Don’t we all love a hero? Don’t we want heroes to hold up as examples? But the mistake we make with heroes is expecting that they’re better than the rest of us so when they show us that they’re not perfect, we sometimes desert them in disgust. They let us down.
I love a quote from filmmaker Ken Burns: “We demand perfection from our heroes but a true hero has weaknesses he strives to overcome with his strengths. Inconsistency is a hallmark of all of us.”
Marcus Buckingham insists that we should concentrate on strengths so much that weakness becomes insignificant.
It’s been true in literature, true in history, and true today: We’re all imperfect and, being human, incapable of perfection. But we still strive and should still hold heroes high because of their strengths and the deeds that were evident of those strengths.
You suspect where this is going, don’t you? Especially on November 22?
JFK was imperfect and certainly no saint, morally. But he exuded a strength and optimism about America that we still prize over 50 years after he enunciated it in his inaugural address. If he accomplished nothing else, his determination to create the manned space program and land on the moon would still stand as a landmark in world history. Besides the obvious achievement of getting there and returning safely, the American space program demanded new technology and innovative thinking. These in turn created economic, scientific, and technological breakthroughs that transcended the space program and sent the United States as well as the world into a new level of expectation and hope for the future. We owe much to the US Space Program of the 1960s and John Kennedy’s vision for making it a priority.
We could use some of that determination and optimism now.
So my friends, let’s paraphrase the call to action that resonated from the inaugural podium in January of 1961 and took a big blow in November of 1963. Ask not what others can do for you; ask what you can do to make life better for others: For your family, your employer, your community, your country, your Earth.