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In the News
Elizabeth interviewed by Jason Koebler from U.S. News about why some people risk their lives for others.
An interview with Elizabeth and Matt Kettmann from Smithsonian.com stating everyone has a hero inside of them.
NRP affiliated, Watching America (Apple podcast): Be a Hero:Discussion with psychologist and author Elizabeth Svoboda and Defensive Tactics specialist and author Ron Scheidt
Q & A with Elizabeth
How did you get the idea to write this book?
After writing my adult book What Makes a Hero?, I started thinking about the idea that heroism has no age limit, so I wrote an article for Scholastic’s Choices magazine about kid and teen heroes. I was so impressed by the young heroes I spoke with that I decided to write a book about their stories—one that could inspire readers to start out on their own heroic journeys.
What are scientists learning about the origins of heroism?
Heroism science is still a young and emerging field, and there are many things scientists have yet to learn. But there have been some exciting and encouraging discoveries so far. One is that, personality-wise and otherwise, most real-life heroes aren’t all that different from the rest of us.
We tend to think that heroes have some indefinable quality that sets them apart from the rest of us, but that’s not really true. As psychologist Phil Zimbardo puts it, most heroes are ordinary people. It’s the act of heroism that’s extraordinary.
Describe some of the amazing kids and teens you interviewed for the book.
The book begins with the story of Graceanne Rumer (now Andreessen), who was only 17 years old when she did something heroic that changed her life. Graceanne’s bus driver had a heart attack and passed out at the wheel just as the bus was heading into oncoming traffic. Graceanne raced to the front of the bus, took the wheel, and steered the bus safely to the side of the road. She saved the lives of the kids who were on the bus that day.
But most of the heroic kids I talked to didn’t perform death-defying feats. Instead, they planned ways to make their communities better and turned those plans into reality, which I call “everyday heroism.” I profiled Max Wallack, who created a non-profit that donates puzzles to care centers for people with Alzheimer’s, and Paloma Rambana, who lobbied the Florida legislature for extra funding to support visually-impaired kids in the classroom
Are there any surprising things that can jump-start a heroic quest?
None of us want to go through difficult times in our lives. But I was fascinated to learn that those tough experiences can fuel our heroic journeys later on. If you were bullied as a kid, for instance, you know just how awful it is to be in that position, and that knowledge might inspire you to speak out against bullying or start your own anti-bullying program. Ask yourself, “What did I learn from what I went through that might help other people in the same situation?”
What’s your advice for people who want to set out on their own heroic journeys?
Build a strong team of supporters around you—people who know about your heroic quest and who can give you moral or practical support if you need it. That support can be invaluable if you’ve never, say, started a non-profit before, or lobbied a legislator, or started a fundraiser for a cause that’s important to you. Make a list of the things you need to do to achieve your goal and check them off one at a time, consulting your team for advice along the way.