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Thursday, August 18, 2016

Do You Know A Real Hero? – Reed’s Feed

They are all around us, acting with integrity regardless of the world around them


A weekly roundup of thoughts on the passing scene. 

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(Editor’s note: You can now buy Real Heroes in the FEE Store)

In about a month, ISI Books will release Real Heroes: Inspiring True Stories of Courage, Character and Conviction by yours truly. I’ve never been more excited about a book I’ve authored or edited than I am about this one. At the risk of coming across as a little self-promotional, I’d like to try to get some of you readers excited too.

Chris Long, president of the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, penned a fine Foreword to the book. Advance copies of the manuscript were shared this summer with 20 friends, including Senator Rand Paul, Steve Forbes, Walter Williams, Jim DeMint, Peter Goettler, Anne Bradley, Magatte Wade, Romina Boccia, Daniel Hannan, Burt Folsom and Fr. Robert Sirico. They loved it! You can see the endorsements of all 20 herePre-order information is also available there.

The book contains 40 chapters, each one focusing on one or more heroic individuals (illustrations included) from ancient times to the present day. Courage is among the common threads because heroes are rarely, if ever, timid and retiring. If a hero has to stick his neck out to get a job done, he does it. He ventures forth in ways and directions the less-brave will not dare. In so doing, he or she provides an uplifting example. “Courage is contagious,” evangelist Billy Graham once said. “When a brave man takes a stand, the spines of others are often stiffened.”

Over a year beginning in April 2015, I wrote an essay each week for publication on FEE.org under the “Real Heroes” banner. Many of those essays are now chapters in the book, but you’ll find new material as well. For instance, bullet points at the end of each chapter not only summarize the content but serve as a charge to the reader too. You’ll learn what made each hero important, and what qualities of that person are worth emulating.

Relating stories of heroic people, I hope and believe, can encourage the proliferation of the traits we admire in heroes—especially those traits that are indispensable to peace and freedom. I would like nothing better than for heroism to become so common as to be the norm, not the exception. Toward that end, here are a few random snippets from the book:

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The book opens with a chapter on Marcus Tullius Cicero: He was the greatest citizen of the greatest ancient civilization, Rome. He was its most eloquent orator and its most distinguished man of letters. He was elected to its highest office. More than anyone else, Cicero introduced to Rome the best ideas of the Greeks. More of his written and spoken work survives to this day—including hundreds of speeches and letters—than that of any other historical figure before AD 1000. Most important, he gave his life for peace and liberty as the greatest defender of the Roman Republic before it plunged into the darkness of a welfare-warfare state. If I could choose any ten people in all of history that I could go back in time and spend an hour with, Cicero would definitely be one of them.

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Mercy Otis Warren wrote the first important historical account of the period in American history from 1765 to 1789. President Jefferson ordered copies for himself and for every member of his cabinet. You’ll learn in Chapter 6 of the consequential events that took place in her living room during the run-up to conflict with Britain and why she’s regarded as “the conscience of the Revolution.”

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Adam Smith and Frederic Bastiat, no strangers to readers of FEE.org, make appearances in the book, as does a U.S. Treasury Secretary and a German Chancellor with whom Smith and Bastiat could have found favor. Sports heroes who battled opponents both on and off the field are here too, such as tennis player Althea Gibson and boxer Joe Louis. In an age when blacks and women were expected to take a back seat to white men, a few like Madam C. J. Walker and Martha Coston proved themselves as great entrepreneurs and inventors. My love of Poland shows in chapters about Fr. Jerzy Popieluszko and Witold Pilecki, who bravely resisted tyranny and paid the ultimate price for it.

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Heroes possess courage, character and conviction—to varying degrees, to be sure—not for one brief moment when an emergency arises but as a part of their very make-up. For every one big deed a hero is widely known for, he or she quite often is busy performing many small ones too, sometimes known only to himself.

This book is not a work of “hero worship.” My subjects are all mortal. While I attempt to bring out the best of each one, their flaws and foibles could fill a hefty book for sure. It should be self-evident that you don’t have to be perfect or divine to be a hero. Who in his right mind doesn’t yearn for a world where at least some people live their lives as exemplars worth admiring? Fortunately, a world without heroes is neither the one in which we live nor one to which we should aspire.

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Quotables from Real Heroes:

“A day, an hour, of virtuous liberty is worth a whole eternity in bondage” – Cato the Younger.

“An unjust law is no law at all” – Augustine.

“Among a people generally corrupt, liberty cannot long exist” – Edmund Burke.

“What shall I do? Shall I be inactive and permit prejudice, the mother of abominations, to remain undisturbed? Or shall I venture to enlist in the ranks of those who with the Sword of Truth dare hold combat with prevailing iniquity?” – Prudence Crandall.

Every individual should try to diminish, by whatever peaceful means his ingenuity may devise, the power of government—any government—to tell him what to do” – John Patric.

“It is not enough for a Christian to condemn evil, cowardice, lies, and use of force, hatred, and oppression. He must at all times be a witness to and defender of justice, goodness, truth, freedom, and love. He must never tire of claiming these values as a right both for himself and others” – Fr. Jerzy Popieluszko.

“Place the lives of children in their formative years, despite the convictions of their parents, under the intimate control of experts appointed by the state, force them to attend schools where the higher aspirations of humanity are crushed out, and where the mind is filled with the materialism of the day, and it is difficult to see how even the remnants of liberty can subsist” – J. Gresham Machen.


  • Lawrence W. Reed is FEE's President Emeritus, having previously served for nearly 11 years as FEE’s president (2008-2019). He is also FEE's Humphreys Family Senior Fellow and Ron Manners Global Ambassador for Liberty. His Facebook page is here and his personal website is lawrencewreed.com.