During my 45 years of teaching, I eschewed what is known as the Great Man Theory of History– the belief that history can be largely explained by the impact of great men (sometimes even women), or heroes: unique individuals who, due to their natural attributes, such as superior intellect, extraordinary leadership abilities, or divine inspiration, are the reason events happen. Not that I overlooked Napoleon or Hitler, but I managed to cover 19th- century England without assigning anything about Queen Victoria, Gladstone, or Disraeli. Russia: skipped most of the czars. China: no emperors, just Mao. You get the picture.
Had I no heroes of my own? Not really. Then, as I read Alicia Ostriker’s poetry for this issue, I realized that of course Eleanor Roosevelt was – and is – a hero to me. Anyone else? OK. When studying South Africa, it was impossible not to glow about Nelson Mandela. Current heroes: How about Gloria Steinem, Dolores Huerta, Stacey Abrams, LeBron James? As I gradually move from a year-long lockdown to greater engagement with the world, I find I need guidance from people who are doing important things. I need inspiration.
I would love to hear from you, our readers, about your heroes, which is why we have made the topic for the Summer Short Takes section Heroes. You can find the usual rules by clicking on the submissions page.