Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Thoughts About Heroism


One of my favorite episodes of the Simpsons was the one where Bart perpetrated an elaborate hoax, pretending he was a boy named Timmy that had fallen into a well. (In reality, Bart had merely hidden a microphone in the well.) The plight of "Timmy" generated enormous attention throughout Springfield, which enabled the show to spoof the media, celebrity charity work and other sacred cows.

At one point in the show, Homer has this exchange with his daughter Lisa:

Homer: That Timmy is a real hero!

Lisa: How do you mean, Dad?

Homer: Well, he fell down a well, and… he can’t get out.

Lisa: How does that make him a hero?

Homer: Well, that’s more than you did!

All of which is a long way around to saying that I typically roll my eyes when people start talking about "heroes," a word and a concept that are easily abused. So I hope you will not find me flippant when I say that I met a couple of people that I found truly heroic earlier today.

Once again, I was given the opportunity to participate in the Sloan Awards, the Fund for the City of New York's annual celebration of excellence within the ranks of New York City's civil service. All of the awardees were public servants in the truest sense: not just government bureaucrats, but people who routinely go above and beyond to improve the delivery of services to the public. Whether its creating innovative recycling programs or finding resources for kids in detention or identifying victims of public tragedies, these folks are a big part of what makes this city great. All New Yorkers owe them a debt of gratitude. I'm just glad that the Fund is able to honor them on our behalf.