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Taking new roads in the search for heroes

Uncle Sam
One of my favorite singer/songwriters, Jill Sobule, has a song named "Heroes," to which, I've mused, she'll have to add a few verses as I watch yet another of Tiger Woods' mistresses come out of the woodwork: "Why are all our heroes so imperfect? Why do they always bring me down?"

From Woods to John Edwards, Eliot Spitzer, South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, Steve Phillips, David Letterman, Nevada Sen. John Ensign and Mel Gibson, guys who have been held up as role models and who have often pontificated about the sins of others (yes, I'm looking at you, Sanford, Spitzer, Gibson and Ensign) have turned out to have ... er ... feet ... of clay, just like the rest of us.

Perhaps it's just the fulfillment of Lord Acton's dictum that "power corrupts," be it by being unable to keep your John Thomas in your trousers or by having amnesia about the issues that were important to you when you were elected to office.

Take Joe Lieberman. I'm happy he's a man of principle. I just hope for Hanukkah he receives the gift of being able to identify those principles and stick to them -- like on the filibuster, for example. On Nov. 22, 1994, back when he was a Democrat and still relatively new to the halls of power, Lieberman held a news conference with Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa. Saying it was time to bury "a dinosaur," they announced legislation to curtail the power of the filibuster.

"(People) are fed up .... frustrated and fed up and angry about the way in which our government does not work, about the way in which we come down here and get into a lot of political games and ... partisan tugs of war and forget why we're here, which is to serve the American people. And I think the filibuster has become not only in reality an obstacle to accomplishment here, but it also a symbol of a lot that ails Washington today," said youthful Joe.

Who's the dinosaur now? I guess 15 years of political games and pharmaceutical and health insurance company donations take their toll on one's principles, 'cause these days Joe is wielding that same filibuster like a drunken sailor in a barroom brawl. But it's not a political game now. No, after two decades in Washington, that same filibuster has become a "right."

"I have no other choice," Lieberman told reporters on Capitol Hill last month. "I've got to use the right I have as a senator to stop something that I think is going to be terrible for our future, which is the public option."

Perhaps this constant disappointment with politicians and celebrities is why I'm a strong believer in StoryCorps. I first became involved in 2003, when my sister and I interviewed Dad for Father's Day. In 2006, I took my son, and he interviewed me as part of our "one-on-one" day in New York. Part of that clip was played on NPR's "Morning Edition," and subsequently was made into an award-winning short by Rauch Brothers Animation, "Q & A." Friday mornings on NPR, instead of being subjected to the latest infidelity or political flip-flop, one hears stories of incalculable worth, straight from the hearts of Americans. Interviewees receive a CD, and an archive recording is kept at the Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, thus creating a rich audio tapestry of American life.

Facebook users can help support StoryCorps by voting today for the organization to win $25,000 from Chase Community Giving. It's worth doing, because after listening to even one of these recordings you'll realize there's no such thing as an "ordinary" American.

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Uncle Sam
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