Matt Langdon – Founder, The Hero Workshop
noun ( pl. -roes)
A person who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities.
What is a hero? Most of us recognize the superheroes that we’ve grow up celebrating. Characters such as Superman and Spiderman, recognizable by their signature superhuman powers and Batman, while not having superpowers, makes use of his intellect, wealth and technology in his war on crime. But in our day-to-day life, there are stories of remarkable heroism from people not well-known but who display great courage and often self-sacrifice, sometimes at their own physical risk, in order to create some greater good.
Enter Matt Langdon, Founder of The Hero Workshop, whose mission is to help kids find the hero within. After working at a camp in Michigan for 12 years, Matt saw firsthand how working with people in different circumstances and environments allowed the opportunity for small deeds of heroism to be recognized and the idea for The Hero Workshop was born. Started in 2006, the aim of the program is to show young people that by doing little things every day, they too can become heroes. Working in classrooms across the country, The Hero Workshop helps kids look at the stories of historical heroes, then using these ‘models’ to look at their own lives, they see how they can behave heroically in the decisions and challenges they face daily. When a child is able to recognize and accept the hero within, a whole new level of self-confidence is achieved and these kids will now ‘step up to the plate” in making responsible choices and speaking out against injustice. Teacher are trained in the program and left with a syllabus which they can continue using after the workshop is over.
Working with Dr. Philip Zimbardo, retired Professor Emeritus at Stanford University and 2008 TED presenter on “How Ordinary People Become Monsters… Or Heroes”, The Hero Workshop recognizes that being a hero is always a choice. “Do I stay home and play Wii or help old ladies across the street?” But being a hero is also a context, one where those choices become clearer when we, in fact, know that we do have the ability to choose.
Matt also took part in the recent Hero Camp in Houston at the end of October. “Changing the World, One Everyday Hero at a Time”, the 4 day camp, attended by about 25 people, aspired to address creating a program that can be run by anyone: a parent, a school kid, a teacher, a concerned citizen…anyone.
When we spoke a couple weeks ago, Matt told me about a “play it forward” social networking game called Akoha where players can collect cards which, once they complete the kindness mission on the card, can be registered online, earning the player “karma points”. Each card, as it’s passed from one person to the next, can be tracked on (eventual) 3D satellite maps so you can see where the card has gone since you played that mission and passed it on to the next player. Currently in Beta, Akoha plans to launch in early 2009 so stay tuned so you can rack up points by launching your own deliberate acts of kindness (although you can sign up as a beta player now.) HeroCamp has been working with Akoha to develop a companion deck aimed at high school aged kids and focused specifically on heroic acts.
I am touched by Matt’s vocation. I see we are in similar lines of work, me helping people tell their stories and Matt helping people find the heroism inside their story. To me, HE is the hero here and I look forward to his daily stories of small acts of heroism.
Stefani Twyford is a personal historian and video biographer sharing life stories, connecting generations and preserving legacies. To learn more, visit her web site, find her on Twitter as @stefanitwyford, visit the Legacy Multimedia Facebook Fan Page, or send her an e-mail.