Essay on National Heroes Day

Students are often asked to write an essay on National Heroes Day in their schools and colleges. And if you’re also looking for the same, we have created 100-word, 250-word, and 500-word essays on the topic.

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100 Words Essay on National Heroes Day

What is national heroes day.

National Heroes Day is a special day to honor the people who have done great things for their country. It’s like a big thank you to those who fought for freedom, made new laws, or helped others in big ways.

Why Celebrate?

We celebrate to remember these brave people. It’s important because it teaches us about our past and inspires us to be better. On this day, we learn about courage and love for our country.

How We Celebrate

On National Heroes Day, we have parades, speeches, and sometimes a day off from school. People also visit monuments and read stories about our heroes to understand their sacrifices.

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250 Words Essay on National Heroes Day

National Heroes Day is a special day set aside to honor and remember the brave men and women who have made significant contributions to their countries. It is a time to celebrate the lives of these individuals who have shown great courage and dedication in making their nation a better place.

Why We Celebrate

We celebrate National Heroes Day to show our respect and gratitude to those who have fought for freedom, justice, and the betterment of society. These heroes may include soldiers, activists, leaders, and ordinary citizens who have done extraordinary things. Their actions inspire us to be better people and to work hard for the good of our communities.

On National Heroes Day, many countries have parades, ceremonies, and educational events. Schools may have special lessons about national heroes, and stories of their bravery are shared. People also visit monuments and memorials dedicated to heroes, and some may lay flowers or flags to show their respect.

The Importance of Remembering

Remembering our heroes is important because it keeps their memory alive and teaches us about our history. It helps us understand the sacrifices they made and the challenges they overcame. This knowledge can encourage us to stand up for what is right and to make positive changes in our own lives.

National Heroes Day is more than just a holiday; it is a reminder of the courage and strength that lie within all of us. It encourages us to appreciate our past and to strive for a future that honors those who have paved the way for us.

500 Words Essay on National Heroes Day

National Heroes Day is a special day set aside to honor and remember the brave people who have made significant contributions to our country. These individuals are known as heroes because they have done extraordinary things, often risking their own lives, to help others and to improve the nation. This day is a time to think about their courage and to be thankful for the freedom and rights we enjoy because of their efforts.

Why We Celebrate National Heroes Day

We celebrate National Heroes Day to show our respect and gratitude to the heroes of our nation. These heroes can be soldiers who fought in wars, leaders who stood up for justice, or ordinary people who did something remarkable. By remembering these heroes, we learn about our history and the values that make our country strong. It’s also a day to inspire everyone, especially young students, to be brave and to make a difference in the world.

On National Heroes Day, there are many ways we can honor our heroes. Schools may hold assemblies where stories about the heroes are told. Communities might have parades or gatherings where people can come together to celebrate. Some people visit monuments or museums dedicated to heroes to learn more about them. Others volunteer their time to help those in need, following in the footsteps of the heroes we admire.

Heroes in Our History

Every country has its own heroes, and they come from all walks of life. Some are well-known figures like national leaders or freedom fighters. Others may be less famous but still made a big impact, like scientists who made important discoveries or activists who worked for peace and equality. These heroes show us that anyone can make a positive change in the world.

Modern-Day Heroes

Heroes are not just found in history books. Today, we have modern-day heroes all around us. They could be doctors and nurses saving lives, teachers educating the next generation, or young people standing up for what is right. National Heroes Day is also a time to recognize these everyday heroes who make our communities better places to live.

Personal Heroes

Aside from national figures, we also have personal heroes in our own lives. These could be family members, friends, or anyone who has been a role model for us. National Heroes Day is a good time to thank these people and let them know how much they mean to us. It’s a reminder that heroism can be found in simple acts of kindness and support.

National Heroes Day is an important occasion for everyone, especially students, to reflect on the qualities of heroism, such as bravery, selflessness, and dedication. It’s a day to honor those who have helped shape our nation and to find inspiration in their stories. By celebrating this day, we keep the memory of our heroes alive and encourage each other to be the best we can be. It’s a day that reminds us that heroes come in many forms and that each of us has the potential to be a hero in our own way.

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Unsung Heroes: Encouraging Students to Appreciate Those Who Fought for Social Justice

Teaching Activity. Essay by Howard Zinn and lesson by Bill Bigelow. Rethinking Schools. 17 pages. Students research and share stories about unsung heroes in U.S. history.

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essay national heroes

You can no more win a war, than you can win an earthquake.” —Jeannette Rankin

Schools help teach students who “we” are. And as Howard Zinn points out in his essay “Unsung Heroes,” too often the curricular “we” are the great slaveholders, plunderers, imperialists, and captains of industry of yesteryear.

Thus when we teach about the genocide Columbus launched against the Taínos, or Washington’s scorched-earth war on the Iroquois, or even Abraham Lincoln’s promise in his first inaugural address to support a constitutional amendment making slavery permanent in Southern states, some students may experience this new information as a personal loss. In part, as Zinn suggests, this is because they’ve been denied a more honorable past with which to identify — one that acknowledges racism and exploitation, but also highlights courageous initiatives for social equality and justice.

The roles included are:

From the opening of the “Unsung Heroes” essay by Howard Zinn

A high school student recently confronted me: “I read in your book A People’s History of the United States about the massacres of Indians, the long history of racism, the persistence of poverty in the richest country in the world, the senseless wars. How can I keep from being thoroughly alienated and depressed?”

It’s a question I’ve heard many times before. Another question often put to me by students is: Don’t we need our national idols? You are taking down all our national heroes — the Founding Fathers, Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, John F. Kennedy. Granted, it is good to have historical figures we can admire and emulate. But why hold up as models the 55 rich white men who drafted the Constitution as a way of establishing a government that would protect the interests of their class — slaveholders, merchants, bondholders, land speculators?

Why not recall the humanitarianism of William Penn, an early colonist who made peace with the Delaware Indians instead of warring on them, as other colonial leaders were doing?”

▸ Continue reading this essay by Howard Zinn in the downloadable PDF .

Classroom Story

“ Unsung Heroes ” is a lesson I’ve used every year. It is always a hit with my students, who are engaged and ask important questions during this unit. When students embody those heroic figures I hope they emulate, it is also important identity work which is critical during the middle school years that my students find themselves in.

Students always say that they never knew there were so many people who had to struggle for equality in the U.S. It is edifying for me when students say, “She looks like me!” regarding one of the heroes, or otherwise find ways to relate their own lives to the lives of figures who helped in the struggle for equality.

Rethinking Our Classroms Vol. 2 (Teaching Guide) | Zinn Education Project

This lesson was published by  Rethinking Schools  in Rethinking Our Classrooms, Volume 2: Teaching For Equity and Justice . For more lessons like “Unsung Heroes: Encouraging Students to Appreciate Those Who Fought for Social Justice,” order Rethinking Our Classrooms, Vol. 2 with a collection of from-the-classroom articles, curriculum ideas, lesson plans, poetry, and resources — all grounded in the realities of school life, edited by Bill Bigelow, Brenda Harvey, and Stan Karp.

A similar lesson is available from Teaching for Change called “ Resistance 101: A Lesson on Social Justice Activists and Strategies .”

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essay national heroes

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4 comments on “ Unsung Heroes: Encouraging Students to Appreciate Those Who Fought for Social Justice ”

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When are you going to add in the story of Catholic institution building, anti-Catholic bias in the 19th and twentieth centuries, and add the names of Catholic women, especially nuns and sisters, who worked to overcome barriers erected by the majority culture during this time? None of this is in textbooks I have read over the course of my college education: from freshman through the doctoral levels.

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Teachers, let’s make sure we use this plan and even expand on it when helping students choose a topic for their National History Day 2017 project. This year’s theme is “Taking a Stand in History”…its begging our students to research those who have stood for justice.

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Thank you for adding truth to the study of our past… When humans hide the imperfections and demons among us, truth loses and the injustices and imperfections in our past keep their un-warranted power.

Thank you for you enlightening work.

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The Life and Legacy of José Rizal: National Hero of the Philippines

essay national heroes

Dr. José Rizal, the national hero of the Philippines, is not only admired for possessing intellectual brilliance but also for taking a stand and resisting the Spanish colonial government. While his death sparked a revolution to overthrow the tyranny, Rizal will always be remembered for his compassion towards the Filipino people and the country.

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Humble beginnings

José Protasio Rizal Mercado Y Alonso Realonda was born on June 19, 1861 to Francisco Mercado and Teodora Alonzo in the town of Calamba in the province of Laguna. He had nine sisters and one brother. At the early age of three, the future political leader had already learned the English alphabet. And, by the age of five, José could already read and write.

Upon enrolling at the Ateneo Municipal de Manila (now referred to as Ateneo De Manila University ), he dropped the last three names in his full name, after his brother’s advice – hence, being known as José Protasio Rizal. His performance in school was outstanding – winning various poetry contests, impressing his professors with his familiarity of Castilian and other foreign languages, and crafting literary essays that were critical of the Spanish historical accounts of pre-colonial Philippine societies.

A man with multiple professions

While he originally obtained a land surveyor and assessor’s degree in Ateneo, Rizal also took up a preparatory course on law at the University of Santo Tomas (UST). But when he learned that his mother was going blind, he decided to switch to medicine school in UST and later on specialized in ophthalmology. In May 1882, he decided to travel to Madrid in Spain , and earned his Licentiate in Medicine at the Universidad Central de Madrid.

Rizal Park, Manila, Philippines

Apart from being known as an expert in the field of medicine, a poet, and an essayist, Rizal exhibited other amazing talents. He knew how to paint, sketch, and make sculptures. Because he lived in Europe for about 10 years, he also became a polyglot – conversant in 22 languages. Aside from poetry and creative writing, Rizal had varying degrees of expertise in architecture, sociology, anthropology, fencing, martial arts, and economics to name a few.

His novels awakened Philippine nationalism

Rizal had been very vocal against the Spanish government, but in a peaceful and progressive manner. For him, “the pen was mightier than the sword.” And through his writings, he exposed the corruption and wrongdoings of government officials as well as the Spanish friars.

While in Barcelona, Rizal contributed essays, poems, allegories, and editorials to the Spanish newspaper, La Solidaridad. Most of his writings, both in his essays and editorials, centered on individual rights and freedom, specifically for the Filipino people . As part of his reforms, he even called for the inclusion of the Philippines to become a province of Spain.

But, among his best works , two novels stood out from the rest – Noli Me Tángere (Touch Me Not) and El Filibusterismo ( The Reign of the Greed).

In both novels, Rizal harshly criticized the Spanish colonial rule in the country and exposed the ills of Philippine society at the time. And because he wrote about the injustices and brutalities of the Spaniards in the country, the authorities banned Filipinos from reading the controversial books. Yet they were not able to ban it completely. As more Filipinos read the books, their eyes opened to the truth that they were suffering unspeakable abuses at the hands of the friars. These two novels by Rizal, now considered his literary masterpieces, are said to have indirectly sparked the Philippine Revolution.

Rizal’s unfateful days

Upon his return to the Philippines, Rizal formed a progressive organization called the La Liga Filipina. This civic movement advocated social reforms through legal means. Now Rizal was considered even more of a threat by the Spanish authorities (alongside his novels and essays), which ultimately led to his exile in Dapitan in northern Mindanao .

This however did not stop him from continuing his plans for reform. While in Dapitan, Rizal built a school, hospital, and water system. He also taught farming and worked on agricultural projects such as using abaca to make ropes.

In 1896, Rizal was granted leave by then Governor-General Blanco, after volunteering to travel to Cuba to serve as doctor to yellow fever victims. But at that time, the Katipunan had a full-blown revolution and Rizal was accused of being associated with the secret militant society. On his way to Cuba, he was arrested in Barcelona and sent back to Manila to stand for trial before the court martial. Rizal was charged with sedition, conspiracy, and rebellion – and therefore, sentenced to death by firing squad.

Days before his execution, Rizal bid farewell to his motherland and countrymen through one of his final letters, entitled Mi último adiós or My Last Farewell. Dr. José Rizal was executed on the morning of December 30, 1896, in what was then called Bagumbayan (now referred to as Luneta). Upon hearing the command to shoot him, he faced the squad and uttered in his final breath: “ Consummatum est” (It is finished). According to historical accounts , only one bullet ended the life of the Filipino martyr and hero.

His legacy lives on

After his death, the Philippine Revolution continued until 1898. And with the assistance of the United States , the Philippines declared its independence from Spain on June 12, 1898. This was the time that the Philippine flag was waved at General Emilio Aguinaldo’s residence in Kawit, Cavite.

Monument in memory of Jose Rizal at Rizal Park

Today, Dr. Rizal’s brilliance, compassion, courage, and patriotism are greatly remembered and recognized by the Filipino people. His two novels are continuously being analyzed by students and professionals.

Colleges and universities in the Philippines even require their students to take a subject which centers around the life and works of Rizal. Every year, the Filipinos celebrate Rizal Day – December 30 each year – to commemorate his life and works. Filipinos look back at how his founding of La Liga Filipina and his two novels had an effect on the early beginnings of the Philippine Revolution. The people also recognize his advocacy to achieve liberty through peaceful means rather than violent revolution.

In honor of Rizal, memorials and statues of the national hero can be found not only within the Philippines, but in selected cities around the world. A road in the Chanakyapuri area of New Delhi (India) and in Medan, Indonesia is named after him. The José Rizal Bridge and Rizal Park in the city of Seattle are also dedicated to the late hero.

Within the Philippines, there are streets, towns/cities, a university (Rizal University), and a province named after him. Three species have also been named after Rizal – the Draco rizali (a small lizard, known as a flying dragon), Apogania rizali (a very rare kind of beetle with five horns) and the Rhacophorus rizali (a peculiar frog species).

To commemorate what he did for the country, the Philippines built a memorial park for him – now referred to as Rizal Park, found in Manila . There lies a monument which contains a standing bronze sculpture of Rizal, an obelisk, and a stone base said to contain his remains. The monument stands near the place where he fell during his execution in Luneta.

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Biography of José Rizal, National Hero of the Philippines

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José Rizal (June 19, 1861–December 30, 1896) was a man of intellectual power and artistic talent whom Filipinos honor as their national hero. He excelled at anything that he put his mind to: medicine, poetry, sketching, architecture, sociology, and more. Despite little evidence, he was martyred by Spanish colonial authorities on charges of conspiracy, sedition, and rebellion when he was only 35.

Fast Facts: José Rizal

  • Known For : National hero of the Philippines for his key role inspiring the Philippine Revolution against colonial Spain
  • Also Known As: José Protasio Rizal Mercado y Alonso Realonda
  • Born : June 19, 1861, at Calamba, Laguna
  • Parents : Francisco Rizal Mercado and Teodora Alonzo y Quintos
  • Died : December 30, 1896, in Manila, the Philippines
  • Education : Ateneo Municipal de Manila; studied medicine at the University of Santo Tomas in Manila; medicine and philosophy at the Universidad Central de Madrid; ophthalmology at the University of Paris and the University of Heidelberg
  • Published Works : Noli Me Tangere, El Filibusterismo
  • Spouse : Josephine Bracken (married two hours before his death)
  • Notable Quote: "On this battlefield man has no better weapon than his intelligence, no other force but his heart."

José Protasio Rizal Mercado y Alonso Realonda was born on June 19, 1861, at Calamba, Laguna, the seventh child of Francisco Rizal Mercado and Teodora Alonzo y Quintos. The family were wealthy farmers who rented land from the Dominican religious order. Descendants of a Chinese immigrant named Domingo Lam-co, they changed their name to Mercado ("market") under the pressure of anti-Chinese feeling among the Spanish colonizers.

From an early age, Rizal showed a precocious intellect. He learned the alphabet from his mother at the age of 3 and could read and write at age 5.

Rizal attended the Ateneo Municipal de Manila, graduating at age 16 with the highest honors. He took a post-graduate course there in land surveying.

Rizal completed his surveyor's training in 1877 and passed the licensing exam in May 1878, but he could not receive a license to practice because he was only 17. He was granted a license in 1881 when he reached the age of majority.

In 1878, the young man enrolled in the University of Santo Tomas as a medical student. He later quit the school, alleging discrimination against Filipino students by the Dominican professors.

In May 1882, Rizal got on a ship to Spain without informing his parents. He enrolled at the Universidad Central de Madrid after arriving. In June 1884, he received his medical degree at the age of 23; the following year, he graduated from the Philosophy and Letters department.

Inspired by his mother's advancing blindness, Rizal next went to the University of Paris and then to the University of Heidelberg for further study in ophthalmology. At Heidelberg, he studied under the famed professor Otto Becker (1828–1890). Rizal finished his second doctorate at Heidelberg in 1887.

Rizal lived in Europe for 10 years and picked up a number of languages. He could converse in more than 10 different tongues. While in Europe, the young Filipino impressed everyone he met with his charm, intelligence, and mastery of a range of different fields of study. Rizal excelled at martial arts, fencing, sculpture, painting, teaching, anthropology , and journalism, among other areas.

During his European sojourn, he also began to write novels. Rizal finished his first book, " Noli Me Tangere " (Latin for "Touch Me Not"), while living in Wilhelmsfeld, Germany, with the Rev. Karl Ullmer.

Rizal wrote "Noli Me Tangere" in Spanish; it was published in 1887 in Berlin, Germany. The novel is a scathing indictment of the Catholic Church and Spanish colonial rule in the Philippines, and its publication cemented Rizal's position on the Spanish colonial government's list of troublemakers. When Rizal returned home for a visit, he received a summons from the governor-general and had to defend himself against charges of disseminating subversive ideas.

Although the Spanish governor accepted Rizal's explanations, the Catholic Church was less willing to forgive. In 1891, Rizal published a sequel, titled " El Filibusterismo ." When published in English, it was titled "The Reign of Greed."

In his novels and newspaper editorials, Rizal called for a number of reforms of the Spanish colonial system in the Philippines. He advocated freedom of speech and assembly, equal rights before the law for Filipinos, and Filipino priests in place of the often-corrupt Spanish churchmen. In addition, Rizal called for the Philippines to become a province of Spain, with representation in the Spanish legislature, the Cortes Generales .

Rizal never called for independence for the Philippines. Nonetheless, the colonial government considered him a dangerous radical and declared him an enemy of the state.

In 1892, Rizal returned to the Philippines. He was almost immediately accused of being involved in the brewing rebellion and was exiled to Dapitan City, on the island of Mindanao. Rizal would stay there for four years, teaching school and encouraging agricultural reforms.

During that period, the people of the Philippines grew more eager to revolt against the Spanish colonial presence. Inspired in part by Rizal's progressive organization La Liga , rebel leaders such as Andres Bonifacio (1863–1897) began to press for military action against the Spanish regime.

In Dapitan, Rizal met and fell in love with Josephine Bracken, who brought her stepfather to him for a cataract operation. The couple applied for a marriage license but were denied by the Church, which had excommunicated Rizal.

The Philippine Revolution broke out in 1896. Rizal denounced the violence and received permission to travel to Cuba to tend to victims of yellow fever in exchange for his freedom. Bonifacio and two associates sneaked aboard the ship to Cuba before it left the Philippines and tried to convince Rizal to escape with them, but Rizal refused.

He was arrested by the Spanish on the way, taken to Barcelona, and then extradited to Manila for trial. Rizal was tried by court-martial and charged with conspiracy, sedition, and rebellion. Despite a lack of evidence of his complicity in the Revolution, Rizal was convicted on all counts and given a death sentence.

He was allowed to marry Bracken two hours before his execution by firing squad in Manila on December 30, 1896. Rizal was just 35 years old.

José Rizal is remembered today throughout the Philippines for his brilliance, courage, peaceful resistance to tyranny, and compassion. Filipino schoolchildren study his final literary work, a poem called " Mi Ultimo Adios " ("My Last Goodbye"), and his two famous novels.

Spurred by Rizal's martyrdom, the Philippine Revolution continued until 1898. With assistance from the United States, the Philippine archipelago defeated the Spanish army. The Philippines declared independence from Spain on June 12, 1898, becoming the first democratic republic in Asia.

  • de Ocampo, Estaban A. " Dr. Jose Rizal, Father of Filipino Nationalism ." Journal of Southeast Asian History .
  • Rizal, José. "One Hundred Letters of José Rizal." Philippine National Historical Society.
  • Valenzuela, Maria Theresa. " Constructing National Heroes: Postcolonial Philippine and Cuban Biographies of José Rizal and José Martí ." Biography .
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How Rizal Became the National Hero of the Philippines

Find out why Jose Rizal (and not Andres Bonifacio) is the national hero of the Philippines.


It has always been a heated argument on who deserves to be called Philippine’s national hero — Jose Rizal or Andres Bonifacio.

Why is Jose Rizal the national hero of the Philippines? It is interesting to note that Jose Rizal’s heroism was recognized first by the colonizing Americans and later on by General Emilio Aguinaldo.

Recommended by US Governor Taft

The Americans (through the American Governor William Howard Taft) recommended to the Philippine Commission, which was sponsored by the US, to declare Jose Rizal as a national hero for the Filipinos. The Americans recommended Rizal because of the fact that he was executed by the Spaniards and of his peaceful way to achieve liberty. Unlike Andres Bonifacio whose desire to achieve independence for his native land required armed approach. The Americans deemed this approach to independence of Andres Bonifacio to be unacceptable and may inspire other Filipinos to rebel against American rule. This is why Jose Rizal was chosen over him as the national hero. Jose Rizal was declared as the greatest Filipino hero during the American colonization after the Aguinaldo led armed forces were subdued during the Philippine-American war.

December 30th as National Day of Mourning

General Emilio Aguinaldo was the first one to declare December 30th as a national day of mourning in honor of Rizal and others who have died fighting the Spanish tyranny.

The Pen Is Mightier Than the Sword

The Philippine revolution led by Andres Bonifacio was fueled by the writings of Jose Rizal, Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo, which made a more lasting impression. This is one of the best arguments of those who believe that Rizal is rightfully the national hero. Rizal was truly an inspiration to many Filipinos during the Spanish period. According to the historian Rafael Palma, Rizal was more deserving of the national hero title. Rizal was even thought to have suggested that Antonio Luna lead the revolutionary forces since Luna has studied military science which was a brilliant idea to lessen casualties against the powerhouse Spanish militia. Rizal believed that only an army that was well prepared and had enough arms would ensure victory .

Founder of La Liga Filipina

Jose Rizal founded the La Liga Filipina, a civic organization that led to the creation of the Katipunan headed by Andres Bonifacio. This fact may already substantiate that Rizal’s title was deserving since without the La Liga Filipina, Andres Bonifacio and his army would have been non-existent.

Everything started with Rizal. Philippine Revolution against Spain started what was known as the First Republic led by Emilio Aguinaldo.

For Rizal, violence or armed resistance only as a last resort and considered the restoration of the people’s dignity as a justification means of achieving national liberation and self-rule. On the other hand, Filipinos are also grateful to Andres Bonifacio’s legacy, his advocacy to an armed revolution. We credit both Rizal and Bonifacio for awakening the patriotic spirit of Filipinos.

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Essay on My Favourite National Hero: Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose

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In our country, many great heroes were born in the past. They were great Patriots. They sacrificed their lives for the freedom of their motherland. We remember their names with love and respect. My favourite National Hero, among the great heroes of modern India, the name of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose comes uppermost in my mind . He is my favourite National hero. He is the glory of India. He is the symbol of struggle and sacrifice.

Life of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose:

The life of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose was very attractive. It is full of heroic activities. He was born on 23rd January in 1897 in Cuttack, the capital of Orissa. His father Janaki Nath Bose was a famous lawyer. A brilliant student throughout his academic career, he stood second in the Matriculation Examination. But above all, he was one of the greatest Patriots of India. He refused to accept service under the British government after passing the ICS Examination. He jumped into the national movement of India and became the President of the National Congress in 1938.

Activities for Freedom Movement:

During the second world war, he was interned in his own house. But one night he escaped from his house throwing dust into the vigilant eyes of the gourds. He left India in disguise and went first to Germany and then to Singapore where with the help of Rashbihari Bose he organised the Azad Hind Fouz . It was here that Subhash Chandra Bose began to be called ‘Netaji’ by the soldiers of the I.N.A. With this army, Netaji started his heroic and triumphant March up to Imphal, the capital of Manipur but thereafter had to retreat for want of food and arms. With his heart writhing in pain Netaji left for Tokyo in a plane but alas never to return.


There is a mystery around Netaji’s death. Though there is a rumour that Netaji died in a plane crash, many Indians still believe that Netaji is still alive. Dead or alive our beloved Netaji will remain ever alive in our mind.

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essay national heroes

  • Heroism: Why Heroes are Important
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Why Heroes are Important

The impact of role models on the ideals to which we aspire.

When I was 16 years old, I read Henry David Thoreau's book Walden for the first time, and it changed my life. I read about living deliberately, about sucking the marrow out of life, about not, when I had come to die, discovering that I had not lived, and I was electrified. Somehow he convinced me that living deliberately meant becoming a philosopher, and I have not looked back since. And I try as often as I can to remind myself of Thoreau's warning to all philosophy professors: "There are nowadays professors of philosophy, but not philosophers. Yet it is admirable to profess because it was once admirable to live. To be a philosopher is not merely to have subtle thoughts, nor even to found a school, but so to love wisdom as to live according to its dictates, a life of simplicity, independence, magnanimity, and trust. It is to solve some of the problems of life, not only theoretically, but practically." If - horrible thought - I should fail to earn tenure here, I would largely blame that damned quotation. But even if that disaster should strike, I know I would find solace by asking how Henry would respond to such a setback, and I know I would be a better man by following his example. Thoreau is one of my dearest heroes, and I do not know who I would be without him.

The term "hero" comes from the ancient Greeks. For them, a hero was a mortal who had done something so far beyond the normal scope of human experience that he left an immortal memory behind him when he died, and thus received worship like that due the gods. Many of these first heroes were great benefactors of humankind: Hercules, the monster killer; Asclepius, the first doctor; Dionysus, the creator of Greek fraternities. But people who had committed unthinkable crimes were also called heroes; Oedipus and Medea, for example, received divine worship after their deaths as well. Originally, heroes were not necessarily good, but they were always extraordinary; to be a hero was to expand people's sense of what was possible for a human being.

Today, it is much harder to detach the concept of heroism from morality; we only call heroes those whom we admire and wish to emulate. But still the concept retains that original link to possibility. We need heroes first and foremost because our heroes help define the limits of our aspirations. We largely define our ideals by the heroes we choose, and our ideals -- things like courage, honor, and justice -- largely define us. Our heroes are symbols for us of all the qualities we would like to possess and all the ambitions we would like to satisfy. A person who chooses Martin Luther King or Susan B. Anthony as a hero is going to have a very different sense of what human excellence involves than someone who chooses, say, Paris Hilton, or the rapper 50 Cent. And because the ideals to which we aspire do so much to determine the ways in which we behave, we all have a vested interest in each person having heroes, and in the choice of heroes each of us makes.

That is why it is so important for us as a society, globally and locally, to try to shape these choices. Of course, this is a perennial moral issue, but there are warning signs that we need to refocus our attention on the issue now. Consider just a few of these signs:

o A couple years ago the administrators of the Barron Prize for Young Heroes polled American teenagers and found only half could name a personal hero. Superman and Spiderman were named twice as often as Gandhi, Martin Luther King, or Lincoln. It is clear that our media make it all too easy for us to confuse celebrity with excellence; of the students who gave an answer, more than half named an athlete, a movie star, or a musician. One in ten named winners on American Idol as heroes.

o Gangsta rap is a disaster for heroism. Just this week, director Spike Lee lamented the fact that, while his generation grew up idolizing great civil rights leaders, today young people in his community aspire to become pimps and strippers. Surely no one wants their children to get their role models from Gangsta rap and a hyper materialistic, misogynistic hiphop culture, but our communities are finding it difficult to make alternative role models take hold.

o And sometimes, the problem we face is that devotion to heroes is very strong, but directed toward the wrong heroes. In the Muslim world, Osama bin Laden and his like still have a widespread heroic appeal. We can tell how we are doing in the struggle for Muslim hearts and minds by the degree to which this continues to be true.

So what must we do? How should we address the problem? Part of the answer is personal. It never hurts us to remind ourselves who our own heroes are and what they represent for us, and to ask ourselves whether we are doing all we can to live up to these ideals. Not long ago there was a movement afoot to ask always, "What would Jesus do?" I'd like to see people asking questions like that, about Jesus or others, all the time. I confess I get a little thrill every time I see a protest poster asking, "Who would Jesus bomb?" That's heroism doing its work, right there. Moreover, those of us who are teachers - and all of us are teachers of our own children at least - have a special opportunity to introduce heroes to those we teach. And teaching about heroes really isn't hard; heroic lives have their appeal built in, all we need to do is make an effort to tell the stories. I assure you, the reason those students didn't choose Lincoln and King and Gandhi as heroes was not that they had heard their stories and dismissed them. It is our job to tell the stories. Tell your students what a difference people of courage and nobility and genius have made to the world. Just tell the stories! We should recommit to that purpose. Start by going home tonight and listing your five most important heroes.

But part of the answer to our problem is broader. It is clear that the greatest obstacle to the appreciation and adoption of heroes in our society is pervasive and corrosive cynicism and skepticism. It was widely claimed not long ago that 9/11 signalled the end of irony, but it is clear now that the reports of irony's death were greatly exaggerated. This obstacle of cynicism has been seriously increased by scandals like the steroids mess in Major League Baseball, by our leaders' opportunistic use of heroic imagery for short term political gain, and by the Pentagon's stories of glorious soldiers like Jessica Lynch and Pat Tillman that - by no fault of the soldiers involved - turned out to be convenient fabrications.

The best antidote to this cynicism is realism about the limits of human nature. We are cynical because so often our ideals have been betrayed. Washington and Jefferson held slaves, Martin Luther King is accused of philandering and plagiarizing, just about everybody had sex with someone they shouldn't, and so on. We need to separate out the things that make our heroes noteworthy, and forgive the shortcomings that blemish their heroic perfection. My own hero Thoreau had his share of blemishes. For instance, although he was supposed to be living totally independently out by Walden Pond, he went home to Mother on the weekends. But such carping and debunking misses the point. True, the false steps and frailties of heroic people make them more like us, and since most of us are not particularly heroic, that may seem to reduce the heroes' stature. But this dynamic pulls in the other direction as well: these magnificent spirits, these noble souls, amazingly, they are like us, they are human too. And perhaps, then, what was possible for them is possible for us. They stumbled, they wavered, they made fools of themselves - but nonetheless they rose and accomplished deeds of triumphant beauty. Perhaps we might do so too. Cynicism is too often merely an excuse for sparing ourselves the effort.

Again, the critical moral contribution of heroes is the expansion of our sense of possibility. If we most of us, as Thoreau said, live lives of quiet desperation, it is because our horizons of possibility are too cramped. Heroes can help us lift our eyes a little higher. Immanuel Kant said that "from the crooked timber of humanity, no straight thing was ever made." That may well be true. But some have used that warped, knotted timber to build more boldly and beautifully than others, and we may all benefit by their examples. Heaven knows we need those examples now.

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Essays About Heroes: 5 Examples And Topic Ideas

Here, we’ll look at examples of essays about heroes and questions that can be used as topics for essays about an imagined or real hero.

A few different images likely come to mind when you hear the word hero. You may imagine Superman flying above the world with his superpower of flight. You may imagine a personal hero, a real person who has made a significant impact on your life for the better. You might think of a true hero as someone who has shown heroic qualities in the public eye, working to help ordinary people through difficult situations.

When writing an essay about your life hero, it’s important to consider the qualities of that person that make them stand out to you. Whether you choose to write an essay about how your mom got you through tough times and became your role model or about a political figure who made a difference in the lives of people in history, it’s key to not just focus on the person’s actions—you’ll also want to focus on the qualities that allowed them to act heroically.

Here, we’ll explore examples of hero essays and potential topics to consider when writing about a hero.

For help with your essays, check out our round-up of the best essay checkers

Examples Of Essays About Heroes

  • 1. These Are The Heroes Of The Coronavirus Pandemic By Ruth Marcus
  • 2. Why Teachers Are My Heroes By Joshua Muskin
  • 3. Martin Luther King Jr.—Civil Rights Activist & Hero By Kathy Weiser-Alexander

4. Steve Prefontaine: The Track Of A Hero By Bill O’Brian

5. forget hamilton, burr is the real hero by carey wallace, topic ideas for essays about heroes, 1. what makes a hero, 2. what are the most important characteristics of heroes in literature, 3. what constitutes a heroic act, 4. is selflessness required for heroism, 1.  these are the heroes of the coronavirus pandemic  by ruth marcus.

Examples of essays about heroes: These Are The Heroes Of The Coronavirus Pandemic By Ruth Marcus

“Is this what they signed up for? There is some danger inherent in the ordinary practice of medicine, but not this much. I confess: I do not know that I would do the same in their circumstances; I am not sure I am so generous or so brave. If my child were graduating from medical school, how would I deal with her being sent, inadequately protected, into an emergency room? If my husband were a physician, would I send him off to the hospital — or let him back into the house in the interim?” Ruth Marcus

Healthcare workers have had no choice but to go above and beyond in recent years. In this essay, Marcus discusses the heroism of those in the healthcare field. He delves into the traits (including selflessness and courage) that make doctors, nurses, and other healthcare workers heroes.

2.  Why Teachers Are My Heroes   By Joshua Muskin

“Teachers are my heroes because they accept this responsibility and try extremely hard to do this well even when the conditions in which they work are far from ideal; at least most do. Our jobs as society, education systems, and parents is to do our best to be strong allies to teachers, since their success is essential to ours.” Joshua Muskin

In this essay, Dr. Muskin discusses the many challenges teachers face and what parents, administrators, and education researchers can do to help teachers support students. Muskin explains that most teachers go above and beyond the call of duty to serve their classrooms.

3.  Martin Luther King Jr.—Civil Rights Activist & Hero   By Kathy Weiser-Alexander

“During this nonviolent protest, activists used boycotts, sit-ins, and marches to protest segregation and unfair hiring practices that caught the attention of the entire world. However, his tactics were put to the test when police brutality was used against the marchers, and King was arrested. But, his voice was not silenced, as he wrote his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” to refute his critics.” Kathy Weiser-Alexander

In this essay, Weiser-Alexander details both the traits and the actions of Dr. King before and during the civil rights movement. The author touches on King’s commitment to justice, persistence, and willingness to stand for his beliefs despite difficult circumstances.

“I remember this so vividly because Prefontaine was a hero to me, a hero in a way that no one was before, or really has been since. A British commentator once called him “an athletic Beatle.” If so, his persona was much more Lennon than McCartney. Actually, I thought of him more as Mick Jagger — or ultimately James Dean.” Bill O’Brian

A hero to many in the running world, Prefontaine’s confidence, unique style, and unmatched athletic ability have been heralded for decades. In this essay, O’Brian shares how he, as a distance runner during the era of Pre, related to his struggles and ambition.

“Burr fought against an ugly tide of anti-immigrant sentiment in the young republic, led by Hamilton’s Federalist party, which suggested that anyone without English heritage was a second-class citizen, and even challenged the rights of non-Anglos to hold office. In response, Burr insisted that anyone who contributed to society deserved all the rights of any other citizen, no matter their background.” Carey Wallace

In this essay, Wallace explains why Aaron Burr, the lifelong nemesis of founding father Alexander Hamilton, should be considered a historical hero. This essay exposes someone seen as a villain but much of society with a different take on their history. 

It can be interesting to think about your definition of a hero. When describing what the term hero means to you, you may want to choose a person (or a few people) you look up to as a hero to solidify your point. You might want to include fictional characters (such as those in the Marvel universe) and real-life brave souls, such as police officers and firefighters.

A word of caution: stay away from the cliche opening of describing how the dictionary defines a hero. Instead, lead-in with a personal story about a hero who has affected your life. While talking about a public figure as a hero is acceptable, you may find it easier to write about someone close to you who you feel has displayed heroic qualities. Writing about a family member or friend who has shown up as a heroic main character in your life can be just as exciting as writing about a real or imagined superhero.

From Beowulf to Marvel comics, heroes in literature take on many different traits. When writing an essay on what trait makes a hero come alive in a short story, novel, or comic, choose a few of your favorite heroes and find common themes that they share.

Perhaps your favorite heroes are selfless and are willing to put themselves last in the name of sacrifice for others. Perhaps they’re able to dig deep into the truth, being honest even when it’s hard, for the greater good. There’s no need to list endless heroes to make your point—choosing three or four heroes from literature can be a great way to support your argument about what characteristics define heroism in literature.

When someone is named a hero in real life, we often picture them saving people from a burning building or performing a difficult surgical operation. It can be difficult to pin down exactly what constitutes a heroic act. When writing about what constitutes a heroic act, think about people who go above and beyond, performing feats of courage, honesty, and bravery to support themselves or others. When writing about what constitutes a heroic act, discuss real-life or literary examples of heroes at work.

To many people, being a hero means giving back to others. While giving something away or trading in one’s well-being for others can certainly be seen as a heroic act, many people wonder if selflessness is required for heroism or if a hero can serve the greater good in a way that also supports their happiness. When writing about whether selflessness is required for heroism, choose examples from literature and real-life to support your point.

Tip: If writing an essay sounds like a lot of work, simplify it. Write a simple 5 paragraph essay instead.

If you’re still stuck, check out our available resource of essay writing topics .

essay national heroes

Amanda has an M.S.Ed degree from the University of Pennsylvania in School and Mental Health Counseling and is a National Academy of Sports Medicine Certified Personal Trainer. She has experience writing magazine articles, newspaper articles, SEO-friendly web copy, and blog posts.

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FAST FACTS: What makes a Filipino historical figure a national hero?

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This is AI generated summarization, which may have errors. For context, always refer to the full article.

FAST FACTS: What makes a Filipino historical figure a national hero?

FLAG. A large Philippine flag is hoisted at the Shrine of the National Flag in Alapan, Cavite in 2022.

MANILA, Philippines – With a rich historical background, it’s no surprise that the Philippines recognizes prominent figures who fought for the country. From writers to soldiers, numerous people have sacrificed their lives to help the country gain and maintain independence.

Celebrated since 1931, National Heroes Day commemorates all Philippine heroes, particularly figures without special holidays and observances. (READ: FAST FACTS: National Heroes Day )

Historian Esteban de Ocampo defines a hero as a prominent figure who accomplished an admirable feat in any significant action or event, and who is honored after death due to his or her service to the nation. With this definition, how does a Filipino historical figure qualify as a national hero?

Prominent recognition

According to the Reference and Research Bureau, Legislative Research Service of the House of Representatives, there are no proclamations or executive orders that officially proclaim a Filipino historical figure as a national hero.

But there have been laws issued that honor these historical figures to recognize their contributions to the country’s nation building.

Heroes like Jose Rizal and Andres Bonifacio are not explicitly proclaimed national heroes, but Filipinos pay tribute to them and recognize their heroism, having national holidays as a result.

The lack of official declarations did not stop Filipinos from revering historical figures for their contributions to Philippine history.

What makes a hero?

Through Executive Order No. 75 issued on March 28, 1993, former president Fidel Ramos created the National Heroes Commission, which is tasked to study and recommend national heroes to be recognized for their character and contributions to the country.

The commission was also tasked to evaluate, recommend, and come up with the criteria to determine how a historical figure qualifies as a national hero.

The committee came up with the following criteria:

  • Heroes are those who have a concept of nation, and aspire and struggle for the nation’s freedom
  • Heroes define and contribute to a system or life of freedom and order for a nation
  • Heroes contribute to the quality of life and destiny of a nation

Additional criteria were adopted by the Technical Committee of the National Heroes Committee on November 15, 1995:

  • Heroes are part of the people’s expression
  • Heroes think of the future, especially of the future generations
  • The choice of heroes involves the entire process that made a particular person a hero

On November 15, 1995, the technical committee of the National Heroes commission chose 9 Filipino historical figures to be considered national heroes:

  • Andres Bonifacio
  • Emilio Aguinaldo
  • Apolinario Mabini
  • Marcelo H. Del Pilar
  • Sultan Dipatuan Kudarat
  • Melchora Aquino
  • Gabriela Silang

Despite the recommendations, no action has been taken due to the possibility of triggering debates over historical controversies.

However, the given qualifications of the National Heroes Commission, historians and researchers reflect the continuing quest to remember significant personalities who made a difference in Philippine history.  – Rappler.com

Sources: Reference and Research Bureau Legislative Research Service, House of Representatives, Selection and proclamation of national heroes and laws honoring Filipino historical figures by the National Commission of Culture and the Arts (NCCA)

Hannah Mallorca is a Rappler intern

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Essay On Our National Hero

Essay On Our National hero

by Pakiology | Apr 21, 2024 | Essay , English | 0 comments

Pakistan has produced many national heroes who have contributed to the country in various ways. Among them, one of the most prominent figures is Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah . He is considered the founding father of Pakistan and played a pivotal role in the creation of the country.

Born on December 25, 1876, in Karachi, Jinnah was a brilliant student who graduated from the prestigious Sindh Madrasa-Tul-Islam and later studied law at Lincoln’s Inn in London. He started his political career as a member of the Indian National Congress but later joined the All India Muslim League due to his differences with the Congress on the issue of Muslim rights.

Jinnah was a strong advocate for the rights of Muslims in India and believed in the creation of a separate homeland for them. He tirelessly worked towards this goal and played a crucial role in the negotiations that led to the creation of Pakistan in 1947.

As the first Governor General of Pakistan, Jinnah laid the foundations of the country and worked towards its development. He emphasized the importance of unity and religious tolerance and laid the foundations for a democratic and progressive nation.

One of the most remarkable things about Jinnah was his leadership abilities and political acumen. He was a master strategist and negotiator, and his skills were instrumental in the creation of Pakistan.

He also faced many challenges and obstacles during his struggle for a separate homeland for Muslims. The British government, the Hindu leadership, and even some Muslim leaders opposed the idea of Pakistan. However, Jinnah remained determined and steadfast in his vision and ultimately succeeded in achieving his goal.

Jinnah was also a visionary leader who had a clear idea of the kind of country he wanted Pakistan to be. He believed in democracy, rule of law, and religious freedom, and worked towards building a modern and progressive nation. He is remembered for his famous speech to the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan on August 11, 1947, in which he outlined his vision for the country.

In addition to his political contributions, Jinnah was also a successful lawyer and businessman. He was a prominent figure in the Bombay Presidency, and his legal practice was highly successful. He was also a member of the Bombay Municipal Corporation and the founder of the Muslim League Bombay Presidency.

In short, Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah was a truly remarkable figure who dedicated his life to the cause of Muslim rights and the creation of Pakistan. His leadership, political acumen, and determination will always be remembered and celebrated.

Jinnah passed away on September 11, 1948, but his contributions to Pakistan will never be forgotten. He remains a national hero and an inspiration for future generations.  

In conclusion, Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah is a national hero of Pakistan who played a crucial role in the creation of the country. His unwavering dedication to the cause of Muslim rights and his tireless efforts toward the creation of a separate homeland will always be remembered and celebrated.

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National heroes are created and destroyed by government. Should we revisit our history?

A national hero is described as a person who has been recognized for his or her role in the history of a given country. This could be due to achievements, personal qualities or positive contributions. No matter how a person earned their status as a national hero, the government can create or destroy this image based on how the person is lauded or not. A look at our history tells us whether this is a good or bad thing.

Children across the globe revisit history every day in school. However, is what they are learning true? Many nations report on the facts, but depending on whether that information makes the country look good or bad, it may be taught in a misrepresented way. Take slavery as an example. It’s commonly taught in schools, but is glazed over as a way for the rich citizens of the country to hock their wares and support the economy. There’s not a lot of mention about the terrible treatment and oppression that many slaves lived under. Sure, whippings and ownership are mentioned, but are they studied in depth? Not really. And this changes the perception, both of the events, but also of the national heroes involved with ending it.

So, should certain national heroes be destroyed by the government? In 2017, Canadian officials, specifically those involved with the Elementary Teacher’s Federation of Ontario, moved to remove Sir John A. MacDonald from history books because of his alcoholism and corrupt practices when he was prime minister. The debate that arose essentially battled over whether this is a good way to teach history or a good way to dishonor someone who did bad things. At one time, MacDonald was considered a national hero, but it is honoring Canadian history to destroy him and remove him from history books?

In some cases, a so-called national hero is glorified with his or her name on a school, park, government building or street. Some are suggesting that rather than nixing these people from history altogether, that we should choose not to keep their name up there, which gives them glory for something that it was later discovered they really didn’t have much of a part in.

The debate continues when it comes to Native Americans and other indigenous people. The history books report the circumstances surrounding their displacement and the loss of their culture in such a way that it makes it seem right. Many would disagree. What the white people did to the Native Americans was wrong and often illegal. However, the history books don’t present it in that way. Here is an instance where many feel that the history books be changed. After all, so many national heroes are those who killed and moved the Native Americans simply because they wanted their land and resources.

When it comes down to it, deciding whether or not to rewrite history has less to do with the government and more to do with teaching people how things really happened. It does children in schools a huge disservice to be taught something that isn’t entirely true. By retelling the facts as they were, people everywhere have a better understanding of past events and are better able to learn from them going forward.

The debate is far from over and there are people on both sides who present valid arguments. While an agreement is far from being reached, it makes sense that the issue is being evaluated and examined. It seems that more people should be getting involved with reaching a conclusion that everyone’s happy with.

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Milwaukee honors five fallen heroes who died in line of duty.

Milwaukee police Officer Peter Jerving will be honored next week at the National Law Enforcement Memorial

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Milwaukee honored five law enforcement members Thursday who died in the line of duty.

The tribute at the Milwaukee County War Memorial Center on Lincoln Memorial Drive comes ahead of National Police Week in Washington, D.C.

The father of Division of Criminal Investigation Special Agent Jay Balchunas spoke about his son's end of watch, which was nearly 20 years ago.

"It's difficult, you know? The hurt never goes away. It's always with us, and it always will be. One of the things that I remember about when he was shot, was our grandson, Andy, who brought the wreath up today, said, 'Why didn't those men just ask Jay for some money? He would have given them some,'" Donald Balchunas said.

Another family paying their respects was the Jerving family.

Fallen Milwaukee police Officer Peter Jerving died in the line of duty in February 2023.

His mother told WISN 12 News she can only imagine what he must be thinking.

"I think he deserves all the honors that he's been given and will be given next week. But I know personally he himself would be very humbled by it. Very, very humbled. He would appreciate them. But he would just think, 'Oh, wow, mom,'" Patty Jerving said.

This isn't the only recognition Jerving will receive. Next week, his name along with 281 other law enforcement members will be added to the memorial walls in the nation's capital.

Milwaukee police Officer Matthew Rittner , Milwaukee police Patrolman Michael L. Draeger and Milwaukee County Deputy Sheriff Howard Grundman were also honored.

WISN 12 News' Diana Gutierrez will be in Washington, D.C., as Jerving is honored at the National Law Enforcement Memorial.

Police Motorcycle

Source: Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman • Note: Tax rates shown include levies paid at all levels of government. Government transfers such as Social Security benefits have not been subtracted.

In the 1960s, the 400 richest Americans paid more than half of their income in taxes. Higher tax rates for the wealthy kept inequality in check and helped fund the creation of social safety nets like Medicare, Medicaid and food stamps.

Today, the superrich control a greater share of America’s wealth than during the Gilded Age of Carnegies and Rockefellers. That's partly because taxes on the wealthy have cratered. In 2018, America's top billionaires paid just 23 percent of their income in taxes.

For the first time in the history of the United States, billionaires had a lower effective tax rate than working-class Americans.

Guest Essay

It’s Time to Tax the Billionaires

By Gabriel Zucman

Gabriel Zucman is an economist at the Paris School of Economics and the University of California, Berkeley.

Until recently, it was hard to know just how good the superrich are at avoiding taxes. Public statistics are oddly quiet about their contributions to government coffers, a topic of legitimate interest in democratic societies.

Over the past few years, I and other scholars have published studies and books attempting to fix that problem. While we still have data for only a handful of countries, we’ve found that the ultrawealthy consistently avoid paying their fair share in taxes. In the Netherlands, for instance, the average taxpayer in 2016 gave 45 percent of earnings to the government, while billionaires paid just 17 percent.

Billionaires avoid taxes outside

the United States, too

United States


Lower earners

0-50th percentile

Middle earners

51-90th percentile

High earners

90-99.99th percentile


Billionaires avoid taxes outside the United States, too

50% total tax rate

Sources: Demetrio Guzzardi, et al., Journal of the European Economic Association; Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman; Institut des Politiques Publiques; Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis

Note: Data is from 2015 for Italy; 2016 for the Netherlands and France; 2018 for the United States.

Why do the world’s most fortunate people pay among the least in taxes, relative to the amount of money they make?

The simple answer is that while most of us live off our salaries, tycoons like Jeff Bezos live off their wealth. In 2019, when Mr. Bezos was still Amazon’s chief executive, he took home an annual salary of just $81,840 . But he owns roughly 10 percent of the company , which made a profit of $30 billion in 2023.

If Amazon gave its profits back to shareholders as dividends, which are subject to income tax, Mr. Bezos would face a hefty tax bill. But Amazon does not pay dividends to its shareholders. Neither does Berkshire Hathaway or Tesla. Instead, the companies keep their profits and reinvest them, making their shareholders even wealthier.

Unless Mr. Bezos, Warren Buffett or Elon Musk sell their stock, their taxable income is relatively minuscule. But they can still make eye-popping purchases by borrowing against their assets. Mr. Musk, for example, used his shares in Tesla as collateral to rustle up around $13 billion in tax-free loans to put toward his acquisition of Twitter.

essay national heroes

Jeff Bezos arriving for a news conference after flying into space in the Blue Origin New Shepard rocket on July 20, 2021.

Getty Images

Outside the United States, avoiding taxation can be even easier.

Take Bernard Arnault, the wealthiest person in the world. Mr. Arnault’s shares in LVMH, the luxury goods conglomerate, officially belong to holding companies that he controls. In 2023, Mr. Arnault’s holdings received about $3 billion in dividends from LVMH. France — like other European countries — barely taxes these dividends, because on paper they are received by companies. Yet Mr. Arnault can spend the money almost as if it were deposited directly into his bank account, so long as he works through other incorporated entities — on philanthropy , for instance, or to keep his megayacht afloat or to buy more companies .

Historically, the rich had to pay hefty taxes on corporate profits, the main source of their income. And the wealth they passed on to their heirs was subject to the estate tax. But both taxes have been gutted in recent decades. In 2018, the United States cut its maximum corporate tax rate to 21 percent from 35 percent. And the estate tax has almost disappeared in America. Relative to the wealth of U.S. households, it generates only a quarter of the tax revenues it raised in the 1970s.

The falling U.S. corporate tax rate

Reagan tax cuts

Trump tax cuts

Source: Internal Revenue Service

Note: Tax rates are for each year’s highest corporate income bracket.

So what should be done?

One obstacle to taxing the very rich is the risk they may move to low-tax countries. In Europe, some billionaires who built their fortune in France, Sweden or Germany have established residency in Switzerland , where they pay a fraction of what they would owe in their home country. Although few of the ultrawealthy actually move their homes , the possibility that they might has been a boogeyman for would-be tax reformers.

There is a way to make tax dodging less attractive: a global minimum tax. In 2021, more than 130 countries agreed to apply a minimum tax rate of 15 percent on the profits of large multinational companies. So no matter where a company parks its profits, it still has to pay at least a baseline amount of tax under the agreement.

In February, I was invited to a meeting of Group of 20 finance ministers to present a proposal for another coordinated minimum tax — this one not on corporations, but on billionaires. The idea is simple. Let’s agree that billionaires should pay income taxes equivalent to a small portion — say, 2 percent — of their wealth each year. Someone like Bernard Arnault, who is worth about $210 billion, would have to pay an additional tax equal to roughly $4.2 billion if he pays no income tax. In total, the proposal would allow countries to collect an estimated $250 billion in additional tax revenue per year, which is even more than what the global minimum tax on corporations is expected to add.

essay national heroes

Bernard Arnault watching the men’s singles final at the French Open on June 8, 2014.

Abaca Press

Critics might say that this is a wealth tax, the constitutionality of which is debated in the United States. In reality, the proposal stays firmly in the realm of income taxation. Billionaires who already pay the baseline amount of income tax would have no extra tax to pay. The goal is that only those who dial down their income to dodge the income tax would be affected.

Critics also claim that a minimum tax would be too hard to apply because wealth is difficult to value. This fear is overblown. According to my research, about 60 percent of U.S. billionaires’ wealth is in stocks of publicly traded companies. The rest is mostly ownership stakes in private businesses, which can be assigned a monetary value by looking at how the market values similar firms.

One challenge to making a minimum tax work is ensuring broad participation. In the multinational minimum tax agreement, participating countries are allowed to overtax companies from nations that haven’t signed on. This incentivizes every country to join the agreement. The same mechanism should be used for billionaires. For example, if Switzerland refuses to tax the superrich who live there, other countries could tax them on its behalf.

We are already seeing some movement on the issue. Countries such as Brazil, which is chairing the Group of 20 summit this year and has shown extraordinary leadership on the issue, and France , Germany, South Africa and Spain have recently expressed support for a minimum tax on billionaires. In the United States, President Biden has proposed a billionaire tax that shares the same objectives.

To be clear, this proposal wouldn’t increase taxes for doctors, lawyers, small-business owners or the rest of the world’s upper middle class. I’m talking about asking a very small number of stratospherically wealthy individuals — about 3,000 people — to give a relatively tiny bit of their profits back to the governments that fund their employees’ educations and health care and allow their businesses to operate and thrive.

The idea that billionaires should pay a minimum amount of income tax is not a radical idea. What is radical is continuing to allow the wealthiest people in the world to pay a smaller percentage in income tax than nearly everybody else. In liberal democracies, a wave of political sentiment is building, focused on rooting out the inequality that corrodes societies. A coordinated minimum tax on the superrich will not fix capitalism. But it is a necessary first step.

More on tax evasion and inequality

essay national heroes

This Is Tax Evasion, Plain and Simple

By Gabriel Zucman and Gus Wezerek

essay national heroes

The Tax Pirates Are Us

By Binyamin Appelbaum

essay national heroes

How to Tax Our Way Back to Justice

By Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman

The Times is committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor. We’d like to hear what you think about this or any of our articles. Here are some tips . And here’s our email: [email protected] .

Follow the New York Times Opinion section on Facebook , Instagram , TikTok , WhatsApp , X and Threads .

Gabriel Zucman is an economist at the Paris School of Economics and the University of California, Berkeley, and a co-author of “The Triumph of Injustice: How the Rich Dodge Taxes and How to Make Them Pay.”

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