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Poster Commentary
"The heroic hours of life do not announce their presence by drum and trumpet."Benjamin Cardozo
Poster design:Milton Glaser


by Erica Brown

A hero is a firefighter who goes into burning buildings on the afternoon of 9/11. A hero is a pilot who lands a plane full of people safely on the Hudson River. Both of these men would tell you that they were just doing their jobs, but just doing their jobs required a heroic dose of bravery.

The word hero comes from the Greek heros, which means a demigod, a larger-than-life superhero who has extraordinary strength. But Benjamin Cardozo (1870–1938) encourages us to think of the word’s Latin origins: to be a hero is to protect, defend or save others. It may be to perform ordinary acts with extraordinary courage.

Cardozo, who was a Supreme Court justice for six years, turns our attention to the jobs that get no “drum and trumpet,” to the invisible heroes: the woman who cares for an aging parent, the man who retires from a corporate job to work in a homeless shelter. Cardozo’s mother died when he was very young, and his older sister, Nell, raised him. He probably knew a lot about silent heroism firsthand.

Today there is a law school in New York named after Benjamin Cardozo. In history, he has earned his drum and trumpet. But in quieter moments, maybe he will also be remembered for his praise of the quiet hero. As it says in Psalms, “The world is built on kindness.”

Conversation Guide


The commentary to this poster points to the silent heroes who make their mark in the world. Supreme Court Justice Cardozo urges us to seek those heroes who are not “larger than life,” but rather exhibit quiet heroism and bravery in the midst of everyday life.

What might Cardozo mean by the reference to “drum and trumpet”? What situations are announced by drum and trumpet? Are heroes usually found in those settings?

What characterizes a hero, or a “heroic hour”?

Does everyone become a hero at some point in his or her life? How so?

Can you think of a heroic act you were able to perform? How did it feel? Were you announced by “drum and trumpet”?



Each image calls out to us to examine it, to note our thoughts and feelings, and relate these impressions to the quotation. Often clues in the artwork suggest meaning and invite interpretation.

Graphic designer Milton Glaser uses perspective and invites us to explore the layering of private lives, quiet heroism, and public triumph.

How does the image present the quotation? Was this how you interpreted the quotation without the image?

Describe the objects found in the different sections of the image. How do they contrast with one another?

What do you think is symbolized by the quotation in the armchair under the portrait of Cardozo?

Why might Glaser have included a thunderstorm, but not a drum or trumpet in this image?


Copyright© 2012 Harold Grinspoon Foundation

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Masters Series©2012, Milton Glaser, Quote: Benjamin Cardozo,

Harold Grinspoon Foundation, West Springfield, MA