Sunday, March 05, 2006

Personal Heroes

[Yeah, I know this is late, but I figured better late than never...]

Two of my personal heroes are Harriet Tubman and Wilma Rudolph. Wilma is the easier to explain: She was on the 1936 Munich Olympics American Track & Field Team. Hitler had, at the start of the Olympics, pointed out that the Aryan race would crush every other country. The Track & Field team did the most serious damage to the speech, as the blacks were one of the least significant races and should have fallen easily to the Aryans.

Instead of falling, the American Track & Field team won gold medal after medal. Wilma Rudolph was one of the standouts, doing almost as well Jesse Owens. Sometimes the most serious defeat doesn’t require a battle or war; by being who they were, and doing what they did, they were able to defeat Hitler. A valuable lesson for those that think that battles can only be won through violence.

Harriet Tubman is a bit more complex. She was an escaped slave that became the best conductor of the Underground Railroad, with over 160 successful trips and no failures (she would have been killed had she been caught). She became a major voice for the Black Civil Movement after the Civil War forced her into retirement.

The important thing about Harriet is that she did what she even though she had epilepsy. On a few missions, she suffered seizures that caused some panic, but she came back. She didn’t apologize for who she was or what she had, and did it anyway. She persevered and did she what did because she felt she had to, even though she had a potentially life-threatening disease (having to deal with seizures in the middle of being chased by guys with rifles can be very life-threatening). Her personal bravery is what matters, and her ability to improvise under stress, as well as taking steps to make sure that the mission succeeded.

Both women were major heroes, in two vastly separate ways. If I needed two better examples of people that succeeded, and thrived under pressure, and did what they needed to do, I can’t think of two better examples. That they were black women is merely an interesting coincidence, and not as necessary as that they were who they needed to be.