Hereford Times Article - Heroism and Celebrity

Published on: 10th February 2021

Image of Bishop Richard Jackson standing besides an apple tree

"Heroism is not the same as celebrity.   It is a title you earn, either from great character or from significant achievement.."

Last week we said goodbye to Captain Sir Tom Moore, who personified all that was good about our national spirit in the face of the COVID crisis. We will all be familiar with his achievements: 100 laps of his garden by his 100th birthday, and raising over 33 million for NHS charities.  He was a hero in the true sense of the word. Not only was he one of the last of the generation who fought tyranny in WW2, but after a fairly ordinary life found great significance to all of us at the end of it.

Heroism is not the same as celebrity.   It is a title you earn, either from great character or from significant achievement.  They inspire us to be better people.  Celebrity simply flows from visibility.  The criteria for that visibility are often dubious.  People with no discernible talent can become celebrities just by being outrageous or offensive. A hungry media for public entertainment serves up their weaknesses. We could do with a lot more heroes and a lot less celebrities.

In an age that is always, looking for a hidden agenda it’s hard to be a hero.  Captain Tom earned it due to his humble character and determination.  He did not want to be the centre of attention, but always gave credit to the heroic key workers for whom he was raising money.  Heroism often shows the complete opposite character to that we associate with achievement.  The management writer John Maxwell did some research a few years ago on high performing Chief Executives.  He found that the two qualities most associated with success were great personal humility and fierce resolve.  Surprisingly, it was not about alpha (usually male) ego.  Successful executives could divorce their personal needs from the task in hand. They did not mind who got the credit.

Captain Tom also reminds us that age is no bar to making a difference.  Some of the great heroes of Christian faith did not really get going to the end of their lives. Moses most significant work started at 80, Abraham’s at 99! Most of the Saints are remembered for a character formed over many years of spiritual training.  I turned 60 the other day.  I am rather hoping my best years might still be ahead of me.

Rest in peace Sir Tom.  We may have to wait a while to see your like again.


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