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Last Update: 01-11-2009
Last Update: 01-11-2009
Fact polls 30 well-known Americans to determine who they currently hold in high esteem.

Well, my hero is not Jules Feiffer, nor is it Lenny Bruce. It would be Mickey Mantle, because he continues to do what he does despite unbelievable physical problems. And he does it well. Another heroic character - even though I may disagree with him - is Lyndon Johnson, because despite tremendous hostile public opinion, he does what he thinks is right. That makes a man heroic. It's easy to do what people want you to do. It would be the easiest thing in the world for Johnson to say, "We're pulling out of Vietnam." Everyone would applaud. But heroism is often the ability to brave public opinion. He's not popular, so he'll hardly be considered great until history finally looks at his record. But I'm not a hero-worshiper, and when I find, by definition, Johnson a heroic figure, that doesn't mean he's my hero. A large number of people in the 50's didn't like Eisenhower. So it wasn't heroic for Mort Sahl to be anti-Eisenhower. It would have been more heroic for him to be pro-Eisenhower. For example, a heroic writer would be a guy that writes a pro-segregation play. We always judge heroic figures as those whom we agree with. You have two camps today, the pro-Vietnam camp and the anti-Vietnam camp. Almost all writers and performers are anti-Vietnam. But that doesn't make it right. It's always easier to be anti-war than pro-war. Roosevelt had that in the. 30's when he was trying to get America interested in doing something about Hitler. He found that a large number of people, including many high school and college students, branded him a warmonger. I think that the term heroism today has very little meaning because most of us define heroism as the thing we agree with. For example, a John lurch member thinks he's a heroic person because he's fighting against Communism. On the other hand, a person like Joan Baez believes she's heroic because she's maintaining a stand against Vietnam. And they do not even consider the other side. Heroism today is a very lucrative profession. If Paul Krassner suddenly came out and said that maybe some of the sexual laws have some reason, he would lose a large number of his readers. I say that a heroic figure - by the nature of heroism - is an unpopular figure. Take the theoretical figure of Christ. Christ was an unpopular figure in his time. He was popular only to a small group of people. Hence, he could be defined as a heroic figure. In the 30's, for example, when Winston Churchill was warning the world about Hitler, he was a heroic figure, but au unpopular figure. He became popular when it became obvious that Hitler was evil, but what if Hitler had turned out to be a good force in Germany? Churchill wouldn't have been a heroic figure. So it took history to tell that. Now history is beginning to revaluate Truman, and he becomes a better President in the light of what we know now. Only 20 years have passed, and people can see that many of the things that he fought for made him right, and heroic. I suppose a lot of people define John Kennedy as a heroic figure, hut an act of fate doesn't necessarily make a man heroic. Kennedy was tremendously popular, hut he wasn't especially effective. Whenever people tell me that Kennedy was a great President, I ask them, "Okay, what did he do?" And they're at a loss to answer. The fact is, he really didn't get much passed, and he didn't do much. Brit he was incredibly popular, a great performer in an age of show-biz politics. I just wonder whether Kennedy would be considered a hero today if he had been short and fat and if he had worn thick eye-glasses.

Copyright: 1967 Fact Magazine

introduction. It is often said that we live in the Age of the Non-Hero. Our President is callous, our lawmakers are corrupt, our leaders embody none of the ideals that we as individuals and as nation cherish. Perhaps we have only ourselves to blame. As Hawthorne has said, "A hero cannot be a hero unless in a heroic world." And ours is certainly not a heroic world. As a nation we havebecome mistrustful, hyperaggressive and supremly materialistic. Surely this is not the stuff that heroes are made of. Still, hero-worship persists, as it has throughout history, and as it no doubt will in the future. To determine who today's heroes are. Fact polled 30 well-known Americans, all of them leaders in the Arts, Sciences, Politics and Religion - many of them, unwittingly, heroes in their own right. - The Editors

July 1967

Courtesy: Gene Bergmann