Judith Sargent Murray: A Feminist Ahead of Her Time

Judith Sargent Murray lived before the term feminist existed; however, she displayed advocacy for women’s rights in a manner that would have surely earned her that title in a different era. Murray was born in 1751 in Massachusetts. She first became aware of gender inequalities in her own household. As children, her younger brother began studying the classics, a subject that her parents refused to provide for their daughter. Murray became very familiar with this type of gender inequality – especially in education – all during her life. Murray married young, a common practice for her time. In the world she lived, women were always dependent on someone: their father until they were old enough to marry, and then they were to be dependent on their husband. When her husband, John Stevens, began experiencing financial issues, Judith wanted to be included, but her husband refused. Murray believed in an equal partnership between husband and wife, because she witnessed herself the distance that could be driven between the two when they were not able to work together, as equal partners. John’s debts continued to grow, and he was not able to handle the situation he had created. He fled to the West Indies – without Judith – to escape his creditors. He ended up dying there.

Murray was left widowed, with children and no way to provide for them or herself. This experience cultivated some of her strongest ideas about improving women’s status. She realized, however, that before women could be given opportunities remotely equal to men, society would have to dismantle the fixed belief that women were inherently inferior to men in almost every aspect of life. Murray was left in America a defenseless widow. She believed that that alone was reason enough to prepare women for financial independence. Women could not simply rely on the men in their life to support them forever.

We know about her forward-thinking ideas because Murray was a writer. She wrote many short stories and poems – some of which were published – that included characters and themes that promoted her ideas. Most famously, Murray published a three-volume book of essays under a male pseudonym, The Gleaner. Writing as a man gave Murray the liberty and credibility she would not have had if she had written under her own name. And that was exactly the problem she was trying to address. She did not believe it was fair to treat men as though they were more capable than women in any field. The Gleaner was famous within its own time, and established Murray as a successful author. One of her most famous publications was actually published under her real name: “On the Equality of Sexes.” Her ideas were radical for her time, and they questioned issues that were still existent in the early twentieth century society. Judith Sargent Murray is a hero because she actually addressed the problems she faced in her own life. Thousands of women probably faced similar situations, but Murray was not content knowing she deserved better. She set a ball in motion that is still rolling today. Believing that women and men deserve equal education is a given in our time, but it was not until very recently. It is because of women such as Murray that the status quo was changed, that centuries-old traditions of treating women as inferiors were abolished.


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Tupac Shakur: Hero in Disguise

Some members of today’s society recognize the name Tupac Amaru Shakur while others simply know him as “2Pac” or “Pac”.  Shakur was a prominent West Coast gangster rapper of the 1990’s who transcended the restrictions placed on most of the musicians in Shakur’s line of work.  Tupac was born into a terribly troubled family in Harlem that was engulfed in serious legal issues from murder, sexual abuse and unthinkable prison sentences throughout Tupac’s adolescence.  Through this miserable upbringing, Shakur remained a positive influenced to those around him and continued his positive influence by spreading his message through his lyrics.  Many of his songs urge peace and prosperity amongst gangs and enemies alike.  The importance on Tupac may not be displayed through statistical analysis or other factual data but his message is clear to all of those exposed to his popular work.  Shakur’s influence was monumental during his period of popularity because he was able to use his fame and stature in order to promote good from coast to coast and across seas, wherever his tracks may land.  In comparison to other rappers of the 1990’s, Tupac created imaginative lyrics and an attractive persona, all-the-while preaching tolerance of race and freedom from discrimination.  While other rappers bragged on and on of drug life, murders and immoral lives in general, Tupac always remained the one constant through the headphones of the youths of America in the 1990’s.  The downfall of Shakur only adds to the public’s view of his heroism.  A drive-by assailant gunned him down following a boxing match in Las Vegas, Nevada.  Tupac Amaru Shakur was killed in the prime of his life with a booming career and an increasing influence on society as each day passed.  The tragic death of Tupac seemed to magnify his work as more and more people became aware of his music and thus his message of tolerance.  As the investigation continued, Tupac enthusiasts seemed to emphasize the messages preached by their hero and continued the legacy of freedom in place of their fallen idol.  Regarded as the first “socially conscious rapper”, Shakur is regarded as major opposition of police brutality, social injustice and poverty that seemed to encompass the community around him from birth until death.  Shakur grew from the deepest depths of evil and had the heroic ability to rise above and become a proponent for good.

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Spiderman: Friend or Foe?

Throughout American culture, people have historically attempted to classify nearly every influential individual as being either a hero or villain.  Most of the time this task is completed without question based on previous knowledge or an immense unexplainable vibe of good evil.  But what is to happen when society holds differing views of the same character?  You may view a specific individual as the essence of all that is wrong with the world while your next-door neighbor reveres this person for his or her influence on the world around them.  The most definite example of heroism and villainy debated is found in one of America’s most famous comic book heroes, Peter Parker and his alter ego, Spiderman.

The citizens of Manhattan, New York are viewed as flip-flopping often throughout Spiderman’s tenure as they find it difficult to determine the validity of the quasi-hero’s actions.  Spiderman is seen taking desperate measures and exploring personal interests through New York while fending off the multitude of bad guys.  However, these dangerous endeavors often cause some great catastrophe or other harm to persons of the city.  Due to this cause and effect parallel, the media portrays Spiderman as a hero on some days and blasts the costumed character as a villain on others.  I firmly believe that this unpredictable and uninformed portrayal of Spiderman in the media remains the major factor that shapes the mixed opinions of the public.  Citizens are seen as choosing sides for or against Spiderman as he attempts to continue to fight for what he believes is for the greater good.  This contrast of rewards and consequences forced onto society from Spiderman’s actions are continuously weighed and debated by viewers.  Whether the argument lies within one viewer or amongst Spiderman supporters and Spiderman scolders, this facet of Spiderman’s character provides immense depth and a much greater basis for analysis.

Upon further examination, the status of Spiderman’s true character seems to be fairly obvious to me.  I believe his true colors are shown throughout the plot in that his intentions are always seemingly innocent and are aimed to better the lives of Peter Parker’s loved ones.  Although the outcome may not always reflect the intention, it is the thought that leaves to label Spiderman as a hero rather than a villain.  In order to receive the “villain” title I feel that a character must be evil in nearly every facet instead of having more than a few unfortunate mishaps.  The hero in Spiderman shines through in his whole-hearted and selfless actions to save lives of those close to him as well as his willingness to protect the lives of unknown citizens of New York.


“Iron Man”-Cal Ripken Junior

On September 6, 1995, a 65 year-old record thought impossible to break was indeed, shattered.  On that faithful night in Baltimore, Maryland, The “Iron Man” Cal Ripken Junior broke Lou Gehrig’s record for consecutive Major League Baseball games played.  Voted as “The Most Memorable Moment” in Major League history, Ripken forever etched his name in the minds of baseball and sports fans alike for generations to come.  As if playing 2,131 consecutive games is not amazing enough, perhaps one would appreciate the domination that Ripken presented over the league during his time.  Voted as a 19 time All-Star, two time Gold Glove winner, eight time Silver Slugger winner, two time Most Valuable Player, World Series Champion as well as a mess of other coveted awards, Ripken is clearly the game’s most decorated and beloved player in history.

Is that not what we want in our heroes?  As imperfect beings, we love nothing more than to admire an individual that effectively presents himself as physically as well as morally courageous.  Today’s baseball fans vividly recall the trot around the outskirts of the field as Ripken talked and touched every fan seated within the first couple rows.  Managers, players, owners, fans, athletes and little boys and girls revere the unyielding persistence in Ripken’s nature.  There is no way of knowing the amount of nagging injuries suffered by Ripken.  This hero played a physically demanding sport in the heat of the summer, against younger men, against stronger men, at it’s highest level and without stopping. How simple could it have been for Cal Ripken Junior to rest his muscles in his first season?  His fifth season? His fifteenth season?  It was not until his 17th season in Major League Baseball that Ripken voluntarily removed his name from the Baltimore Orioles starting lineup.  Ripken won the hearts of all he contacted by some sort of unexplainable charisma.  He remained a silent leader, a hero who drew admiration from the most talented of players.  More common heroes overcome some sort of obvious obstacle or triumph over a tragedy or stronger opposition.  The beauty of Ripken’s heroism lies in the fact that his opposition was merely invisible.  Without a complaint, without a whence, Ripken played through pain and anguish while America watched number 8 smile away on the left side of that infield.

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Hitler: The Man Who Killed Millions

A person that is truly considered a villain just by the mention of his name brought disaster to an entire race and nearly wiped them out during his years of power. Hitler’s life was filled with hate and he showed his hate by torturing others and separating families and removing them from their homes during the Holocaust. The actions of Hitler, the Nazi Party and the results of Nazism are typically regarded as gravely immoral. Historians, philosophers, and politicians have often applied the word evil. Historical and cultural portrayals of Hitler in the west are overwhelmingly condemnatory. Hitler brought death and poverty to many different cultures and nations in Europe and he was doing this because he thought certain people did not belong in the world. He made his people believe what he was doing was right and they stood beside their leader while he was inflicting disaster amongst other people.

Hitler is considered a villain to me because he did not show compassion for people that were different. He wanted to have a “pure German race” and he killed millions of people because they did not fit the qualities he considered to be right. One of the foundations of Hitler’s social policies was the concept of racial hygiene. Applied to human beings, “survival of the fittest” was interpreted as requiring racial purity and killing off “life unworthy of life.” The first victims were children with physical and developmental disabilities; those killings occurred in a program dubbed Action T4. After a public outcry, Hitler made a show of ending this program, but the killings continued. Between 1939 and 1945 the Naszi party stematically killed somewhere between 11 and 14 million people, including about six million Jew in concentration camps, ghettos and mass executions, or through less systematic methods elsewhere. In addition to those gassed to death, many died as a result of starvation and disease while working as slave labourers. Along with Jews, non-Jewish Poles, Communists and political opponents, members of resistance groups, homosexuals, Roma, the physically handicapped and mentally retarded, Soviet prisoners of war (possibly as many as three million), Jehovah’s Witnesses, Adventists, trade unionists, and psychiatric patients were killed. One of the biggest centers of mass-killing was the industrial extermination camp complex of Auschwitz-Birkenau. As far as is known, Hitler never visited the concentration camps and did not speak publicly about the killing in precise terms.

Hitler also showed hatred to the many people he was trying to get rid of. A true hero does not hate people no matter what race or culture they are from. The lone fact that Hitler nearly wiped out an entire race makes him a villain, he did not consider others’ lives’ and showed selfishness because he only tried to help and advance one nation. Although he did not personally kill the millions of Jews and other millions of people, he was the person that ordered it and that is equivalent to killing them personally. Hitler’s actions did not display the traits of a hero and even though he was considered a hero to his many followers he falls short of being a hero because he was only willing to help one race. Although Hitler was considered a hero to some and he was respected by many, bringing death to anyone is not a trait of a hero but rather the trait of a villain and to me Hitler can never be considered a hero because of that simple fact. He tortured people and forced them to live horrific lives. He killed families and children without care and that is something that could never be deemed heroic. Adolf Hitler scarred the lives of many and he almost killed an entire race, he will go down in history as one of the most evil people to ever live.


Doug Williams: The First To Lead The Way

 Many people look to athletes as heroes because they live the life that many envy or because they have the talent that many wish they were born with. However the athlete that I consider a hero is a person that showed determination and leadership through a tough and what seemed as a doubtful career. The person that I consider a hero was the first quarterback of color to win a Super Bowl and he had to go on his own hero journey to end up in the Super Bowl.

 Doug Williams was drafted in the first round (17th overall) of the 1978 NFL Draft, chosen by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers out of Grambling State University. The Bucs, who had never been to the playoffs before Williams arrived, went to the playoffs three times in four years and played in the 1979 NFC Championship Game. Williams improved his completion percentage each year with the Bucs, but was regarded as the heart and soul of the team, and the driving force behind the winning.

However, during his tenure in Tampa, Williams was only paid $120,000 a year, by far the lowest salary for a starting quarterback in the league, and behind 12 backups. After the 1982 season, Williams asked for a $600,000 contract. Bucs owner Hugh Culverhouse refused to budge from his initial offer of $400,000 despite protests from Coach John McKay. While Culverhouse’s offer was still more than triple Williams’ previous salary, he would have still been among the lowest-paid starters in the league. Feeling that Culverhouse wasn’t paying him what a starter should earn, Williams bolted to the upstart United States Football League. The next year the Bucs went 2-14, and they would not make the playoffs again for 14 years until after the 1997 season, and lost ten games in every season but one in that stretch. Many Bucs fans blame Culverhouse’s refusal to bend in the negotiations with Williams as a major factor. Culverhouse’s willingness to let Williams get away over such a relatively small amount of money was seen as particularly insensitive, coming only months after Williams’ wife Janice died of a brain tumor.

Williams quickly signed with one of the USFL’s expansion teams, the Oklahoma Outlaws. He would lead his team in passing completing 261 out of 528 passes for 3,084 yards and threw 15 touchdowns. In 1985, when his team moved to Arizona and fused with the Arizona Wranglers to become the Arizona Outlaws, Williams showed some improvement, completing 271 out of 509 passes for 3,673 yards with 21 touchdowns ending up with a 76.4 passer rating. However, his Outlaws’ just missed the playoffs with an 8-10 record.

After the USFL shut down in 1986, Williams returned to the NFL, joining the Washington Redskins head coach Joe Gibbs, who had been the offensive coordinator at Tampa Bay when Williams was there.

Initially Williams served as the backup for starting quarterback Jay Schroeder, but after Schroeder became injured, Williams stepped in and led the Redskins to an opening-day victory against the Philadelphia Eagles. In the 1986 NFC title game Williams was sent in the game to sub for Schroeder and it would be one of three times in 1987 that Williams subbed for Schroeder and led the team to victory. Williams only started two games, 9/20 at Atlanta and 11/23 vs. the Rams. While both starts were losses, at the end of the season, when the Redskins qualified for the playoffs, Williams, with his 94.0 passer rating, was chosen as the starter. He led the team to Super Bowl XXII in which they routed the Denver Broncos, becoming the first black quarterback to play in a Super Bowl, and as of Super Bowl XLV, the only black quarterback to win one.

Facing legendary Denver Broncos quarterback John Elway, Williams engineered a 42-10 rout, in which the Redskins set an NFL record by scoring five touchdowns in the second quarter. Williams completed 18 of 29 passes for 340 yards, with four touchdown passes, and was named Super Bowl MVP.

Doug Williams is one of my heroes because he is the first African-American quarterback to win a Super Bowl. Many people do not realize it but there was a time where many people believed Africans Americans were not smart enough to play the position and many said African-Americans did not have the brain capacity to run an offense and be able to think at such a fast pace. As an African-American college quarterback I believe that Doug Williams proved that all those beliefs were false and from meeting him personally Doug Williams is a model person and a great role model for kids. He gives people like myself hope and he is living proof that anything is possible with hard work.



An Unbelievable Passion for Life

                Jason McElwain, or “J-Mac”, is my hero because he showed dedication and heart when he inspired many people across America on February 15, 2006. Jason McElwain is from Greece, New York, which is in Rochester, New York. At age two, he was diagnosed with Autism. At first, he struggled with interacting with other kids and was placed in special education classes to better his social skills. As he got older he developed social skills that allowed him to do a lot of other things that other autism kids could not do. He was known as a high-functioning autistic kid.  He attended Greece Athena High School where he became the varsity boys’ basketball manager. This is where he made an incredible impact on the school, community, and the world.

            “J-Mac” was only 5’6, so the coach did not put him on the team, but let him work as the water-boy/manager. He was extremely dedicated to the team. He attended every practice and missed only one game. During practice, he would scrimmage and play with the team, but was never allowed to play in the game. This did not frustrate “J-Mac” because he had a passion for basketball and was grateful for the opportunity he had to be a manager. Even though all he ever wanted was to play in the game, he never complained. On February 15, 2006, he got his chance.

            The day before the game, the coach of the team, Coach Johnson, approached Jason and told him he could suit up for the game, but he couldn’t promise any playing time. It was the last game of the season and the team was playing for the title. They were playing Spencerport High School for Senior-Night, but “J-Mac” stole the show. Coach Johnson had already planned to let Jason play if Greece Athena had a comfortable lead near the end of the game. With four minutes left in the game, Greece Athena was up by twenty points and Coach Johnson decided to put Jason in the game. When coach pointed to Jason on the bench, the crowd went crazy because they knew he was going in the game. Jason was not afraid to shoot because as soon as he got in the game he shot a three pointer and a layup, but missed both of those shots. After these shots, Jason settled in and started to relax on the court. He then attempted his second three and made it. Following that shot, he continued shooting and made six three point shots and two lay-ups within a three minute period. Jason later explained that he was “hotter than a pistol.” The last shot of the game was a three pointer by Jason that was nothing but net, followed by the entire student section storming the court and lifting Jason onto their shoulders.

            Jason had done the unthinkable and proved to everyone that with dedication and hard work, anything is possible. He proved to all people with disabilities that you can do anything you put your mind to. “J-Mac” became a local and nationwide hero. Jason’s story became so inspiring that over twenty film-producing companies have offered to make a movie of his story, including Walt Disney, Warner Bros, and Columbia Pictures. Jason was awarded an Espy Award in 2006 for the best moment in sports that year. “J-Mac” will always be a hero and has heavily impacted the hearts of many people across the world.