Looking back at the clamorous times in the history of our nation, there have been countless heroes who rose up to the challenges and passed on legacies to their fellow citizens. Those legacies of invaluable courage and selflessness are alive even today along with the memories of those distinct individuals whose profound acts are worthy of remembrance. Such heroes include Martin Luther King Jr., Clara Barton, Susan B. Anthony, and many more.

Even though we’ve have brilliant examples of heroism in the past, the current generation of Americans has a somewhat misconstrued idea of what constitutes a hero. Nowadays, we place movie stars and other celebrities on a pedestal and exalt them as our heroes or role models. Gone are the days when a child, upon being asked to name the hero he idolized, would name Malcolm X or some other entity whose work had etched the proof of his existence in this world for decades or centuries to come. They’ve been replaced by the shining stars of Hollywood by the younger generation that is blinded by the light of celebrity fame.

There’s another batch of people who are being called heroes nowadays: fire fighters and police officers. What is it that distinguishes this group of people from others? And are they really deserving of the title of a ‘hero’?

Without a question, fire fighters and police officers work for a noble cause and they demonstrate tremendous courage while doing their job. However, one might point out that these individuals like all other upright citizens who work for their earnings, are merely offering their services in return for wages. It is their job to fight fires or regulate and prevent crime, and it is their job because they chose to do so. How can we then justify the distinction between their jobs as being those of heroism, whereas others are not?

We simply cannot. Putting certain few occupations above others devalues the importance of the rest of the trades and the people who perform them, even though all of them are paid for their services accordingly. Fire fighters and the officers on police force certainly should be lauded for their day-to-day risk-taking and bravery, but their representation of heroism is quite different and somewhat inferior when compared to the long line of heroes who’ve made an impact in the past.

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The key principles of heroism are courage, selflessness, and a lasting impact. A hero is someone larger than life, who we look up to in order to find a direction in life. They are worthy of being emulated by all generations, whose responsibility is to mold themselves into principles that those individuals possessed. Clara Barton, mentioned earlier, was the unprecedented living example of philanthropy in her time. Through her selfless services and dedication to helping the wounded troops, she founded the American Red Cross in 1881. Martin Luther King Jr., who was the God of civil rights movement, used nonviolence and his ingenious oratory skills to sway the nation into action and determination. Such are the figures worthy of being called a hero because the impact they created in their lifetime several decades ago is still alive and noticeable.

We as Americans have not been looking hard enough, or in the right places, to find our heroes for today. Nevertheless, one thing remains true: Heroes do exist in our society; we just need to look harder.

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