Dixon Wecter's The Hero in America
Selected Excerpts

"Any roll-call of America's heroes invites one last question. Whom do Americans most admire? What are the signs by which they may be known? No doubt they stand for qualities that seem precious for the group good. Yet scores of worthies, men of high intellect and character, have missed the magic ranks of those- in uniform and buckskin, on horseback or trudging afoot or spanning the sky, at statesman's desk or inventor's work-bench- whom Everyman takes as his heroes." (476)

"Certain professions have yielded few national idols. The artist, admired so keenly by another business civilization, the Renaissance, has not met with much popular honor in America... No American writer has received such homage as did Voltaire in Paris in 1778... The scholar as a type has never kindled American imagination... The average american is prone to believe that nobody becomes a teacher who can succeed at any other trade..." (477-79).

"The law has trained more American heroes and leaders than has any other profession... But the lawyer qua lawyer, in America as elsewhere, has never been able to match the soldier or explorer as an inevitable hero type." (481)

"The sort of man whom Americans admire, trust, and are willing to follow can be sketched with a few lines... At the basic level he must be self-respecting, decent, honorable, with a sense of fair play... He must be firm and self-confident in leadership: Davy Crockett's "Be always sure you're right, then go ahead!"... But a reputation for "genius" is unnecessary and may do the hero harm. An able man must not glory in his cleverness... Vanity or personal arrogance in any form is taboo." (482-83)

"The hero of a democracy cannot invite public opinion to go to hell... He must pay tribute to conformity... Fundamentally the hero is required to be chaste, loyal, honest, humble before duty and before God. He is apt to have a dash of Puritan conscience, but the beauty of holiness is no more expected than is a sense of poetry... Hard work, tenacity, enterprise, and firmness in the face of odds are the qualities that Americans most admire, rather than originality or eloquence of tongue and pen." (485)

"What is their common denominator? All of them, the people believe, loved America more deeply than any selfish consideration. The hero as made in America is a man who has the power and yet does not abuse it... A Chief Executive may then be called to office who rules as a minor Augustus over a gilded age, or serves as the genial host at a great barbecue." (487)

"Our heroes, we believe, are cast in a different mould. Their ruling passion, as we see it, is a sense of duty, alert to the best among the stirring impulses of their time, and able to make that impulse effective. They translate the dream into act. The supreme leader is he who can hitch the great bandwagon to the star of American idealism." (487)