinner. There was no, “Oh poor me”. There was only upbeat conversation and hopeful discussion about the future. And Karen decided that she would use her experience and her work to help educate other women about breast cancer and in fact, breast health. I have known Karen since college. She has been widowed three times (but she says she divorced number 2 before he died.) She worked hard, changed careers, made a good living, and raised her son and went on J date. There has never been any whining permitted in her presence. She has been who she is for as long as I’ve known her. She is indefatigable and she is a hero. She hasn’t mentioned a call from the White House to ask her to take a photo. Not even with the Secretary of Health & Human Services. Breast cancer is kind of a girlie issue and so many people have it, who would admire the President for taking notice? Actually, I know a great many people.
I could go on and on—but you know that. Suffice to say, I think that political people need to look beyond the obvious to recognize people who might not qualify as disaster heroes, or sports figures, or even military people who are ready to sacrifice their lives. I think they need to identify the people who are heroes because they face every day with courage. We’re just sayin...Iris