Gary Allison's Leadership Blog

Leadership28 Aug 2012 05:38 am

Growing up my heroes were Neil Armstrong and the intrepid explorers braving the unknown to go where no man had gone before.  This past weekend we lost Neil and it caused me to reflect on the differences in heroes from then to now and how it has troubled me for some time.


Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin despite all challenges, always managed to emerge from the blackened Apollo capsule in the middle of the ocean surrounded by an entourage from a nearby aircraft carrier.  I watched each launch with wonder and amazement as Walter Cronkite would so clearly enunciate the magnitude of the unfolding events and enormous national pride we felt but couldn’t otherwise quite put into words.  Even when things went terribly wrong with a mission as they did occasionally and continued so in the 80s, we knew that the men and women in the space program embraced those risks willingly and knowingly. Just as heroes always do.


My heroes were men like larger than life John Wayne who stood on the black and white side of justice and never lost a fight except to Santa Anna and cancer. While his characters consistently fell well short of perfect, he embodied what it was to be a man and a Texan: strong, determined, fiercely independent, uncompromising in character, and to “never surrender or retreat”.


And then there was and is my Dad. Growing up, he was often away protecting this country which he loves so much.  When I was small, he seemed a giant of a man, in so many ways the real life incarnation of that John Wayne.  A true Texan, blazing his own trail – making his own rules and pushing them as far as the military would allow. I’ve learned almost all I know about leadership from the man and I hope to be half the leader and hero to my kids that he is to me.


Today, where are the heroes? My kids seem to more idolize DanIsNotOnFire and other sarcastically witty youtubers who have managed to turn their mindless ramblings into a pseudo career than any role models that exemplify the preceding qualities.  Personally, I feel that we could use a few more role models walking a bright line between right and wrong.  Life is not an everyone gets a medal for showing up affair. Life is full of tough challenges and real choices that test your integrity.  We need leaders and people who will stand for doing the right thing even at great personal cost. Those leaders of tomorrow must necessarily come from the generation of youtube, and it’s pretty concerning.  We need more Neil Armstrongs. We need more John Waynes. We need more men like my Dad.

2 Responses to “Neil Armstrong”

  1. on 28 Aug 2012 at 8:43 pm Anonymous

    I agree with you Gary.

    We need more heroes and role models for the younger generations. We have a dearth of both heroes and villains. You grew up with John Wayne and the Soveiet Union. Today’s youth has grown up with fractured culture that sees shades of gray instead of black and white. There are no nazis or soviets anymore.

    The media that created John Wayne has been shattered into a million pieces by the Internet. We live in a world of confirmation bias and long tails. Globalization has left us with a deeper understanding of our common humanity and we can no longer see in pure black and white.

    The problem is that, along the way, we lost interest in things that are important to our common humanity. Stepping on another world lost it’s significance. If our species is to survive, we must be able to survive an extinction level event on earth. The only way to accomplish this is to expand beyond this one planet so all of our eggs are not in this one blue basket.

    Cheers to Neil Armstrong and the rest of the heroes in our space program.

  2. on 29 Aug 2012 at 10:07 am Dave Dyar

    It’s amazing how much we’re alike. Then again, considering how similar our background is and the men are fathers are…perhaps it’s not so surprising.

    When DID we start accepting mediocrity? Hell, when did we start idolizing it?

    Maybe real heroes will rise even in this age of glorified, quick fix media at every turn. I wonder where they will come from?

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