Who was the “brilliant child of the wind and waves” who fired the inaugural volley at the Royal Navy’s pride by being the first to engage and capture an armed British warship, the Edward, during our War for Independence? Not sure? Here are a few hints: It was the same captain who fought the last naval skirmish of that long and bitter struggle for freedom, who held the record for the fastest American warship during the Revolution, and who was instrumental in the establishment of a permanent, separate American Navy.
One of the 19th century’s most famous poets, Lord Byron, compressed into two lines of immortal verse an essential truth about how self-respecting men and women need to live: “Know yet not? / Who would be free, themselves must strike the blow.” José Rizal, hero of Filipino independence, made the same point still more graphically: “There are no tyrants where there are no slaves.” Similar sentiments can be found in the literature of other lands. A Romanian proverb runs: “Whether one dies young or old, death is always the same. But it is not at all the same whether one dies like a lion or dies like a dog.”
The word “hero” so often conjures up images of the brash and the bold. We may think of Audie Murphy’s WWII exploits, the Spartans at Thermopylae, or the doomed holdouts at the Alamo. But then there are the quiet heroes, people such as Oskar Schindler. Ever since Schindler’s List hit the silver screen in 1993, his clandestine efforts resulting in the rescue of almost 1,200 Jews from Nazi death camps have been well known.