Many of the people who have been identified as heroes of young people have later turned out to have personal failings which tarnish their reputations and standing as "heroes." Recently, baseball legend Pete Rose was imprisoned for tax evasion and censured in baseball for illegal gambling; president John Kennedy has been accused in the media of being a philanderer; District Mayor Marion Barry was arrested and tried on drug charges.
Have these incidents affected the way you look at heroes? Do you still have any heroes? Who are they and why?
At some point as we grow up, most young people have someone they idolize -- either in the entertainment business or in the sports world. From our perspective, these are the perfect people; they have big houses and they can do no wrong.
When we suddenly realize that our heroes are not perfect -- when they get caught for misconduct such as Pete Rose for tax evasion and gambling and Mayor Marion Barry did for drug possession, we tend to see the world differently. We don't see it idealistically any longer because we don't have that hero to look up to.
When this happens, we feel disillusioned; we lose hope for tomorrow. What we fail to realize is that this is natural when we are young. As we mature, we should begin to realize that we can only worship God and value ourselves, our parents and our friends. MONTA BURROUGH Dunbar
My hero is Michael Jordan. The reason is that he is a positive role model. Michael Jordan is a young black man who has not forgotten where he comes from. He sets an example for black youths and tells them to stay in school and say "no" to drugs. In addition to all of this, he is the perfect basketball player. JOSEPH CRAWFORD Roosevelt
As a child, my favorite game was to dress up in my Wonder Woman underwear and go about saving people. After all, Wonder Woman had the qualities necessary to be a hero: she was a visible example of the highest ideals, she was beautiful and disciplined. Wonder Woman is no longer my hero for two reasons: she's fictional and she's flawless -- unreal.
Real heroes, I've learned, are human and have flaws, but they represent a higher standard in some particular way. They are what people would like to be, but are not. Mitch Snyder, for instance, was universally respected for his selfless life of helping the poor; but in the end, he denied his own self.
His may be one of the more dramatic examples of heroism spoiled by human weakness, but it has made me more aware that it is possible to focus on ideals and accomplish much good, despite the human flaws we can't seem to shed. ALLISON MITCHELL Georgetown Visitation
These events have not changed my thoughts about heroes; a hero is a woman or man admired for great deeds.
My hero is my father. He is a good and faithful husband and proud father. He's an excellent counselor; since I've known him I haven't heard him give wrong advice yet. He helps others and he is always at work on time every day. He taught me that, even though parents and children may pull away from one another at times, God will never leave you.
My father has shown me how to take responsibility to accomplish the tasks that I will need to. That is why he is the role model for my life. NATASHI WEAVER Washington-Dix Street Academy
Although Pete Rose and Marion Barry are idolized by many, they are human beings before anything else. These "heroes" made human mistakes that many common folk have also made. They should not be persecuted by anyone because they were heroes to people who failed to realize they were human. They are, and will continue to be, heroes in my eyes because they have dealt with their crimes, and will continue to do so long after their stories have left the front page.
I do not have any heroes because I have not searched deep for any, and none have fallen in my lap. The most important thing to remember when choosing a hero is to look at the whole package and realize they are only human, just like you. You may even find that to be one of their most appealing qualities. SALA PATTERSON Woodrow Wilson
A hero is a person who is greatly admired; a hero is someone considered to be a role model and to set a good example for the people who admire him; a hero is someone that one might dream of being like.
I think the incidents mentioned above have deeply affected the way I look at heroes. Being disappointed in someone you look up to is like having your dreams shattered. If a person wishes to be like his hero, it is difficult to keep dreaming when he is not sure what he is dreaming about. Being disappointed in your hero lowers your self-esteem and your trust in others.
I still have a hero -- his name is Reverend Jesse Jackson. He is my hero because he is a man of strength and courage and it takes a lot of both to get ahead in life. CHRISTINE CLARKE Cardozo
Sometimes, you find heroes in places you had never bothered to look before. Out of all the spidermen, the supermen, the war vets and Babe Ruths, the heroes that made the biggest impact in my life are my parents. To many, they seem ordinary. To me, they're more than that -- they are heroes. Both were born in the Philippines during World War II. In 1969, after six years of courting, they married and "crossed over" to the United States.
As soon as we (my younger brother, my older sister and I) could walk, we set out to see the world. Our parents didn't want us just to read in a book that the world is round, but to actually see for ourselves that it is.
My dad taught me to always honor God, family and country. My mother taught me the value of hard work and what it takes to stay at the top. My parents have spent half their lives making me into a responsible adult; I love them dearly for that.
I am always asking myself how I could ever thank them for what they have done. I guess this is the best way. ROBERT FEDERIGAN St. John's College
I really don't consider people to be heroes. I believe heroes are for kids and television. To me, the word hero is for children to use until they have a better understanding of what a person is. I believe the term role models should be substituted.
As far as role models are concerned, I really don't have one in my life right now. The qualities of a role model that I look for in a person is that they know what they are looking for in life and how to get it. Also, that they should know the ups and downs of life and work. They should carry on with the mission and not back down on promises they have made to themselves or to others. KIM McDOWELL Coolidge
These recent incidents do not affect the way I look at heroes. Yes, what Marion Barry did was wrong, but look at all of the right things he did for the youth and the communities of the District of Columbia.
Yes, I still have heroes, such as ex-professional football player Tony Dorsett -- to me he was the greatest running back who ever lived -- and Henderson Mosely, former Woodson student and the quarterback at Central State University. Mosely showed that living and growing up in the projects were not reasons to not succeed. These guys are heroes to me. GREGORY SHAW Anacostia
Many of our role models have faced trouble at some point in their careers. Don't we all? Maybe the attention to these wrongdoings of our role models help us more than if they had no faults at all. We can keep in mind what happened to them and come to the conclusion that it is not worth it to do something wrong. Maybe we should focus on their good qualities and, in so doing, become role models ourselves. VICTOR PORRAS Bell Multicultural
I have no heroes. The thought of looking up to another person and striving to emulate them depresses me. I have flaws and so do others; I have strong points and so do others. If that is the case, why look up to someone else who is just as imperfect as I am.
Although I have no heroes, I do have someone I strive to imitate. This individual is intelligent, loving, dedicated, truthful, trustworthy and amusing; overall, this individual was perfect. I am speaking of Jesus Christ. He was all those wonderful things and still is a wonderful being in heaven.
Why, you may ask, do I wish to emmulate Him? True, He was human, but Christ emmulated Jehovah and every part of His life reflects that. Who better for me to strive to be like?
I realize I will never be all the things that Jesus is, but as long as I continue to try, I will become less of the flawed person that I am. TRACY BAILEY Woodson
Despite the deceptive image Mayor Barry displayed during his tenure, I still view him as a hero. This man came from a life of obscurity to an illustrious and prominent career filled with politics, leadership and the civil rights movement.
As mayor, he began to interact with citizens regarding their needs and concerns. He was successful and made progress in establishing new and unique programs for the youth of the city, such as the Summer Youth Employment Program. He made improvements in the city by encouraging the building of the Convention Center, new hotels and office buildings, as well as establishing new housing and giving financial assistance to those in need. He has expert knowledge of the the management of the city and is adored by many citizens, young and old.
Mayor Barry made a definite impression on this city and the world. Whoever replaces him will have some big shoes to fill. JOANNE JONES Burdick Career Center
Marion Barry was my hero. He was a black man who had risen to one of the highest positions in the nation's capital.
One of the things that I admired most about Marion Barry was that he seemed to be a person who cared about the youth of the city. He provided summer jobs and other youth programs.
My admiration of Marion Barry began to fade away when he was caught doing drugs, the very thing he had spoken out against. I felt hurt and disappointed in him because of his actions and the language that he used after being caught on tape smoking crack cocaine.
Yes, Marion Barry was my hero, but I guess heroes die hard. MICHAEL DORSEY Eastern Students Speak Out: Topic for Nov. 8
Recently, a retired doctor was charged with setting up what has been termed "a suicide machine," to be used by a terminally ill patient. The device would trigger a lethal injection when activated by a control held by the patient. The doctor said that he simply gave the patient the final choice of when to die. Prosecutors said he was an accessory to the crime of suicide.
Do you believe voluntary euthanasia (medically assisted suicide) for the terminally ill should be legal? Should doctors be the ones to perform it? How does euthanasia relate to the Hippocratic oath? Is there any difference between the currently accepted "living wills," which limit the amount of care a patient wishes to receive, and euthanasia?
Written responses should be no more than 150 words in length and typed or written legibly. We are also interested in receiving political-style cartoons on the topic. Cartoons should be drawn on posterboard.
Students should submit their responses by Oct. 29 with name, age, grade and school included on the work to: High School Honors The Washington Post 1150 15th St. NW Washington, D.C. 20071
We will publish selected responses in the Nov. 8 edition of the District Weekly.