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US: A parade of Heroes

The new republics of the Americas needed heroes to establish their fragile identity. In the US Washington and in Venezuela Simon Bolivar became almost mythical figures. Now they are viewed more objectively , and they inhabit the dim past. In the US the Civil War was a soul´shattering tragedy, and a new hero was needed. Lincoln filled that role, and he too became almost a mythical figure. World War I was a national, indeed a world tragedy, and Woodrow Wilson emerged as the national icon. When Stanford historian Tom Bailey criticized him, his remarks were viewed as sacrilegious. In World War II Franklin Delano Roosevelt filled the role of national hero. Now the US is a super power, an imperial one, although some Americans reject that adjective. The new America needs a new hero, and it has found one in Theodore Roosevelt. The superb two-part documentary of his life broadcast by the History Channel consecrates him. Woonrow Wilson appears in it only briefly as a stiff, unattractive figure who rebuffed Theodore Roosevelt by ignoring him. In Roosevelt, America has found a new hero--a hero for our time.

Ronald Hilton - 1/26/03