Brandon Stanton: The Hero of ‘Humans of New York’

UntitledBy Yasmine Karam

I had always been hesitant to have a personal hero, for placing any person on that pedestal seemed to imply lofty, even unattainable expectations to be met. However, after having read compiled literature on heroes, I realized I had been operating with a skewed definition of heroism, one that included the expectation (either overt or covert) of perfection from a hero. I suppose if that were true, we wouldn’t need to distinguish heroes from God.

In identifying one of my heroes, I considered the argument that “all of humanity – not just a select group of moral elite – is capable of heroism” (Allison, Goethals, & Kramer, 2017). True heroism calls for both morality and influence, but morality can be subjective. We, as individuals, prioritize different values over others based on our own experiences. As such, we have different ideas about who meets “heroic” standards. I personally have a passion for social justice, as well as an interest and appreciation for people of all walks of life. With those values and interests in mind, Brandon Stanton, the creator of the “Humans of New York” blog, is one of my heroes.

Brandon Stanton started the “Humans of New York” blog in the summer of 2010 with the intention of compiling an “exhaustive catalogue” of people in New York City by taking photos of 10,000 New Yorkers. His project quickly evolved, and he began recording tidbits from the New Yorkers he photographed. These quotes and short stories give a glimpse into the lives of the people he photographs, and provides the blog’s followers with inspiration, compassion, and often a good laugh.

Today, the blog maintains 17.18 million followers from all around the world. His work is fascinating in part because it challenges viewers to acknowledge that no matter how we perceive people at first sight, we can never know their unique experiences and how we may be able to relate to them. His daily posts on my newsfeed serve as a constant reminder for me to resist the urge to hastily judge others. It is also important to note that the blog does not engage in partisan rhetoric, a practice that I feel often further polarizes us.

In 2016, the Internet and social media are some of the most powerful vehicles for social movements and influence. The vignettes of human experience Stanton carefully crafts reflect that he is “not only…powerful and charismatic,” Untitled2but “held in fascination by a strong faith,” which in turn “awaken[s]” a similar faith in his 17.18 million followers (Allison, et al 2017). As such, Stanton seems to have recognized the power and responsibility of his role in promoting social change. While I have followed and enjoyed his blog for a few years now, it is Stanton’s most recent posts that make him a hero for me.

With the recent tensions in the Middle East bringing an influx of Syrian refugees to the US, many Americans are giving in to fear of the unknown and resisting our nation’s efforts to provide aid to the refugees. Brandon Stanton traveled to the Middle East and began photographing and interviewing displaced Syrians, Muslims, and other Middle Easterners, illuminating the humanity of their experiences. In other words, Stanton showed us all that these refugees are not a mob to be feared or shunned, but individual human beings in need of our acceptance and help. After awakening compassion and concern in his followership, Stanton took the next step and organized enormously successful fundraising efforts for many of the families he met overseas.

Finally, Stanton’s most recent post broke his general protocol of posting photographs and snippets – It was an open letter to Donald Trump opposing his racist, violent, and ignorant rhetoric. In the most traditional sense of the term, Brandon Stanton is a hero to all of us Americans terrified of the implications of a Trump presidency that has become less and less impossible. He understands that his blog can be used as a powerful weapon in the battle against Trump and the ignorance that fuels his supporters’ loyalty, defining his public opposition not as a “political decision, [but] a moral one.”

Brandon Stanton’s understanding of and appreciation for people continues to give us a daily dose of laughs, empathy, and exposure to new ideas. It is his willingness and dedication to using his influence to inspire social change, however, that makes him a hero.

References

Allison, S. T., & Goethals, G. R. (2017). The hero’s transformation. In S. T. Allison, G. R. Goethals, & R. M. Kramer (Eds.), Handbook of heroism and heroic leadership. New York: Routledge.

Allison, S. T., Goethals, G. R., & Kramer, R. M. (2017). Setting the scene: The rise and coalescence of heroism science. In S. T. Allison, G. R. Goethals, & R. M. Kramer (Eds.), Handbook of heroism and heroic leadership. New York: Routledge.

Allison, S. T., Goethals, G. R., & Kramer, R. M. (Eds.) (2017). Handbook of heroism and heroic leadership. New York: Routledge.

Atticus Finch and the Life Lessons of Moral Courage

UntitledBy Sophia Grillo

One of the most admirable actions that a human being can perform is an act of moral courage. Moral courage is aimed at stopping the unfair treatment or degradation of individuals by reinforcing moral standards and values. The key to a morally courageous act is having the ability and willingness to overcome barriers and to withstand pushback from others.

One fictional character who demonstrates a great act of moral courage is Atticus Finch. Not only did he defy the majority and put his family in danger, he stood by his beliefs in honor of racial equality.

To Kill A Mockingbird, written by Harper Lee, takes place in a racist white community of Maycomb, Alabama. Atticus Finch, the father of Jem and Scout Finch, is a prominent lawyer and financially prosperous compared to the rest of his community. Putting the community’s racist beliefs aside, Atticus agrees to defend a black man named Tom Robinson, who has been accused of raping a white woman, Mayella Ewell.

When the trial begins, Tom Robinson is placed in the local jail and an angry mob of white men tries to lynch him.  Atticus confronts the mob the night before the trial. Jem and Scout, who have sneaked out of the house, soon join him. Jem and Scout are exposed to the horrors of the racist community that they live in and face verbal abuse from other Maycomb citizens.

At the trial itself, the children sit in the “colored balcony” with the town’s black citizens. Atticus provides clear evidence that the accusers, Mayella Ewell and her father, Bob, are lying. Despite overwhelming evidence pointing toUntitled Tom’s innocence, the all-white jury convicts him. Tom later tries to escape from prison and is shot to death.

Atticus’ decision to defend Tom Robinson is an act of moral courage for multiple reasons. Atticus was one of the few people of Maycomb who believed in racial equality. It took great courage to challenge the racist climate of that time. It would have been much easier for him to align with the majority than to fight for the rights of one black man.

Another reason Atticus’ actions can be seen as morally courageous is because his decision to defend Tom put his family in danger. The exposure of the Finch family during the trial caused Scout and Jem to face constant harassment from other children and adults in Maycomb. Although Atticus knew that his family would face this horrific kind of treatment, he decided that the life lessons of this experience far outweighed any negatives.

Atticus showed his children firsthand a hard lesson about right and wrong, and that sometimes the unpopular road is the right road. Witnessing their father’s actions, Jem and Scout are able to learn for themselves to stand up for truth and justice no matter what the consequences. Atticus spreads moral courage without even realizing it.

Atticus also stuck to his beliefs. One of the most important characteristics of morally courageous people is that they remain committed to their ideas despite all consequences. In this case, Atticus knew what he was getting into when he decided to defend a black man. Instead of letting the ignorance of others discourage him, he continued to put on a fair trail and taught his children valuable lessons along the way.

Psychologist Anna Halmburger has recently proposed an Integrative Model of Moral Courage and Relevant Determinants. She outlines five steps leading to morally courageous behavior. First, one must notice the situation; second, they have to interpret the situation as a “norm violation”; third, they must accept responsibility to act; fourth, they must possess intervention skills; finally, they must decide to take the intervening action.

To Kill a Mockingbird (1962). Courtroom drama film in which Atticus Finch, a lawyer in the Depression-era South, defends a black man against an undeserved rape charge. Stars: Gregory Peck. (Photo by: Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty images)
To Kill a Mockingbird (1962). Courtroom drama film in which Atticus Finch, a lawyer in the Depression-era South, defends a black man against an undeserved rape charge. Stars: Gregory Peck. (Photo by: Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty images)

Atticus Finch goes through each of these decision stages leading up to the trial. He acknowledges the accusation of Tom Robinson and the fact that racism is a huge problem in Maycomb. He then accepts responsibility as a lawyer that everyone deserves a fair chance no matter what his or her skin color. He ignores personal constraints like what consequences he and his family would face. And finally, he intervenes with strong evidence that Tom Robinson is innocent.

The difference between moral courage and heroism is that moral courage is much more personal than heroism. For example, Atticus personally believes that racial inequality is wrong. Halmburger writes, “moral courage is aimed to protect moral values and standards.” In other words, the main purpose of morally courageous acts is to spread and enforce positive and personal morals. Atticus not only spread his morals but he also protected the rights of another citizen even if the town did not agree.

At the end of her article, Halmburger writes, “The more everyone contributes to the protection of moral values in their daily lives, the fewer heroes will be needed to show morally courageous behavior.” The world needs more people like Atticus Finch. The more people who try to spread and protect positive morals, the fewer societal problems there will be. The whole purpose of Atticus defending Tom Robinson was his hope that his moral stand would become contagious and lead to the defeat of racial inequality.

Personally, I believe that moral courage is more admirable than heroism because anyone can be a hero. It takes real strength to stick to your beliefs in the face of tremendous adversity and discomfort while ignoring all possible consequences. Atticus states “if I didn’t I couldn’t hold up my head in town, I couldn’t represent this county in the legislature, I couldn’t even tell you or Jem not to do something again. […] Scout, simply by the nature of the work, every lawyer gets at least one case in his lifetime that affects him personally. This one’s mine, I guess.” (9.16-21) This quote shows that this trial was more than just defending an innocent victim. It was about doing the most good and letting nothing stand in the way of personal values and beliefs.

Overall, Atticus Finch was definitely not viewed as a hero to anyone in Maycomb. However, his bold actions of moral courage showed that it didn’t matter if people viewed him as a hero. What mattered was the lesson and example he set for his own children and his bravery in going against an entire town for the sake of one man’s rights. His action reflects the qualities of a truly moral lawyer and remarkable human being. It makes Atticus Finch as admirable, if not more so, than any hero.

References

Allison, S. T., Goethals, G. R., & Kramer, R. M. (Eds.) (2017). Handbook of heroism and heroic leadership. New York: Routledge.

Halmburger, A., Baumert, A., & Schmitt, M. (2017). Everyday heroes: Determinants of moral courage. In S. T. Allison, G. R. Goethals, & R. M. Kramer (Eds.), Handbook of heroism and heroic leadership. New York: Routledge.

 

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Heroic Humility: What the Science of Humility Can Say to People Raised on Self-Focus

heroichumiltycoverTo become truly great, one has to stand with people, not above them.

        —Charles de Montesquieu

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Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.

        —Philippians 2:3–4

 

Heroic Humility is a book focusing on a type of excellence or virtue that we think is crucial for the 21st century. It is critical because in Western culture, we have been immersed in individualism and orientation toward the self.

Congress seems locked in mortal combat. Relationships seem all about two individuals wanting their way and divorces and break-ups of cohabitation relationships, when added together, are epidemic—far exceeding the divorce rate that rose steadily until unmarried cohabitation replaced many marriages. We have religious intolerance, disgruntlement with police and renewed (and sometimes new) racial and ethnic tensions, and civil unrest over gay marriage. Youth want life to matter—to help the needy—but they want to help only when and how is convenient.

This book is about humility, a commonly recognized virtue. We believe that understanding and building more humility will move individuals and society toward some relief from the tensions that beset our culture. Humility demands that we see ourselves accurately, present ourselves modestly, and orient ourselves toward helping others. news_everettHumility serves as a corrective to self-focus and in-group orientation.

But humility is not easy in an individualistic culture. It requires courage and moments of extraordinary heroism superimposed over a life of heroism. And to help others, it requires leadership. We thus combine humility, heroism, and leadership in this scholarly book.

Humble heroic leaders are the noble champions of society that most people are inspired by and aspire to be. They are not weak but strong, and can employ their assorted virtues to successfully achieve the goals of the group and the people within the group. They are virtuous and have worked hard to build up their own positive qualities, glimpsing the goal   Scott19to which they personally aspire, practicing virtue until it has become a habit of the heart, meeting tests, trials, temptations, and suffering while maintaining integrity, and experiencing a deep satisfaction (even if they are not temporally happy) from doing the right things.

Heroic Humility is authored by Everett L. Worthington, Jr., and Scott T. Allison. It will be published by the American Psychological Association, and it is scheduled to appear in April of 2017.

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Oskar Schindler: The Nazi-Turned-Hero

Schindler,_OskarBy Elise Tate

“Hero” and “Nazi” are not common words used to describe the same person. Normally, they are in opposition to one another; the hero fights the Nazis, or the Nazis fight the hero. However, for one man, he was both hero and Nazi. His name was Oskar Schindler.

When Schindler was a young man he attended numerous trade schools and eventually married his wife Emilie when he was 20, shortly before Hitler began his rise to power. Schindler was Catholic and an ethnic German, and he was a successful businessman. In 1939, after the German annexation of the Sudetenland, he joined the Nazi party.

Schindler took advantage of the German occupation program to remove Jewish business owners and bought Rekord Ltd., which had been a Jewish-owned enamelware manufacturer. Because he was a successful businessman, a wartime veteran, and a member of the Nazi party, Schindler seemed an unlikely candidate to emerge as a hero to over a thousand Jews.

At first, he was playing the war and the holocaust to his advantage. It wasn’t long before this practice started weighing on his conscience, and he quickly began using his advantageous position to help Jews. He employed over 1000 Jewish forced laborers who lived in the nearby Krakow ghetto, and he intervened numerous times on their behalf with higher authorities. He not only assistedOskar Schindler Jews on an individual basis, he took steps to prevent workers from being sent to harsher camps. His involvement as a wartime rescuer then began its steep ascent.

In 1943 the Krakow ghetto was liquidated and the workers were all relocated to the nearby labor camp Plaszow, which was then converted to a concentration camp. Schindler allowed his workers to stay overnight at his factory, along with another 450 workers from other factories. This brought him under suspicion and he was arrested on several different occasions. But the Germans were unable to charge him successfully.

Unfortunately, the SS moved his Jews to Plaszow anyway in 1944. Afterward he went on to establish his own “labor camp” that he used to produce armaments. He declared it essential to the war effort, allowing him to save 800 Jewish men and 400 Jewish women from Auschwitz. Over a long period of time his “factory” was able to produce only one shipment of live ammunition. His camp was finally liberated on May 9th, 1945, when the Soviets arrived. By this time Schindler was essentially penniless, having spent all of his fortune on bribes and other things to keep his Jews safe.

Even though Schindler did not begin his journey as a hero, by the time the war was over he fulfilled every one of the Great Eight characteristics of heroes: he was smart, strong, resilient, selfless, caring, charismatic, reliable, and inspiring. He used his cunning to bend the system to help him and his Jews; he was strong in the face of numerous arrests; and he place the well-being of Jews above his own well-being.

Although he was not well known at the time of his death, Oskar Schindler has become a source of inspiration to millions around the world. He has also been a recipient of many medals of honor. Schindler is the only Nazi with an honorary burial in a cemetery in Jerusalem. A true hero, he is credited with saving the lives of 1,200 human beings.

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Frontiers in Spiritual Leadership

SpiritualLeadershipCover“We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield, and patriot grave, to every living heart and hearthstone, all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

— Abraham Lincoln, Inaugural Address, March 4, 1861

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Lincoln’s iconic phrase, “the better angels of our nature,” revealed his belief that the noblest qualities of humanity would heal a divided nation. Our book, Frontiers in Spiritual Leadership, is about the expression of these noble qualities and how leaders such as Lincoln make that expression possible.

To many, spirituality and leadership appear to be unrelated phenomena. We suggest that they are twin processes. Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines spirit as “the force within a person that is believed to give the body life, energy, and power.” Leadership is said to be the force within a group that is said to give it life, energy, and power. Combining the two terms, we can say that spiritual leadership refers to the process by which a person or persons within a group give it life-affirming aims and provide members with the energy and power to fulfill those aims. Frontiers in Spiritual Leadership contains chapters written by leading scholars at the University of Richmond. The book is multidisciplinary in its focus and combines historical explorations of spiritual leadership with an examination of contemporary issues.

The three editors of this volume represent a nice blend of expertise on leadership and spirituality. Scott Allison and George Goethals are social psychologists who have co-authored numerous articles and books on heroes, SpirLdrshpPic3heroic leadership, and related questions. Craig Kocher is the University of Richmond’s Chaplain, the Jessie Ball duPont Chair of the Chaplaincy, and a lecturer in the Jepson School of Leadership Studies. Dr. Kocher is the spiritual leader of the university and has published numerous essays, sermons, and columns on a wide range of spiritual topics.

Frontiers in Spiritual Leadership will appeal to audiences interested in both leadership and spirituality. Leadership scholars have only recently begun to address spiritual issues, making this volume timely in filling a void in the literature. This book can be adopted in undergraduate and graduate courses on leadership, servant leadership, transformational leadership, heroic leadership, spiritual leadership, ethics, values, morality, religion, philosophy, existential psychology, positive psychology, and human growth.

The book is now available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Here’s what they’re saying about Frontiers in Spiritual Leadership:

“Allison, Kocher, and Goethals have succeeded in gathering an all-star team of scholars representing diverse disciplinary perspectives to bring focus to spiritual leadership and its noble, life-giving qualities. Frontiers in Spiritual Leadership is an inspired volume that forges new ground and offers much-needed hope and direction at a critically important time.”

—Bryan Dik Associate Professor of Psychology, Colorado State University Co-Editor of Purpose and Meaning in the Workplace and Psychology of Religion and Workplace Spirituality

“Allison, Kocher, and Goethals’ Frontiers in Spiritual Leadership is an original and truly interdisciplinary study of spiritual leadership and its impact on the lives of individuals and communities.”

—Michael Harvey Professor of Business ManagementWashington College Co-Editor of Leadership Studies: The Dialogue of Disciplines

“Leaders are models and mentors, instilling in others the motivation to transcend their current states in order to take actions that would not otherwise occur. Such transcendence is the essence of spirituality and, as such, the understanding of leadership and spirituality are synergistic intellectual pursuits. However, no prior book has integrated these fundamental facets of human life. Creatively bringing together scholars from multiple disciplines, Frontiers in Spiritual Leadership: Discovering the Better Angels of Our Nature provides rich, unique, and singularly important discussions of the history, and contemporary significance, of transcendent leadership for enhancing personal thriving and social well-being.”

—Richard M. Lerner, Bergstrom Chair in Applied Developmental Science and Director, Institute for Applied Research in Youth Development Tufts University

Malala Yousafzai: The Young Hero

By Khaela Sanchez

M1As a senior in high school, I found myself desperately looking for any opportunity that would enable me to go on free trips to escape the county in which I live, Arlington County, Virginia. At my school, all seniors must complete a massive yearlong project intended to make them branch out, get involved in the community, and pursue something they are passionate about.

I decided to do my project on photography. My central objective as a photographer was to explore cities and find the beauty in chaos that exists within them. One day, I was walking through the halls of my newly renovated high school when I saw a flier to go on a trip to New York where we would attend a conference at the United Nations Headquarters. My naïve self only had eyes for the awesome opportunity of doing a photo-walk around Times Square. Little did I know I would be leaving that city with a new perspective on society.

There was one particular speaker named, Deepa Willingham, who delivered a quote that will forever stay with me. It went along the lines of, “You can teach a man to fish, you feed a man for a lifetime. But if you teach a girl, you teach a community”. The moral of this quote is that educated men typically leave home to pursue a career, while women stay at home. If an educated woman were to stay home, it could be the start of endless M2possibilities. She could teach her kids as well as the other community members. Inspired by this idea, I decided to do more research on inspirational women such as Deepa Willingham. That is when I stumbled upon Malala Yousafzai.

Malala Yousafzai is the youngest person to ever receive a Nobel Prize. She was born on July 12, 1997. Yousafzai is known for advocating human rights and education in general but especially for women’s rights to education. She lived in Swat Valley, located in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of northwest Pakistan. This area was an extremely dangerous and problematic part of Pakistan, as the local Taliban would go to any lengths to prohibit girls from attending school.

Rising up from Taliban oppression, Yousafzai wanted to let the world know of this injustice. She wrote a blog revealing what life is like under Taliban occupation, their threats to control the country, and her views on education for the girls in Swat Valley. As you would expect, Yousafzai’s popularity grew, even leading to interviews and a documentary film about her life. The Taliban took notice.

On October 9, 2012, a gunman shot Yousafzai three times as she was boarding her school bus. She was in critical condition but luckily she survived. Despite Pakistan’s effort to M3protect Yousafzai and her family, the Taliban persisted in making assassination threats. In a way, these murderous threats helped give visibility to the issues that Yousafzai promoted.

One positive consequence of Yousafzai’s long, painful activism was a United Nations’ petition demanding  all children to be in school by the end of 2015. As a result, Pakistan ratified their first Right to Education Bill. Yousafzai knew there was great danger in speaking out for her beliefs, but this did not deter her. Today, she delivers speeches worldwide, writes blogs, and oversees the Malala Education Foundation, which enables girls living in poverty to attend school.

Malala Yousafzai is very young, yet it seems that she has already lived through a lifetime of hero’s journeys. Let it be known that this is only the start of her work to improve people’s lives. Malala Yousafzai still has a bright future, one that will be devoted to standing up for people’s rights. She has proven that she is willing to pay any price and make any sacrifice to make the world better. In my life I can only hope to obtain a fraction of Malala’s greatness.

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