Celluloid heroes and a few live ones (a reprise)

The following is a repeat of a post I wrote about ten years ago. Since heroes are hard to come by and the word superstar is over used, here are some movie heroes along with a few real ones.

My daughter is reading “To Kill a Mockingbird” in her high school English class, so we watched the movie the other night. As it is one of my favorites, we actually own the book and movie. Giving credit for part of the title to the old Kinks song, “Celluloid Heroes,” I thought it might be good to take a break from the issues of the day to talk about reel and real heroes.

Atticus Finch is one of the great heroes captured in print and on screen. Gregory Peck plays him so well it is hard to imagine someone else in that role. There are many wonderful parts in the movie, but the two that move me most are when the Reverend makes Scout stand up in the court room because “your father is passing” and when Jem is told by a consoling neighbor that “there are people meant to do our unpleasant tasks in this world… your father is one of them.”

I told my daughter Atticus Finch is my idea of a true hero. He does not have to carry a sword, although he may as noted below, but is courageous in a time when it is far easier to do otherwise. Standing up for what is right when others don’t have the gumption to do so, makes a hero live on in our memories. Some of my other celluloid heroes would include, but not be limited to:

– Robert Roy McGregor of “Rob Roy” also one of my favorite movies. While he carried a sword that was just a tool needed for those times. The key lesson he passed on through words and deed are “honor is a gift you give yourself.”

– Henry Fonda’s character in “Twelve Angry Men” who stood alone against 11 impatient jurors until one gave him a chance to be heard. When we all take our jobs seriously and purposefully like he did, we will be better for it, even if it takes more time.

– Rick in “Casablanca,” another favorite movie. He is a harder one to figure as hero at first, but rallies in the end. I think his imperfections make him more believable, so when he does the right thing, we are behind him.

– Sergeant Wendell White in “LA Confidential.” Like Rick, a man of imperfections, but he stands up for those treated unjustly and is relentless to find the truth.

– Terry Malloy in “On the Waterfront” is another man of imperfections that comes to mind as he stood up against the mob on the loading docks.

There are countless others, especially when the movies are about real people – Erin Brockovich, Norma Rae, Jimmy Braddock, William Wallace, etc.The stories play the best and the heroes stand tallest when they are playing against the odds. These real people lead me to some true heroes of mine, some of whom movies have been made about.

Gandhi and Martin Luther King are two that come readily to mind. My blog friend at “News of the Times” describes herself as a pacifist at heart.  MLK admired Gandhi so much that he adopted his “passive resistance” mantra to shine a spot light on unfairness and bigotry. Rosa Parks became another hero for similar reasons by refusing to give up her seat on the bus when it would have been easier to do so.

Nelson Mandela galvanized a country when it could have been so easy to divide it. I would have mentioned the movie “Invictus” before, but wanted to highlight him more here. His is the best example of inclusion and how he saw South Africa as a greater entity unified rather than separate. I wish our religious leaders would follow his lead on behalf of the LGBT community. The fewer “they” words we use the greater we will be.

John Adams is a true hero as well, but I remember what he did before the American Revolution as even more heroic. He defended in an American court of law British soldiers who had reacted appropriately when accosted by American rioters. His point is we stand for truth and justice and if we did not let these men go free, we would be going against our principles. This was against the strong will of the people led by his cousin Samuel Adams.

Abraham Lincoln is a hero of many and I am included in this mix. To do what he did when he did stands the test of time. Thomas Jefferson also is included in mine and many others list of heroes.  His principles drove much what we hold dear in our Declaration of Independence and Constitution.

A couple of names you may not know are Elliott Richardson and Archibald Cox. I would encourage you to look them up on Wikipedia.  They were leading the case against Richard Nixon after being appointed by him. When Nixon tried to strong arm them into pursuing a more tolerable path to justice, they resigned. They were there to do their jobs as they owed it to the American people to find out what happened before, during and after Watergate.

I recognize I am picking a select few heroes, but I wanted to get people thinking about the heroes they hold dear to their hearts. Truth be told, we have heroes we interact with day-to-day, be it a teacher, social worker, advocate, nurse, doctor or parent. These are the people I admire most. Heroes may be someone who is doing what he or she has to do to get by and try to help others. So, thank them, help them, applaud them and emulate them. When we see injustice, let’s call it out and try to do right by each other. If we had a few more Atticus Finch’s in this world, we would be in a much better place.

Another hero has left us – Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela has died in peace at the age of 95. One of the true heroes of many, Mandela helped forge a new South Africa and, in so doing, showed how leadership should be done. It is a lesson Mohammed Morsi should have followed when he won the Presidency in Egypt. If he had followed Mandela’s inclusive governance, he might still be in power. Attached is an excellent summary of “Seven Ways Nelson Mandela changed South Africa.” http://worldnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/12/05/17519665-7-ways-nelson-mandela-changed-south-africa?lite

Instead of punishing white South Africans for the years of apartheid, when elected he made sure that he galvanized all South Africans toward a common purpose. In so doing, he created a new South Africa which brought two cultures together. The movie “Invictus” is an excellent example of how he made sure that the South African rugby team continued to flourish and be an example to others. Had he failed to bring his country together, South Africa would be unrecognizable to what it looks like today and might resemble other African countries in constant turmoil.

Mandela belongs with an elite group of humanitarians and civil rights leaders. People who fought for the impoverished and the disenfranchised: Mother Teresa, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, William Wilberforce, Susan B. Anthony, Francis of Assisi and Abraham Lincoln are several heroes who fought for others. At great risk, they stood up against bigger and well-entrenched obstacles as they fought for the rights and dignity of people. I recognize there are others who have done wonderful things over periods of time, but I wanted to highlight these important few.

I am hopeful that we all take the opportunity to celebrate the life and wisdom of Mandela. He did so much for more than just South Africa. We are better place for his life work and example.

Bobby Murcer – not a star, but a hero nonetheless

One of my childhood heroes was a baseball player out of Oklahoma City who had both the fortune and misfortune to follow in the footsteps of Mickey Mantle. Like Mantle, Bobby Murcer was not only from the same state, but he started in centerfield for the New York Yankees where Mantle roamed so long and so well, before his body breakdown sent him to play first base. I rooted for Murcer as I did for Mantle. I wanted for him to succeed like his predecessor both individually and as a teammate. Yet, I continued to root for him throughout his career that led him away from the Yankees and then back again.

You see Bobby Murcer was not the star everyone had hoped him to be. There are few Mickey Mantles and when we witness them we should greatly appreciate them. Murcer was a simply a very good ballplayer and teammate regardless of where he played. At 5’11” and 160 lbs., he was not a physically imposing person. Yet, he was an All Star for five years and won a Gold Glove for excellent fielding in one year. He also drove home over 1,000 runs with his hits and scored just underneath a 1,000 runs with his feet. And, along the way, he hit over 250 home runs. For the non-baseball fans, I don’t want to make this about statistics, though.

You see, in spite of not being a star or idol, Bobby Murcer was one of my heroes.  He died in 2008 at the age of 62, so he is not around to read this. However, I believe there are many like me who just rooted for this guy because of who he was not and who he was. There are very few true stars in life. Most of the successful people are very good at what they do and work hard at. Murcer exemplified this. Yet, he was more than that. He was a good teammate and friend. This came to bear on one of the worst days and greatest nights in Yankee history and it had nothing to do with winning one of their many World Series championships.

It was the day another Yankee was buried after a plan crash that killed him – Thurman Munson. Like Murcer, Munson came up with the Yankees at the same time. Munson had greater success than Murcer on the field, but was very similar in that both were of the same ilk – hard-working good ball players. And, both were heroes for the same reason. On August 6, 1979, Munson was buried in front of his teammates in Canton, OH. Murcer gave a eulogy having just rejoined the Yankees a few months before. That says a lot about their friendship. Murcer quoted Angelo Patri about Munson:

“The life of a soul on earth lasts longer than his departure. He lives in your life and the life of others who knew him.”

The same could be said about Murcer upon his passing. I could end the story there, but the magic of the evening must also be told. The Yankees flew from Canton to New York to play a game on national TV that night against the Baltimore Orioles. Note, this was before the plethora of games on TV, so it was a grander event which included Howard Cosell as one of the announcers who always played a big crowd and event. Billy Martin, the manager was not going to play Murcer, but the latter insisted. Down 4 to 0 late in the game, Murcer played like there was an angel sitting on his shoulder. He first hit a three run homer to close the gap. And, if that were not magical enough, he ended the game with a two run single to win it for the Yankees and Munson’s memory. I am tingling as a type this as it was truly something to behold.

Bobby Murcer was not likely a hero to many, but on that night he was a hero to all who watched. And, he is my hero forever. A toast to all who are good at what they do and work hard to be the very best at it. Thanks for letting me share this. Happy Thanksgiving all.