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The Number One American Hero?

That Would Be You, Dad

By Brad Meltzer, bestselling author of Heroes For My Son

America is a country founded on the legends and myths of heroes. From Washington, to Lincoln, all the way up to the 9/11 firefighters, Captain Sullenberger, and — depending on your political view — Sarah Palin or President Obama, we are a country obsessed with our heroes. Indeed, heroism is part of our makeup. So is hero worship.

But despite what you may think about how blindly we follow the exploits of celebrities, athletes and whatever other pop culture pimple that suddenly appears from nowhere, there's a difference between what entertains us and what inspires us.

Best of all, when it comes to choosing our heroes, Americans, well, actually get it right. While I was writing Heroes For My Son, M/A/R/C Research conducted a poll to find out who we consider to be our role models, basing the results on the responses of 1,000 Americans nationwide.

Surprisingly, so-called famous people (politicians, athletes, celebrities) were mentioned only a handful of times by those polled. (In fact, President Obama was the first famous living person on the list at number six.) In the end, despite the circulation of tabloid magazines and the popularity of Tiger Woods stories, our lives are shaped mostly by Mom and Dad. And our most important heroes are still found at home, as children.

#1 Hero: Dad

Yes, we know what you're thinking. And yes, we were surprised that dear old Dad beat out dear old Mom. It was close of course, but when asked, “Who do you consider to be the biggest hero in your life?” the number one answer people gave was their father.

#2 Hero: Mom

She works, makes lunches, runs carpool and does just about everything else that keeps the house, the family and the marriage running. And when combined with dads, mothers prove that the most common answer given was: Our real heroes are our parents.

#3 Hero: Husband

Whether they picked Mom, Dad, family member or religious figure, Americans' answers didn't vary dramatically by education, age, gender, marital status or the part of the country they live in. But, one exception is that married women were two to three times more likely than married men to say that their spouse is their biggest hero.

#4 Hero: God/Jesus/Religious Figure

Roughly two-thirds of the people said that their hero was someone in their family. But running a notable second to family were religious figures, who were mentioned by 1 in 10 people.

#5 Hero: More Family

Starting with grandmothers, grandfathers, sisters and brothers, the rest of the family rounded out the next few answers, highlighting just how much of an impact our families have on our lives.

READ AN EXCERPT FROM HEROES FOR MY SON

SHOP NOW: Heroes For My Son by Brad Meltzer, $20

Who is your number one hero?

  • To most of us, Dad is a bigger hero than Superman.

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The Number One American Hero?
That Would Be You, Dad
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