在美式神话中, 主角通常是那些不知不觉中成为的英雄: 一般而言,他就是一个人, 因禀赋异常, 注定此生不能默默无闻。华盛顿原本更愿意当农民,而不是领导国家; 杰弗逊, 曾立志要成为一名作家; 而马丁路德只是一名牧师.据说是公众要求他们不能敷衍塞责，埋没才华; 是我们要求这些伟人必须要振作起来，追求卓越。我们选择了他们，是因为我们看到他们的伟大，---尽管他们谦虚地认为自己并不出众— 是我们把他们推上了不寻常的人生道路。换言之，历史境遇和民主体制造就了这些英雄。
American mythology loves nothing more than the reluctant hero: the man -- it is usually a man -- whose natural talents have destined him for more than obliging obscurity. George Washington, we are told, was a leader who would have preferred to have been a farmer. Thomas Jefferson, a writer. Martin Luther King, Jr., a preacher. These men were roused from lives of perfunctory achievement, our legends have it, not because they chose their own exceptionalism, but because we, the people, chose it for them. We -- seeing greatness in them that they were too humble to observe themselves -- conferred on them uncommon paths. Historical circumstance became its own call of duty, and the logic of democracy proved itself through the answer.
Neil Armstrong was a hero of this stripe: constitutionally humble, circumstantially noble. Nearly every obituary written for him this weekend has made a point of emphasizing his sense of privacy, his sense of humility, his sense of the ironic ordinary. Armstrong's famous line, maybe or maybe not so humanly flubbed, neatly captures the narrative: One small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind. And yet every aspect of Armstrong's life -- a life remembered for one act of bravery but distinguished ultimately by the bravery of banality -- made clear: On that day in 1969, he acted on our behalf, out of a sense of mission that was communal rather than personal. The reluctant hero is also the self-sacrificing hero. The reluctant hero is the charitable hero.