All Heroes Don’t Wear Capes

COVID-19 HeroesBy Shawn Conrad, CAE

I was tempted to focus this post on what potential changes our industry will experience when stay-at-home orders are lifted and we look at life post-pandemic. But as I work through my fifth week of sheltering in place, I’d like to offer an observation on the use of the term “heroes.”

When I was younger (I am about to really date myself), I grew up watching George Reeves as Superman, Gary Cooper westerns, John Glenn circling the earth three times, and all of the Apollo 11 astronauts (Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins), or reading anything I could get my hands on about Abraham Lincoln. While I didn’t personally know these people, they were my heroes because of the way they conducted themselves, showed empathy, rushed into danger, and overcame obstacles—along with what they unselfishly accomplished. So whenever I hear the term “hero” used to describe someone, I often think back to my boyhood heroes.

Today, “hero” is used to describe medical personnel, care workers, supermarket clerks, transit and truck drivers, parents homeschooling their children, the National Guard and others feeding the hungry, and so many more people who find themselves on the front line of this pandemic. I recently heard that the term was being watered down; some complain “hero” is overused and therefore means less.

While my use of the hero label was limited, calling out a person whose altruistic acts in the service of others or for the greater good seems much more relatable now, since we actually know many of the people who fit this bill. These heroes seem more real and less mythical. The heroes of today walk among us and are a constant reminder to others to do their part. Using the hero term with a broad-brush approach sends a positive message to the young and the young at heart that the image of a hero doesn’t look like Luke Skywalker, but more like their family member or neighbor.

Shawn Conrad, CAE, is IPMI’s CEO.