It is one of my favorite shows, but it’s also a great real-life question. Who are our heroes? According to a Harris Poll conducted among 2634 American adults, the top 20 list includes a few of the regulars like Mother Theresa, God, Billy Graham, Jesus Christ, and Martin Luther King. The list also includes a surprise or two. For example Oprah Winfrey just made it at #20 and Sarah Palin just missed at #21. Bill and Hillary Clinton both made it but Hillary is at #12 (just above Billy Graham) and Bill is tied for #16 with George Washington and Collin Powell. It may be a surprise to you that 12 of the top 20 were politicians…and number 5 was George W. Bush! (No the poll was not taken in Texas). Two relative newcomers to the hero scene made the list, one was Chelsey Sullenberger, the pilot who landed his plane in the Hudson, and the other — of course — was Barack Obama.
In fact Barack Obama beat out Jesus: Barack #1, Jesus #2.
Now stop. This is not a political post. President Obama has not said, nor does he think that he is a step higher than Jesus. In fact nobody actually chose Barack over Jesus. The poll did not give a list of potential heroes from which people could choose. They just spoke who came to their minds.
But some thoughts came to my mind when I read the poll. Here they are, in no particular order:
1. It is the rare person who truly has Jesus #1. We follow those we hold up as heroes. It is easy to say Jesus is our hero, harder to live it.
2. I wonder how many people thought of their mother or father as their hero. Perhaps general categories were not allowed as heroes, only specific people. But my father and mother would definitely be in my top 10.
3. I wonder if the poll indicates a lack of good biographical reading on the part of the American people. By and large the people chosen are public figures. My heroes would include people I’ve read about but never known. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Amy Carmichael, and George Mueller.
4. 12 of 20 were politicians, if I remember right, none were athletes?
5. John Wayne made the list in the last Harris hero poll (2001) but dropped off. My dad obviously was not a part of this poll.
6. No biblical heroes, but at least three pastoral type people. Billy Graham, Mother Theresa, and Martin Luther King.
7. Reminded me of a great website. I Am Second. You should check it out.
8. Heroes are never born in a moment, but sometimes it takes a moment for them to be recognized — like Chelsey Sullenberger.
9. We identify our heroes for a variety of reasons, some who made the top 20 list would never make my top 100. But then again, I probably wouldn’t make theirs either.
10. There are scores of heroes whose stories we will never know till we get to heaven. I think that will be one of our greatest privileges…story-time in heaven.
11. Who are my heroes? That’s a post for another time.