Drew Zahn is a WND news editor who cut his journalist teeth as a member of the award-winning staff of Leadership, Christianity Today's professional journal for church leaders. A former pastor, he is the editor of seven books, including Movie-Based Illustrations for Preaching & Teaching, which sparked his ongoing love affair with film and his weekly WND column, "Popcorn and a (world)view."More ↓Less ↑
What does it mean to be a “hero?”
Ever since WND-TV debuted the new series “Zero to Superhero,” tracking the ordinary, overweight Jeeves Urquhart’s quest to become a real-life superhero, WND readers have sent in comments sounding off on whether Urquhart is on the right path to becoming a hero or sadly misguided.
Some have argued America’s real superheroes don’t wear cape and tights, but battle fatigues and the Stars and Stripes. Others have argued everyday people working for decades to raise their families right are the real superheroes.
Still some have encouraged Urquhart to pursue his quest, like WND reader Keith Daggett, who fended off the critics by commenting, “Hey! This guy got up and did something!”
But now “the smartest woman in the world” has weighed in on what really makes a “hero.”
Marilyn vos Savant
Marilyn vos Savant, author of Parade magazine’s “Ask Marilyn” column since 1986, holds the distinction of being listed in the “Guinness Book of World Records” from 1986-1989 as the record-holder in the category of “Highest IQ (Women).”
Responding to a letter from Martin Hughes of Beaumont, Texas, vos Savant offered the following definition of “hero”: “I’d reserve the title of ‘hero’ for the men and women of superior courage and nobility of purpose who voluntarily take great personal risks (whether privately or professionally) for praiseworthy public acts.”
By that definition, Urquhart may not be a hero yet, but he’s planning on becoming one.
“All you have to do is look at the nightly news,” he continues. “Here in America, we’ve never been so lost as a culture. People are worried. They’re fearful for the future. They yearn for a real superhero. I aim to become one.”
To reach his goal, Urquhart has moved to Durham, N.C., to train with Molotov Mitchell, a weapons specialist and instructor in the Israeli combat technique Krav Maga.
Urquhart is looking to drop over 100 pounds of weight and pick up the skills he’ll need to patrol the streets of Durham, looking to help those in need and assist police in spotting crime, to “voluntarily take great personal risk for praiseworthy public acts,” as vos Savant defined.
Vos Savant’s definition of “hero,” however, didn’t satisfy all her readers.
“The word ‘public’ seems wrong to me,” wrote Kathleen Kuffner of Portland, Ore., in a follow-up to vos Savant’s column. “I believe that a hero is the mail carrier who treks his daily route in the freezing winter or stifling summer without a word of thanks from his patrons. A hero is the father who gets up every day and goes to work to support his family. A hero is a farmer who goes out to the fields in the middle of the night to harvest his crop. A hero is the mother of three pre-school children who gives of herself to the care and feeding of her little ones. You’ll find heros not in political office, but in your next-door neighbor.”
“In my opinion, these people may be honorable and good, but they aren’t heroes,” vos Savant answered. “It’s a sad day when so many people shirk the most basic responsibilities of life that simply being respectable becomes behavior worthy of special attention. In other words, I think the people you describe are doing what they should. A society has weak values when it regards going to work every day and taking care of your family as heroic.”
“For example, if a mother dives into a river to save her struggling child, she isn’t really a hero;” vos Savant reasoned, “but if she dives into a river to save a struggling child unknown to her, she is clearly a hero if she is successful, and if not, she certainly behaved heroically.
“Likewise, acts of self-defense, even when the lives of others also are at stake, do not quite rise to the level of heroism, although they may be courageous,” she continued. “In addition, the degree of individual heroism grows with various factors, such as nobility of purpose, the degree of risk and so on. So wartime itself does not produce heroes; instead, it awakens the giants among us.”