(Some) heroes recognized at last

Let’s hear it for heroes. Not the fantasy “super-heroes” depicted in action movies, but real-life workaday Americans who risk their careers and reputations to take a principled stand for what’s right.

Time magazine just honored three of these folks as its “People of the Year” for 2002. One was Sharon Watkins, the midlevel Enron executive who dared to confront her top boss about the gross corruption running rampant in this avaricious corporation; second was Coleen Rowley, the FBI field agent who blew the whistle on the agency’s top brass for preventing her and other field staff from pursuing the September 11th terrorists before they struck; and third was Cynthia Cooper, WorldCom’s internal auditor who went to the board of directors with the startling discovery that top executives had engineered $4 billion in financial “irregularities.”

The extraordinary thing about these three women is that their heroism is not all that extraordinary. It rarely gets much media play, and it sure doesn’t always topple the mighty, but every day in our country there are principled people standing up to their unprincipled higher-ups... and often paying the price.

David Mihalic, for example, is a 33-year Park Service veteran who recently was forced out of the job he cherished, because he would not go along with his political bosses and the White House, who wanted to let developers ram a highway through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. “What we do here,” Mihalic said of the Park Service, “we have to do for the common good.”

Eduardo Delacruz, a New York City police officer, is another example. Just before Christmas, he was suspended without pay because he refused to arrest a homeless man found sleeping in a garage. When ordered to make the arrest, Delacruz still refused, saying the man had nowhere to go and it was simply wrong to put him in jail for that.

Heroism is not glamorous ... it’s gutsy. Here’s to all the heroes who help keep America a little more ethical.

Jim Hightower is a radio talk-show host, author and a former agricultural commissioner of Texas. For more information go to: www.jimhightower.com