Great Americans live forever in our memories. No one forgets the qualities passed on by those who are great and true, those who have honor, faithfulness, patriotism, and the ability to make people laugh.
Over the years, America has faced many hardships which would have been difficult to endure if not for the love and devotion of one man. “I have seen what a laugh can do. It can transform almost unbearable tears into something bearable, even hopeful,” said the man born Leslie Townes Hope in 1903. He changed his name to Robert after classmates called him “Hopeless.” Their nickname could not have been more wrong. Bob Hope, as he is now immortalized, kept hope alive in the hearts of many around the world through his humor and antics.
Bob Hope tried to enlist in the military but was told he could be of more use as an entertainer, which proved true. Bob became an icon as he toured the world, traveling to its most farthest regions to entertain America’s servicemen and women.
Nobody (including himself) was safe from Hope’s puns as he turned every situation, no matter the circumstances, into something to laugh about. Even with his life often in danger, he would hide his fear and emerge with a smile and a joke. He wanted people to forget for a while what was happening around them and enjoy the simple pleasures. It was Bob Hope who said, “When we recall the past, we usually find that it is the simplest things - not the great occasions - that in retrospect give off the greatest glow of happiness.” Hope never tried to disguise reality, he merely wanted everyone to see the humor and realize that laughter truly is the best medicine.
In 1962 Bob Hope was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal for enriching lives with humor “unstintingly and unselfishly, with heavy demands on his time, talent, and energy” in “the farthest outposts manned by American youth, during times of peace and war, often under dangerous conditions and at great personal risk” and for rendering an “outstanding service to the cause of democracy, as America’s most prized ‘Ambassador of Good Will’ throughout the world.”
Congress named Hope an honorary veteran, the first person ever to receive this distinction. There was nothing flip about his response: “I have been given many awards in my lifetime, but to be numbered among the men and women I admire the most is the greatest honor I have ever received.”
After Bob Hope died in 2003 at the age of 100, President Bush said of him, “By tirelessly entertaining America’s troops, he demonstrated his extraordinary love of country and devotion to the men and women who have served our military.”
How can you describe a man like Bob Hope, who left a legacy of laughter and love of such proportions as anything other than a great American? You can’t. It is that simple. Let us not forget to take a moment each day to remember America’s heroes, all of them, especially those like Bob Hope, who dedicated their lives to serving others.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.