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The legendary social psychologist Dr. Philip Zimbardo has done some trailblazing research on heroism which he has described as altruism that involves a serious risk.

Overall, Phil’s work suggests that everyday people like you and me have the capacity to perform heroic deeds.  Have you ever felt pulled to be heroic?  How’s your heroic imagination?
 
 
 
 
 
What Makes a Hero?
 
(If you cannot see the video below on your device, click here).
 
 
In researching this topic on heroes, I came across this website.  History’s Heroes
 
There are hundreds of heroes listed with the most popular voted at the top.
This list includes:  
Abraham Lincoln
Nelson Mandela
Leonardo D Vinci
William Shakespeare
Mahatma Gandhi
Isaac Newton
George Washington
Alexander the Great
And hundreds more
 
There is also a place to add your own hero.
What is your definition of a hero?
What makes a hero?
Who’s your hero?
 
Watch this short video to find your inner hero and more from Philip Zimbardo on his Heroic Imagination Project.
 
(If you cannot see the video below on your device, click here).
 
 
Here are a few key insights from research we’ve done surveying 4,000 Americans from across the country. Each of these statements is valid after controlling for all demographic variables, such as education and socioeconomic status.

Heroes surround us. One in five—20 percent—qualify as heroes, based on the definition of heroism I provide above. Seventy-two percent report helping another person in a dangerous emergency. Sixteen percent report whistle blowing on an injustice. Six percent report sacrificing for a non-relative or stranger. Fifteen percent report defying an unjust authority. And not one of these people has been formally recognized as a hero.

Opportunity matters. Most acts of heroism occur in urban areas, where there are more people and more people in need. You’re not going to be a hero if you live in the suburbs. No shit happens in the suburbs!

Education matters. The more educated you are, the more likely you are to be a hero, I think because you are more aware of situations.

Volunteering matters. One third of all the sample who were heroes also had volunteered significantly, up to 59 hours a week.

Gender matters. Males reported performing acts of heroism more than females. I think this is because women tend not to regard a lot of their heroic actions as heroic. It’s just what they think they’re supposed to do for their family or a friend.

Race matters. Blacks were eight times more likely than whites to qualify as heroes. We think that’s in part due to the rate of opportunity. (In our next survey, we’re going to track responses by area code to see if in fact these heroes are coming from inner cities.

Personal history matters. Having survived a disaster or personal trauma makes you three times more likely to be a hero and a volunteer.

Based on these insights into heroism, we’ve put together a toolkit for potential heroes, especially young heroes in training, who already have opportunities to act heroically when they’re kids, such as by opposing bullying.

A first step is to take the “hero pledge,” a public declaration on our website that says you’re willing to be a hero in waiting. It’s a pledge “to act when confronted with a situation where I feel something is wrong,” “to develop my heroic abilities,” and “to believe in the heroic capacities within myself and others, so I can build and refine them.”

You can also take our four-week “Hero Challenge” mini-course online to help you develop your heroic muscles. The challenge may not require you to do anything heroic, but it’s training you to be heroic.  We’re also in the process of creating an Encyclopedia of Heroes, a collection of hero stories from all over the world. Not just all the classic ones and fictional ones, but ones that people from around the world are going to send in, so they can nominate ordinary heroes with a picture and a story. It will be searchable, so you can find heroes by age, gender, city and country. These are the unsung, quiet heroes—they do their own thing, put themselves in danger, defend a moral cause, help someone in need. And we want to highlight them. We want them to be inspirational to other people just like them.

Essentially, we’re trying to build the social habits of heroes, to build a focus on the other, shifting away from the “me” and toward the “we.” As the poet John Donne wrote: “No man [or woman] is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; … any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind. And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”

So every person is part of humanity. Each person’s pulse is part of humanity’s heartbeat. Heroes circulate the life force of goodness in our veins. And what the world needs now is more heroes—you. It’s time to take action against evil.
 
Philip Zimbardo, Ph.D., is a professor emeritus of psychology at Stanford University, a professor at Palo Alto University, a two-time past president of the Western Psychological Association, and a past president of the American Psychological Association. He is also the author of the best-selling book The Lucifer Effect and the president of the Heroic Imagination Project.
 
PERHAPS you already know many ROTARY heroes!
 
 
 
Please share your thoughts or comments below.
 
 

 
 
 
 
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