So who are my heroes?

I was talking with a small group of first year students earlier this week, and one of them asked me who were my heroes. There are of course many ways of tackling this question, but I took it to mean that I was being asked to name people whom I particularly admired and, I decided, who were around in my lifetime – so excluding Charles Dickens, William Wilberforce, Charles Babbage, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, and anyone else long gone before I was born.

So here is my little list – as far as I am concerned, all people who made a contribution to the world which left it a more civilised, fair, progressive and humane place. The first is Willy Brandt, German politician, member of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD), and Chancellor of what was then West Germany from 1969 to 1974. In many ways, he could be said to have brought Germany back into the world community from the horrors of Nazism and the guilt that followed: a visionary, tolerant and determined leader, who pursued and found reconciliation.

The second is Desmond Tutu, Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town in South Africa from 1986 to 1996, and a vocal opponent of apartheid but also an advocate for peace and reconciliation.

The third is John Lennon, a complex and sometimes difficult character, but whose music (with Paul McCartney and the other Beatles)  defined a generation and helped push the western world towards a more open and confident culture.

And finally, Richard Branson, whose approach to business made it possible to have a role model for young people in industry and entrepreneurship. And he’s a blogger.

So these were the ‘heroes’ I gave the students, off the top of my head. No doubt there could have been others, and maybe it is of doubtful value to have heroes at all, as this may push a search for values into the realms of celeb culture. But in the end individuals can make a difference, and can influence others to lead a better life. And so, that was my list.


PS. Wendy (see comments) points out that this list didn’t include any women! Many of my women heroes are writers (particularly Rose Macaulay, on whom I may yet blog separately), and maybe some musicians (Joan Baez). On the politics side, they include Hillary Clinton.

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7 Comments on “So who are my heroes?”

  1. Wendymr Says:

    So, just off the top of your head (again), are there any women whom you might consider among your heroes? 😉

  2. universitydiary Says:

    Gee, Wendy – you are right! Addition to post coming up!

  3. tatoca Says:

    this definitely got me thinking… and the fact that i can’t think of a hero on the spot like this says something about me, and probably my generation.

  4. Ultan Says:

    Nobody from Ireland? Westmeath even?

  5. Wendymr Says:

    Thanks for the additions 🙂 For writers, I’d have to go with Anne Bronte for her portrayal of an abusive marriage in an era when wives were absolutely the property of their husbands, and Elizabeth Gaskell, whose social-history novels I much prefer to Dickens’. Politicians… Hillary, yes, but I’d rank Barbara Castle higher, and also add Mary Robinson.

  6. universitydiary Says:

    Wendy, are you suggesting that I was alive for Anne Bronte and Mrs Gaskell?

  7. universitydiary Says:

    Ultan – from Westmeath, it’s got to be Joe Dolan 🙂

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