If I were asked - spontaneously and unprompted - who I admire enough to consider as my “hero”, I’m not sure who I would say… But most Americans have no trouble and are able to name at least one (if not more than one) person.
A recent Harris Poll released last week found that public figures far surpass our immediate relatives and friends for earning our respect, though they take a slight back-step this year – only 49% of adults name a public figure as a hero, compared to 57% in 2001.
These heroes run the gamut from politicians (Barack Obama at #1) to religious figures (Jesus Christ, Mother Theresa, and God at #2, #10, and #11 respectively) and include the occasional every-man turned superstar (Chesley Sullenberger at #9), entertainer (Oprah Winfrey at #20) or businessperson (Bill Gates at #22).
But, here are my key take-aways from our latest 2009 Harris Poll (I am sure you will have others):
1) Politicians get great respect and especially our presidents. We don’t care if you are dead or alive – a Republican or a Democrat. If you run our country, you earn our admiration. 13 of the top 20 are career politicians and 8 of 20 are current or ex-presidents.
2) We honor sacrifice and wisdom through religion - at least 6 out of our top 20 heroes espouse religious or spiritual beliefs to some degree. More on this throughout the week...
3) Oprah – forgive my earlier post two weeks ago, you rock! Oprah is the one and only entertainer on our top 20 list of heroes (albeit lately she has received significant attention for her humanitarian work).
4) Hillary Clinton – you go girl! Ms. Clinton surpassed her husband this year, moving up seventeen slots from 2001 to #12, while Bill moved down six slots to #16.
According to vast majorities of the public, a hero is someone who does what’s right regardless of the consequences, does not give up until the goal is accomplished, does more than what other people expect of him or her, overcomes adversity, and stays level-headed in a crisis.
So, given that… who are your heroes? Did America get it right?