Join the debate. Vote Now on the Dear Abby Poll of the week.

by Abigail Van Buren

Heroes Both Young and Old Persevere Over Adversity

DEAR READERS: Yesterday I shared some of the emails you sent when "Alison in Ashland, Ore." asked you to name your heroes. Today I am sharing more. If you have found them to be as uplifting and energizing as I have, at a time when most of the news we read today has been so depressing, read on:

DEAR ABBY: Elizabeth Smart is my hero. She went on a forced ride and nine-month stay in hell, came back and has triumphed over that horror with grace, dignity and amazing maturity. -- DR. MARK M. IN UTAH

DEAR ABBY: One of our family heroes is Ruby Bridges. Only 6 years old, a black child in the South, Ruby attended an all-white elementary school in New Orleans, enduring isolation, harassment and even death threats. Thanks to Ruby and all Americans who helped to break down racial barriers in education. -- MELINDA IN VIRGINIA

DEAR ABBY: My hero happens to be famous, but that's NOT why she's my hero. It's Tina Turner. She started young and became famous because she had an amazing talent. However, when her marriage dissolved, she was reduced to manual labor to support herself and her children. She struggled to get her career back and, after years, regained her place in the entertainment world. She's my hero because she fell, got back up (no one did it for her) and made her place once again. She's a great example of human perseverance and I really admire her. -- TAMARA G., ORLANDO, FLA.

DEAR ABBY: Regarding real heroes, I nominate the journalists and writers who, at risk to their own lives, report the truth on what's happening in war-torn countries or in countries ruled by dictators. These brave men and women work under threats of murder, torture and/or imprisonment. -- BRENDA IN ATLANTA

DEAR ABBY: My hero, Ken, is now 90. He's one of the few remaining vets who walked Bataan and survived, after 3 1/2 years as a Japanese POW. He returned beaten and broken to marry and produce 10 children whom he loved intensely. His captivity made him a more loving husband, father and friend, and never did I hear him express hatred for his captors.

With so much hatred and violence in this world, Ken had the secret to spiritual and physical inner peace. I'll not have another hero to match him. -- DICK H., ROSEVILLE, MINN.

DEAR ABBY: A real hero is someone who donates an organ so that someone else may live. A real hero is someone who donates time to feed the hungry at a mission or sit with the elderly. There is a difference, to me, between a hero and someone who is brave. -- LARRY S., FLEMINGSBURG, KY.

DEAR ABBY: Some time ago, a plane crashed in a river near Washington, D.C. It was winter and a helicopter was plucking survivors out of the freezing water. One woman had a broken arm and was unable to continue holding onto the rope suspended from the helicopter. She fell back into the river, soon to perish. A young bystander jumped, fully clothed, into the freezing water and brought her back to the bank. That, to me, is a real hero. -- RICK G., METAIRIE, LA.

DEAR ABBY: I live in Tuscaloosa, Ala., and our town was devastated by a tornado on April 27. I can't tell you how many people came to help out. People who lost everything were helping others. When it was announced that something was needed, people from many states drove here with trailers full of relief supplies. Don't tell me we don't have heroes. Just look around and notice who's out there helping when the need is there. Better yet, don't be looking, be doing it yourself and YOU will be the hero. -- BERNICE FROM TUSCALOOSA

DEAR ABBY: The Special Olympics athletes are heroes to me. Although my situation was temporary, I know from personal experience how difficult it can be to function with a brain that doesn't work the way you want it to. I am fortunate to not only meet my heroes, but also to be able to get to know them and become friends with them. -- PENNY K., SPECIAL OLYMPICS VOLUNTEER, BOZEMAN, MONT.

DEAR ABBY: May I offer the name of Dietrich Bonhoeffer? He was a German theologian during the time of the Third Reich. He took part in the German resistance to remove Hitler and paid for it with his life. -- MIKE P., EUGENE, ORE.

DEAR ABBY: A hero? Mine is a man who saw people living with endless, excruciating pain and helped them to suffer no more. His were courageous acts of love and compassion, performed with the knowledge that there could be a horrendous price to pay. For this, he was labeled a "murderer" and sent to prison, his voice silenced and his work ended. It's Jack Kervorkian. -- HELEN G. IN FLORIDA

DEAR ABBY: For a hero, I hold New Hampshire's Doris "Granny D" Haddock in my heart. She walked across the United States at 90, supporting political financial reform, and continued trying to make a difference right up until her death. Surely, if she could do that at 90, I can do something positive in my remaining years. -- KATHARINE D., EAGLE, COLO.

DEAR ABBY: My heroes are my teachers. They spend their time to help us learn. They try to make learning fun for us. -- DEMARIS (AGE 10), MURRIETA, CALIF.

DEAR ABBY: I didn't have a hero until I was in college. Mr. Leonard was my public speaking professor. When class began he entered wearing a large oxygen tank on his back connected to a tube in his nose, and proceeded to explain that he had a lung disease and was on the waiting list for a lung donor.

Mr. Leonard never missed a class. He had a dry sense of humor and used teaching strategies that actively engaged the entire class in learning. As the semester progressed, he became more and more ill. By the end of the year he was hospitalized, and was still grading papers in the hospital bed the week he passed away.

Now, 16 years later, he is still my hero. He taught us that facing overwhelming fear, fighting through it, pressing on and not letting it defeat you are helpful skills not only for public speaking, but also for living. -- MINDY IN BLAIRSVILLE, GA.

DEAR ABBY: My heroes include poets Allen Ginsberg, Shel Silverstein and Langston Hughes. My heroes are environmentalists John Muir, Jane Goodall and Dian Fossey. They include activists Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. and Harvey Milk. I still feel there are many people in this world who are exceptionally talented, brave, hardworking and altruistic, and unlike "Alison in Ashland," I personally know many young people who have been inspired by such heroes to do great things with their own lives. However, I also feel that too many people have never gotten the recognition they deserve for their heroism and self-sacrifice. And I agree with Alison that if the media is going to shamelessly promote untalented, self-centered millionaire whiners as heroic mavericks, the media shouldn't complain about narcissism and entitlement in young people today. -- DAISY IN EDWARDSVILLE, ILL.

What teens need to know about sex, drugs, AIDS and getting along with peers and parents is in "What Every Teen Should Know." To order, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $6 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby -- Teen Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)