Heroes and National Pride

(Please take a look at this excellent post on Jamaica’s National Heroes Park:


Close friends and avid readers of the blog will tell you that I study Japanese on the side. It’s a very interesting language and culture, and it is always cool to say you know how to say or doing something unique and different as a hobby. Last month, my Sensei (Japanese teacher) got a group of 10 students together for one her semi-annual speech contests. Here, we get together, each person gives a 2-3 minute speech in Japanese, field questions from the audience and we sing a song as a group.

My topic this time around was on the Seven National Heroes of Jamaica. I had a lot of fun writing this speech because of the topic itself – the speech writing part was torturous because it was in another language. While writing the speech itself I saw a chance to reflect on national pride and why it seems like it takes special events or circumstances to rekindle that in people.

Every country is rich in history. Most have parts of their history that they would like to forget but where instrumental in defining that nation’s identity. It is often why things such as sporting events or globally recognized individual achievements are such an amazing showcase for national pride. It is one of the reasons why I really like New York City.  I was talking to a client recently, a French au père who had moved to NYC last fall, that this is the time of year to look forward to – when all the parades will be on display, showcasing great national pride.

As I dug deeper and worked on my speech, I started to think:  what does a hero look like in our contemporary society?

Boy, that’s a definition that has become as widely various as the people who keep heroes in their vocabulary. For some, it’s an athlete who made it to the pros from the same means streets that the kids play in who wear their sneakers or jerseys. For others, it’s a successful artist, music or poet who is creating works in a genre that is the flavor of the moment. There is a group who would say it is a dad, mom or mentor who holds down a job, makes time for them, and is able to protect their family.

Sometimes heroes show up in unexpected forms – ordinary folks who are extraordinary when the moment calls for it. Capt Sullinger with the Miracle on the Hudson was a quick thinking veteran pilot who made the right calls in a high pressure situation, landing his plane in the river and saving 160 lives. Last year there was an off duty cop who spotted in an armed robbery in process in the South Bronx who stepped in without any backup or bulletproof vest. One high-speed car case and shoot out later, one suspect was killed, another caught, and the citizen was saved. Kudos to the girlfriend who stayed cool and drove the whole time; she somehow managed to get her boyfriend (the cop) to the hospital after being critically wounded in the firefight. To me, she was as much of a hero in that situation as the cop was.

Sometimes this fast paced life can cause his to lose sight of what a hero is, or how much pride we have in our culture. Our lives are so busy that it takes a moment of great sacrifice, compassion, performance under pressure or selflessness to remind us that heroes exist. It also takes a great celebration or crowning achievement for us to remember where we’re from. Still, we should take a moment to get back in touch with our roots and to recognize both the heroes among us.


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