To beat COVID-19, we must 'wake into life and form the character of the hero'

Jim Nortz, BridgeTower Media Newswires

We are living in hard times. As the global COVID-19 pandemic progresses, every day the number of persons afflicted continues to rise at an alarming rate and economic hardships are becoming more acute for us all. The projections of illness and death are staggering. As our public health experts and governors have explained, we are at the beginning of what will likely be a long, difficult slog for a year or more until a vaccine or other prophylactics are widely available. The toll that COVID-19 will ultimately exact on our personal health, our loved ones, our communities, our prosperity and our world is unknown, but it is likely to exceed what we dare to contemplate.

Given the mortal danger they face on a daily basis, I am awestruck by the quiet courage of our first responders, healthcare professionals and employees of grocery stores and other critical service industries who selflessly put themselves and their families at risk for our benefit. They are soldiers on the frontlines defending us all. While we rightfully laud their sacrifice, it is important to recognize that we, too, are direct participants in this war, and that we are duty-bound to act in a manner that is worthy of the courage they are displaying for our sake.

Unlike conflicts fought in foreign lands thousands of miles away, this time we are all on the battlefield. We and our loved ones are at risk as the worldwide conflict rages. We are facing a deadly, invisible foe that strikes indiscriminately and without warning. As combatants in this war we may not be armed, but we are not defenseless.

We have the power individually and collectively to determine our fate. Our capacity to endure the challenges that lie ahead and to prevail depend not on our physical strength, but on the strength of our character. In this regard, we can all draw some comfort and inspiration from the words of one of our nation's greatest patriots who endured extraordinary hardships during the Revolutionary War. In a letter to John Quincy Adams dated January 19, 1780, Abigail Adams wrote:

"It is not in the still calm of life, or in the repose of a pacific station, that great characters are formed. The habits of a vigorous mind are formed in contending with difficulties. Great necessities call out great virtues. When a mind is raised, and animated by the scenes that engage the heart, then those qualities which would otherwise lay dormant, wake into life and form the character of the hero and the statesman."

In the days and months to come, our character as individuals and as a nation will be tested. The challenges presented by this global pandemic call on all of us to "wake into life and form the character of the hero." This does not mean we need to acquire super-powers like the heroes in a Marvel movie. Heroism is not a trait possessed only by a few exceptional individuals; heroism is a choice. We all have the capacity to rise to this occasion and act heroically. As Christopher Reeves once observed, "A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles."

Moreover, being heroic does not mean being fearless. As Nelson Mandela observed, "Courage is not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear."

To help us conquer our fear and to "form the character of the hero," it is vital that we work together to combat the virus with the right frame of mind in the firm belief that:

- We are not victims; we are warriors.

- We are not isolated by social-distancing; we are connected in a common cause to save lives.

- We are not helpless; we are empowered to control our destiny.

- We are not weak; we are strong in our resolve to do our part.

- The challenges ahead are great, but we will ultimately prevail.

Like soldiers in any army, we must not just exhibit heroism, we must also have the discipline to follow orders. This means strict adherence to instructions by the health care community to "slow the spread." It also means looking for every opportunity to help our neighbors and other members of our community who are in need in the weeks and months ahead.

Doing these things is an act of heroism. It is an outward manifestation of strong moral character and a commitment to help our fellow countrymen. It is our shared patriotic duty. It is also the best possible way we can honor and protect those on the frontlines and our loved ones. So, rather than despair our misfortune, let's face what is to come our way with courage, fortitude and an unshakeable conviction that together we will win this fight.


Jim Nortz is founder & president of Axiom Compliance & Ethics Solutions. He serves on the Conscious Capitalism Rochester board of directors, is a member of the International Association of Independent Corporate Monitors and is a National Association of Corporate Directors Fellow. Nortz also is a former board member of the Rochester Area Business Ethics Foundation ("RABEF") and the Ethics and Compliance Officer Association ("ECOA"). He can be reached at jimnortz@AxiomCES. com.

Published: Fri, Apr 17, 2020