Our Statues, Our Heroes

November 15, 2020

Statues are used to immortalize those deemed worthy of honor and respect. In the U.S. we have innumerable statues of military heroes and some of first responders. We also have lots that depict sports stars. Collectively, these celebrate those who’ve shown physical bravery and excellence.

That’s great, but what about other types of heroes? What about those whose behavior demonstrates primarily social or psychological courage?

How many statues do you know that are devoted to great social change agents? Our greatest thinkers and inventers? Our bravest whistleblowers? Our life-saving doctors and researchers? Our teachers?

The Einstein statue in D.C. comes to mind, as do those honoring Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King. Monuments to those involved in the Stonewall Uprising in NYC are finally being built. But the fact that I can think of scores of statues dedicated in prominent places to those (mostly men) who perished for physical bravery or made a sports Hall of Fame and so few others leaves me thinking about our seemingly narrow way of defining heroes in the U.S.

What do you think? Please share a comment about the statue(s) you’d like to see, or your favorite(s) among those that do exist.


Written By

Jim Detert

Jim Detert is the John L. Colley Professor of Business Administration in the Leadership and Organizational Behavior area at the University of Virginia's Darden Graduate School of Business Administration and a Professor of Public Policy at the Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy. Prior to joining UVA, he taught at Cornell University's Johnson School of Management and was the faculty director for the School's leadership initiative.