For generations, the notion of American exceptionalism has suggested that we are a people capable of overcoming steep odds to advance the human condition and build a Republic unlike any other before it. In this country, ordinary men and women — we tell ourselves — can do extraordinary things. And so, it is understandable that the superhero ideal neatly fits into the way we view greatness. Superheroes are extraordinary people courageously meeting a multitude of challenges and achieving incredible feats. And in an increasingly troubled, real world, where everyday life produces its own stress and anxiety, these make-believe characters and their stories provide more than just an escape from our burdens. They come to personify both our fears and wildest aspirations.
Without question, no character is more recognizable or better epitomizes the hopes, strength, and moral countenance of mankind than DC Comics’ Superman. The Man of Steel (albeit, yes, an illegal alien) has been a symbol of hope for generations, even taking on life as part of our national identity. The very image of Superman inspires us to imagine greater possibilities, to exercise empathy and charity, and to believe in ourselves.
“You’re much stronger than you think you are. Trust me.” Superman spoke those words, only a few years back, to a character on the verge of suicide. Not surprisingly, though, many people would contend that he has been saying them to our society for more than eighty years. It’s the very reason why so many people who have never bought, or even read, comic books gladly and proudly sport the symbol of hope.
So, whether you are a big comic-book fan or just a believer in greater possibilities, I say to you “Happy National Superman Day!” May you, too, continue to find and share the strength, inspiration, courage, kindness, and moral certitude to change this world for the better.