Summers while in college, I worked 80 hours a week trying to make President’s Club in sales. On my eighteenth birthday, I did it and rode my bike home on top of the world feeling like a hero -- a feeling of elation the next forty years have never matched.
The word hero is bounced around too often. A Gold Star mother deserves honor, but is she a hero? She faces tragedy, but why more than any other grieving mother? The children of our downed veterans face many more challenges than the parents.
Rep. Sam Johnson is retiring soon … a real hero. His demeanor and his bio understate the sacrifices he made during a lifetime of service to all of us:
… a decorated war hero and native Texan, ranks among the few Members of Congress to fight in combat. During his 29-year career in the U.S. Air Force … combat missions in both the Korean and Vietnam Wars … nearly seven years as a Prisoner of War in Hanoi, including 42 months in solitary confinement…. established a home-building business in North Dallas from scratch ...
While Sen. John McCain’s official biography leads with hero status, most Americans have never heard of the greater accomplishments of Johnson. Both were captured and suffered, but Johnson did far more than his Arizona colleague who merely claims that in addition to capture “entered the Naval Academy in June of 1954. He served in the United States Navy until 1980.”
Civil rights leaders are also called heroes. Last week Roy Innis, a personal friend who walked with Martin Luther King, died. Innes led the Council of Racial Equality (CORE) when leadership of a civil rights organization did make one a hero. He spoke truth to power not just in his efforts to change the establishment for the better but within the civil rights movement itself. He rejected violence and socialism in the late 60s as other civil rights leaders moved left and he died as he had lived, a Republican.
CORE’s annual Martin Luther King Day dinners in New York brought together those who admired Innes for who he was and what he did for racial equality. The left AND the right … top politicians of several generations, movie stars, CEOs of every political stripe and creed, all races from almost every continent … CORE accomplished what most civil rights groups only claim.
President Trump has been roundly criticized by the left for mixing it up with Georgia Congressman John Lewis, who leads with that hero of the civil rights movement status and erroneously claimed to be the last survivor to walk with MLK long before he was. Unlike Innis and MLK for that matter, Mr. Lewis moved left and has spent the bulk of his political career as a run-of-the-mill liberal Democratic Congressman. Does a protestor deserve a lifetime pass with hero status? Lewis has called the last two Republican presidents “illegitimate.”
Mr. Lewis finds offensive so much about the new president that it is difficult to grasp the depth of his outrage, but that Mr. Trump is insufficiently bellicose in dealing with Russia irks him. That Trump actually nominated a white Southern Republican senator to be the next Attorney General seems racist on its face to him. Mr. Lewis and his pals recently shut-down Senator Sessions’ district office, delaying caseworkers who help individuals all day, often the poor. Mr. Lewis wants to be judged by a few days in his life as a hero forever, and is comfortable judging Mr. Sessions for remarks he may or may not have made forty years ago, in a few seconds, not a lifetime of fairness and achievement.
When my mother was five, her older siblings took her on a long ride to Louisiana State University to enroll their cousin. Potential violence a distinct possibility, they crossed picket lines. In 1954, Ernest N. “Dutch” Morial became the first black to graduate from LSU Law School, then the first African-American mayor of New Orleans, 1978 to 1986, while I was in college then working for Reagan.
Men and women do brave things, see history, grieve over lost children, but only a lifetime of achievement makes one a hero, and “civil rights leader” Dutch would be the first to say you keep plugging and serving.
John Glenn went into space as the oldest and youngest astronaut, but as senator was wrong more than right. He was a great astronaut, I will hand him that, but did that one flight immunize him from criticism for a lifetime? I think not.
Curt Schilling was one of the best baseball pitchers of our time. His baseball career should earn him the Hall of Fame, but instead, Schilling lost his ESPN sportscaster contract for the sin of making a right of center, pro-Trump comment. Schilling is undeterred and as vocal as ever! For lifetime hero achievements, Johnson, Innis and Morial deserve it, with Schilling on a direct path. And as 2018 comes up, all one can say is, “Run, Curt, Run” for his consideration of elected office.
Americans believe that achievement determines class; we are not born into it. When we lose the context of hero as a fleeting story we lose the incredible qualities that make us strive. But what can we expect after a president that says: “Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you've got a business – you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen.”