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Life is an arrow-therefore you must know
What mark to aim at, and how to use the bow
Then draw it to the head, and let it go!
-Henry Van Dyke (1852–1933) poet and clergyman
EROES, to me, are people who have tried to beat the odds, peo
ple who have made the most of what they have. In hockey, an example from my youth was the Boston Bruins' Eddie Shore. If the Bruins were down by a goal in the middle of the third period, the crowd would start chanting, "We want Shore! We want Shore!" Sooner or later, Eddie Shore would wind up from behind his own net, carry the puck the length of the ice, and (more often than not, it seemed) score the tying goal. Terrific!
In my chosen field of aeronautics, the Wright Brothers were early heroes, taking on the Smithsonian Institution. These were two men who made bicycles, but they went up against the Washington intelligentsia. Charles A. Lindbergh had a similar story, a nobody who succeeded despite great odds. Competing against several more experienced airmen, such as Navy flier Richard E. Byrd, World War I ace René Fonck, and stunt flier Clarence E. Chamberlin, in 1927 Lindbergh became the first pilot to fly nonstop from New York to Paris. Motivated in part by a $25,000 prize originally offered in 1919 by a New York hotelier from France, the twenty-five-year-old Lindbergh accomplished his amazing feat by insisting on exacting standards for his specially built airplane.
During World War II, tremendous heroes emerged as flyers. After the war, the great challenge was to break the sound barrier. Through my work at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), I became involved in studying why an airplane became uncontrollable as it approached the speed of sound. What a thrill it was to listen to the tape recording of Chuck Yeager's commentary as he broke the