What is a hero

Prior to this week’s announcement of the 2015 winners of the Barron Prize, I asked my Facebook fans to share with me their ideas around heroes and heroism. Many of today’s popular movies and television shows focus on superheroes — people with exceptional strength, speed, or other super-human abilities — but I have always been interested in the stories of real-life heroes. I was overwhelmed by the number of responses you gave to me, and wanted to share some of your ideas which really captured the true essence of what it means to be called a “hero”.

Heroes Change the World

Many of your ideas around heroes, of course, centered around the fact that they often do good deeds; Matthew summed up much of the sentiment from my readers when he wrote that heroes “are people who help others regardless of their convenience.” Abigail also believes that heroes “love being able to help others even in the smallest of ways,” while Emma believes that the mark of a hero is someone who “fights for justice.

Heroes Motivate Us

If heroes show us anything, it’s how to become our best selves. They may do great things for the world, but to many of my readers the true mark of a hero is someone who inspires and motivates others to do their best. Katrina summed up many of the thoughts I heard from fans when she wrote that a hero “is someone who affected your life just when you needed them to, someone whose courage and perseverance inspires you to find those qualities within yourself. A hero not only saves you, but helps you save yourself.” I couldn’t have put it better myself!

Heroes Can Be Anyone

Finally, I was touched by how many of you shared stories of personal heroes in your life.  KaitlynnOwl spoke of her mother being one of her heroes — a sentiment I can relate to! – writing that her mother “has definitely inspired me to be a hero in my day-to-day life in how I treat people and in what I aspire to do in the future.” And Cheryl reaffirmed my belief that teachers and educators are true heroes when she wrote about her experiences: “a Sunday school teacher, a youth pastor, a band director, […] one thing I really admired about all of them was they wanted to invest in others. They gave up their time to help others grow. To me that takes sacrifice and also bravery. It takes guts to teach a class and to have so many people looking up to you.

For 15 years, the Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes has honored 25 outstanding young people annually. Each one of of these amazing kids are using the talents they have to make a difference in our world. In celebration of all the marvelous ideas you’ve shared with me about heroes, I invite you to read their stories. My highest hope is that other kids will read about their ideas, and maybe… just maybe… will feel inspired to do something positive, as well.


  1. Reply

    Chuck Yaichner

    September 24, 2015

    I was asked one day, by a young soldier, “Why do people call me a Hero?”

    A heartfelt, honest question. A question that requires much thought and introspection.

    A Hero, I think, describes a person, man or woman, who exemplifies all of the very best traits and qualities that we as human beings can ever hope to achieve.

    Hero’s are not “made”. A true Hero is born with qualities that are inherent to his or her very nature.

    These qualities are Sacrifice, Determination, Loyalty, Courage, Dedication, Valor, Selflessness, Conviction, Focus, Gallantry, Perseverance, Fortitude, Bravery and Compassion, to name a few. These are part of the very core or essence of what makes the person who they are.

    I think someone can be described as a Hero if they exhibit these qualities in their everyday life, without conscious thought.

    Sacrificing ones own safety or comforts in order to help a fellow human being or group of people in need, without thought of praise or reward.

    Determination to be willing to complete what is started, and see things through to their completion.

    Loyalty to what is right, no matter what the cost to ones self or what general opinions may be.

    Courage to face seemingly insurmountable odds, or dangerous situations without fear of personal loss or injury.

    Dedication to a goal or ideal, with selfless devotion that is wholehearted and without reservation.

    Valor, which is courage exhibited during extreme situations and making decisions for the greater good of the whole as opposed to an individual.

    Selflessness is showing unselfish concern for the welfare of others, acting with less concern for ones self.

    Conviction is a strong, unshakable belief in what is right and not just what is popular.

    Focusing on a goal and directing all of ones energy towards a purpose for good.

    Gallantry, is an adventurous courage, which courts danger with a high and cheerful spirit.

    Perseverance despite recurrent obstacles or fear of failure.

    Fortitude is encountering danger and enduring pain with a steadfast and unbroken spirit.

    Bravery is showing courage of thought AND deed in the face of danger or fear in order to achieve the best possible outcome in spite of overwhelming odds.

    Compassion for others, caring about their quality of life despite issues of race, sex, gender, religious affiliation or individual beliefs.

    These are just some of the many characteristics that I think make a true Hero.

    Not only in times of war or strife, but in everyday life.

    Saving a fellow soldier in combat.
    Offering support, assistance or material possessions to someone with a greater need than your own. Facing danger in order to help a fellow human being in crisis.
    Teaching or mentoring others in order to help them become the best they can be.

    These are things that define what it means to be a true Hero.

    Above all, the true hero has and exhibits these qualities with a humble quietness and a belief that he or she is achieving a greater goal. They do these things because it is the honorable and right thing to do, not because it is the popular belief or opinion of those around them.

  2. Reply


    March 2, 2017

    That was great nice job, interesting facts! Keep up the good work!

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