We Need Some New Heroes

My Fourth-Grade Teacher Memorial Highway
My Fourth-Grade Teacher Memorial Highway

by Kevin Carrel Footer
13 October 2015

I have been driving across the US for several months on tour with my band. One thing that bothers me is that everywhere I go I see highways dedicated to veterans, to fallen police officers, to those who died violent deaths. (Occasionally politicians too… but don’t even get me started on those.) It doesn’t bother me that they are honored for their acts and sacrifices; it bothers me that they are the only ones deemed worthy.

Let’s face it: dying by a gun doesn’t make you a hero. It makes you dead.

If we only idolize warriors we will continue to overlook the equally heroic and more life-affirming acts of those who give in less-bloody circumstances. And that’s what really seems wrong to me.

Don’t mistake me. I admire warriors too. I just don’t put them on a pedestal above all the other heroes I see.

It is just as hard (and probably much harder) to get up every day and teach a class of rowdy 10-year-olds to love learning, to care for the elderly day after day when their lives are coming to a close and no one wants to be near them, or walk across a border to an unwelcoming country in order to send money back to your family. Those are heroes too.

I’m tired of being told that the only route to heroism comes down the barrel of gun.

My fourth-grade teacher Jill Fritschi Reese taught us to recite poetry. Long poetry. She made it fun to stand up in front of the class and recite “The Charge of the Light Brigade” or “Jabberwocky.” Today, 40 years later, I’ve started to stand up at my band’s concerts and recite poems I wrote, just like she taught me. She’s not around any more, but her students haven’t forgotten her.

I’d name a highway after her. I’d also name one after the farmhand I knew from Mexico who made a pittance in California and sent half of it back to his family. These are my heroes and frankly, I think we desperately need some new heroes.

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