April 03, 2024

Unsung Heroes

By Elizabeth Hasen
Unsung Heroes
One of my favorite sites, electoral-vote.org, had a post this weekend which asked readers to submit the names of "Unsung Heroes..... forgotten people who have served us well and should be remembered more often." 
The responses were fascinating.  One reader proposed John Gilbert Winant (1889-1947), who served as a pilot in World War I, was governor of New Hampshire three times, and was appointed by FDR to be the American ambassador to Great Britain during World War II.  I had never heard of him, but he lived an amazing life.  For all that he accomplished, what comes shining through was the sweetness of his nature and his deep desire to help others. 
The New York Times, two days after Winant's death in 1957, wrote:   "Here was a man who truly loved mankind and tried all his life to make the lot of his fellow-men better and happier...." 
Harvard Magazine, in 2000, said this:  "During the Battle of Britain, Winant walked the streets of London, ablaze from the aerial bombardments, offering assistance to the injured amid the rubble of their homes and stores. His shy sincerity and quiet fearlessness endeared him to the British people and helped buoy that beleaguered nation." 
And the epitaph on Winant's gravestone -- taken from his own writings -- moved me almost to tears: 
"Doing the day's work day by day, doing a little, adding a little, broadening our bases wanting not only for ourselves but for others also, a fairer chance for all people everywhere. Forever moving forward, always remembering that it is the things of the spirit that in the end prevail. That caring counts and that where there is no vision the people perish. That hope and faith count and that without charity, there can be nothing good. That having dared to live dangerously, and in believing in the inherent goodness of man, we can stride forward into the unknown with growing confidence."
Thinking of all this in the context of this blog -- the relationship between life and art -- I think that for an artist, the "day's work" is the offering of a unique vision uniquely expressed:  making tangible and visible what they see or would wish to see in the world.  Think of the artists you know and love, and how their vision, their work, has  changed the way you see the world.  And maybe Winant reminds each of us that as we do our "day's work day by day, doing a little, adding a little," we quietly make our own irreplaceable contribution to the world.  Maybe "hero" Is something attainable by each of us, as we act with hope, faith, charity, caring, and vision.  Maybe in that respect, we can all be unsung heroes.  
PS -- You can read the wonderful write-up of Winant and the other people whose names were submitted here:    https://www.electoral-vote.com/evp2024/Items/Mar30-2.html

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