NOTE: This is an actual speech I gave when I was working toward my CTM in Toastmasters (circa 1989-1990). In a way, it is the seed from which Public Speaking Super Powers grew.
Faster than a speeding bullet! More powerful than a locomotive! Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No, it’s Superman!
(sung) Spiderman. Spiderman. Does whatever a spider can.
Her golden lasso compels you to tell the truth. She is so swift and keen of sight that she can throw off bullets with the help of her bulletproof bracelets. Who is she? Why, Wonder Woman, of course!
Religions have been based on this man’s teachings. He was a healer. He raised a man from the dead. He was a peaceful man. He was (and is still) considered, by some, to be the Son of God. He was Jesus.
This man took Chrysler from bankruptcy to stability and growth. Lee Iacoca.
We all need heroes. Heroes are an important part of our emotional and spiritual growth. Without their example, how would we know the greatness we can all achieve? Heroes show us the good side of human nature. They point to the wonderful person in all of us.
When I was a child I was constantly aware of my heroes: Sinbad, Robin Hood, Gene Kelly. I dreamed of them, I played with them, I went on adventures and danced with them. I could call on their wisdom in times of trouble. I’m sure that you all can tell similar stories.
Didn’t you look up to someone when you were a kid? Wasn’t there some character on TV, in the movies or in a book that you wanted to be just like? Didn’t you pretend that he, she or it was your invisible friend?
This is what I am here to talk with you about – the evocation of heroes.
To evoke is to call forth or summon, to call to mind or memory, to create anew via the imagination. When you evoke a hero, he or she becomes akin to your guardian angel or guide. For every situation, there is a hero or archetype that can help you through.
There are three types of hero that you can evoke: The Fictional or Larger-than-life heroes; the real, everyday heroes; and the spiritual guides.
Fictional and Larger-than-life heroes come in a wide variety of flavors. The first to come to mind is Superman, the All-American Superhero. He is brave, strong, handsome, and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. He is something of a mascot for our nation, flying about in his red and blue underoos.
Also in this category are characters like Gandalf, wizard from J.R.R. Tolkein’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, the wise father-figure; Mr. Spock from the original Star Trek series, symbol of what is logical peaceful and at the same time controlled passions; and Scarlet O’Hara from Gone With the Wind, a woman who used all that was at her disposal to get what she wanted and needed.
These heroes, because they are not “real” can speak to our subconscious mind, they can take us beyond the realms of reality. We need these types of heroes, for it is sometimes too difficult to face what we must eventually all face. We need the fantasy to exercise our imaginations, to allow us to never lose touch with the child within.
When I was in high school I used to watch the cartoon He-Man. Now on some level I think He-Man is a sap. No matter what Skeletor does, he lets him go. Skeletor is always going to be evil. He’s an arch-villain, for Pete’s sake. But He-Man lets him go anyway because he has a set of morals and values that he lives by. He is true to what he believes in, and I admire that. I’d let my kids watch He-Man. He sets what I think is a good example, and that is another purpose of heroes.
When a child has a hero that he or she looks up to, that child tries to emulate the hero. I’ve spent a lot of years trying to be like my heroes. There is a theory that says if you pretend to be something long enough, and then you become that something. When you emulate a hero, you are evoking that hero. Evoking a hero in this way can help shape you to be the person you want to be. This hero can be the little angel on your shoulder.
The Greek hero of the Trojan War, Achilles [was guided by the Goddess] Athena. When Agamemnon, commander of the Greek forces, exerted his authority off the battlefield and took Achilles’ mistress away from him, Achilles put his hand on his sword and was drawing it from his scabbard. He would have committed mutiny and murder but for Athena’s calming intervention. Invisible to others, she descended from the sky, caught him by his fair hair, and told, him, I have come to stay your anger – but will you obey me? … Come then, do not take your sword in your hand, keep clear of fighting, though with words you may abuse him…. Some day three times over such shining gifts shall be given you.1
Real, everyday heroes are important for the morale of a society. John Glenn is a hero. He was a brave astronaut, and part of what made America’s Space Program popular in the sixties.
Parents can be heroes. I was “daddy’s little girl” when I was growing up. I looked up to my father and wanted to be like him when I grew up.
As a writer, Ursula LeGuin and Ray Bradbury are my heroes. As a dancer I look up to Gene Kelly, Ann Miller and Cyd Charisse.
Real heroes take the realm of heroes and bring it into reality. You may not be able to be like Superman, but you can be like Carl Sagan. There is even a chance that you might surpass him. Everyday heroes say, “Yes, you can achieve greatness and success.”
Applying the “doing is becoming” concept to living heroes, is in some sense easier than with fictional heroes. The chances of being in the same situation as your hero are greater.
America stresses this idea. “America, where dreams can come true.” How many times have you heard of the “rags to riches” story of Horacio Alger? Real heroes provide goals for people. If you know what is possible to achieve, it is easier to aim for that goal. To be able to reach a certain point, you need to be able to visualize it. You can’t get to where you are going, if you don’t know where that is. Find the people you admire, emulate them, invoke their energy into your life, and evoke their presence whenever you are in doubt. Know that you have an edge, because you have the best coach in the world, your imagination!
Of all heroes, the ones that are the most readily evoked are really not considered heroes by most people: the spiritual guides. Everyone has spiritual guides whether they are aware of it or not. Whenever you call on someone who is not there for advice, you are evoking a spiritual guide. You can be calling on Superman, Isaac Asimov or God; it is all part of the same process.
It has been said that your favorite animal displays characteristics that you admire and aspire to. This animal can be thought of as your Totem, your guardian animal spirit. Do you want to be like the lion, brave and independent? Do you want to be like the whale, carefree and graceful? Or perhaps you are like a dragon, wise and powerful.
The categories I have represented are truly arbitrary. They overlap and blur into each other, because heroes are expressions of archetypes. “The presence of common archetypal patterns in all people accounts for similarities in the mythologies of many different cultures.”2
I saw this commercial the other day. The screen was all misty, and out of the mist came a native warrior, then a Roman soldier, then an explorer, and then an astronaut. The narrator said something to the effect that every century had its heroes. Then they showed the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and he said something like “Star Trek, heroes for The Next Generation.” The commercial was very inspirational. It just proves my point, we all need heroes. We always have, and we always will.
In every person live certain archetypes. Archetypes are powerful predispositions. They are the needs that shape your personality. Which archetypes you identify with lead you to be attracted to certain types of heroes. Call on these archetypes, for they are your strengths. If you know and understand your archetypes, you can know and understand yourself. You can be aware of your weaknesses, as well as your strengths. You can use this knowledge to turn your weaknesses into strengths, and to use your strengths more effectively.
When I was frightened of the monsters in my dreams (or under my bed) my dad was always there to shoo them away. Now that I don’t live with him anymore, I can still call on his fatherly presence to shoo the images away. Would you believe that I’ve successfully erased images of vampires from my mind by thinking of Santa Claus?
When you are in a situation that you are unsure of, you can call on one of your heroes. You can imagine that Batman is at your side giving you advice to use your wit, rather than your brawn. Feel the presence of your totem and act accordingly. Know that you are never truly alone, for your heroes are always with you. They are a part of you.
1 Gods in Everyman by Jean Shinoda Bolen, N.D.Harper & Row, San Francisco, 1989. pg. 216-17.
2 Goddesses in Everywoman by Jean Shinoda 8olen, M.D. Harper & Row, San Francisco, 1984.