Article Topics

This site was built according to strict accessibility standards so that all visitors may browse it easily.

| Valid HTML 4.01 Strict |Valid CSS

|Level Triple-A conformance W3C-WAI accessible web content |Section 508 Bobby-Approved accessible web content |



|Career Coaching

| Books

| Radio Show|


| About Marty| Blog | Twitter |Press

email iconsend this article to a friend

Olympic Heroes: An Oxymoron

By Marty Nemko

In recent days, most newspapers headlines tout our Olympic heroes. For example, today’s front page of is regaled with a photo and headline, “US Women Win Hockey Bronze”

Even had they won the gold, would that merit such accord? After all, all they’ve done for the world is to have entertained a tiny fraction of us for a relative blink in our lives. Besides, should we consider Olympic athletes to be role models: people who, while still young children, tossed away a balanced childhood in favor of six to eight hours a day of highly repetitive, exhausting practice sessions? And for what? So they could beat Finland for a bronze medal? 999 out of 1,000 Olympic aspirant children don’t even get that far, let alone win a gold, let alone help a sick person, let alone help stop world hunger.

The Olympics is but one reminder of how shallowly we choose our heroes. According to a 2006 Gallup Poll, five of the six most admired men and women are politicians (George Bush is #1). The other is an entertainer. (Oprah.)

Yes, a great politician deserves to be a hero, but George Bush? Even if you’re a Republican, does he deserve to be America’s most admired person?

Instead, I invite you to consider the people profiled in the book and PBS-TV series: They Made America: From the Steam Engine to the Search Engine: Two Centuries of Innovators by Harold Evans. Most of these innovators risked decades of their lives in search of a long shot they hoped would improve the world forever. For example:

Oliver Evans: steam engine

Eli Whitney: cotton gin, which, in turn, triggered the Machine Age.

Samuel Morse: telegraph

Isaac Singer: sewing machine

Elisha Otis: safety elevator

Lewis Tappan: credit rating.

Thomas Edison: light bulb

Leo Baekeland: plastic

Wilbur and Orville Wright: airplane

Edwin Armstrong: radio

George Selden: automobile

George Eastman: the affordable camera

Garrett Morgan: gas mask

Philo Farnsworth: television.

Thomas Watson: mainframe computer

Jean Neiditch: Weight Watchers.

Herb Boyer and Robert Swanson, the biotech industry

Joan Ganz Cooney: Sesame Street.

Ted Turner: CNN--24-hour electronic news.

Raymond Damadian: MRI scanner.

Larry Page and Sergey Brin: Google.

A few others not in the book:

Craig Venter – decoded the human genome

Flossie Wong-Staal – on team that discovered HIV virus.

George Washington Carver: peanut butter

Marie Curie—co-discovered the X-ray

Today, when our careers are consuming an ever larger part of our lives, we especially need heroes and role models that can inspire us. We’d be wiser to look to those listed in the previous paragraph than to our athletes.

Home | Articles | Career Coaching | Books | Radio Show | Appearances | About Marty | Blog |Press