You'll see heroes you know, like Jim Henson and Eleanor Roosevelt. There are others who are not as well known, like Frank Shankwitz and Barbara Johns. And there are others who seem almost ridiculously obvious, like George Washington or Rosa Parks. But to be clear, this is not a book about fame. Thomas Jefferson isn't in here just because he wrote the Declaration of Independence. He's in here because he didn't publicize that fact (indeed, it didn't become common knowledge that he was the author until years after he was president), showing the kind of modesty that I want my sons to know about.
Before each hero is a piece of related advice -- from strangers, from friends, from whomever I could find good life counsel. At my highest aspiration, this isn't a book about how to be remembered -- it's a book about how we live our lives and what we are capable of on our very best days.
Is that schmaltzy and naive? I hope so. Because I want my sons to learn those things too.
We all are who we are -- until that moment when we strive for something greater.
In the end, I suppose there are easier ways to share life's most valuable lessons with my sons. There were moments where I thought about doing it Mr. Miyagi style and teaching it through karate. But I don't know karate. And so I do the only thing I know how to do: I tell a story. Just like my grandfather taught me all those years ago.
- Brad Meltzer
Fort Lauderdale, Florida 2009
Innovators, Inventors of the world's first flying machine - 1903
When it was time to try building the first flying machine, the Smithsonian Institution had incredible resources and millions in funding. Bicycle salesmen Orville and Wilbur Wright had the paper airplane their father gave them as children and a dream that they refused to give up on. Guess who won?
Every day, they knew they'd fail.
Every time they'd go out to fly -- every time -- they brought extra materials because they knew their fledgling design would crash.
Crash and rebuild. Crash and rebuild.
But never ever, ever give up.
"If we worked on the assumption that what is accepted as true really is true, then there would be little hope for advance." – Orville Wright
Designer, My Mom
It was the worst day of my professional life.
My publisher was shutting down, and we had no idea if another publisher would take over my contract.
This was terrifying to me. I was wracked with fear, feeling like I was watching my career deteriorate.
But as I shared my fears with my mother, her reaction was instantaneous:
"I'd love you if you were a garbage man."
It wasn't anything she practiced. It was just her honest feelings at that moment.
To this day, every day that I sit down to write, I say those words to myself -- "I'd love you if you were a garbage man" -- soaking in the purity and selflessness of that love from my mother.
Her name was Teri Meltzer. And Theo, she's the woman you're named after.
"Now you'll understand how I love you." – Teri Meltzer, said to me when each of my children was born.
"Not everyone is nice like that." - The receptionist in my Mom's doctor's office, when she heard my Mom had died from breast cancer.
Always remember: The truth is what people say behind your back.