By: Sasha Zborovsky, Marketing Intern.

July 18th is Nelson Mandela Day. We associate many words with him. Freedom. History. Equality. However, this is a day that, to me, invokes the word “hero.”

The Superhero

The term “hero” is subject to varying definitions. Personally, I have a hard time imagining the word outside the context of “super.” As a child, TV, comics, and movies taught me that heroes had supernatural powers that they subsequently employed to save the world from various aliens, perpetrators of evil magic, and criminals who stole obscene piles of cash from white-marble banks. On the other side of history, heroes are tunic wearing, demi-Gods like Hercules or Odysseus who travel to the Underworld or defeat an evil city from the inside of a horse. Of course, these people are priceless to our history and morality. Sometimes, it is best to use fictional heroes to convey messages of kindness and selflessness. But, when we lose ourselves in fiction, we sometimes forget the real heroes who perform daring, and selfless feats right in front of our own eyes.

Nelson Mandela

Today we celebrate a modern hero that—at least to my knowledge—does not fly or wear brightly colored tights that accent his cape. On Nelson Mandela day, the world reserves 24 hours to celebrate the legacy and accomplishments of this great man. This modern hero dismantled apartheid in South Africa, was a vigilante combatant against racism, and the first black head of state in his native country. He endured prison time, oppression, and racism for his country and for his people. He was a hero. The world will remember these actions for centuries to come.

Our Modern Heroes

Nelson Mandela is not our world’s only modern hero. On every corner of the Earth, we find individuals who sacrifice their time, money, and sometimes even their lives to save others. They are not magical, mythical, or saints from ages past. They are regular people from regular places. They deliver candy to German children during the Berlin airlift in the 1940s, or provide medical care for impoverished families in Haiti. Most importantly, modern heroes, just like fictional heroes, function through stories. They tell their tales in autobiographies or authors write non-fiction accounts of these heroes’ live. People spread the stories of modern heroes because they know that awareness is key to making a difference. And, YOU can be a modern hero too, simply by reading and subsequently spreading their messages.

Books by and about our modern heroes:

Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela
Candy Bomber

Mountains beyond Mountains

In My Hands: Memoirs of a Holocaust Rescuer

Silent Spring

I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban

Freedom from Fear

The New Rulers of the World

Dear Zari: The Secret Lives of the Women of Afghanistan