From time to time, I come across stories reporting on someone's 'courage' or 'bravery', usually talking about (1) people in the military who risk danger and/or suffer injury, or about (2) popular cult figures like athletes, entertainers, politicians or business leaders who achieve fame or notoriety, or about (3) people who suffer and/or recover from life-threatening diseases.
In most of these cases, these people displayed what i call 'passive heroism' -- they just did what most other people would do in similar circumstances (note: for athletes or entertainers, the caveat is they did what most other people with similar talents/assets would have done).
Now, I'm not trying to take anything away from people who risk their lives serving their country (altho occasionally for questionable or misguided objectives), or achieve great fame/notoriety in their professional career (albeit sometimes they aren't always very nice people), or even those who overcome a debilitating health condition (and yet, not much choice but to deal with misfortune as best you can).
Still, in the 1st & 2nd groups these people are compensated for their 'heroic' efforts; in the 2nd group many are lauded for just being tall, fast, beautiful, or rich; and in the 1st & 3rd groups there's not much choice in suffering or attempting to recover from an injury or disease. To me, these folks may by happenstance show heroic character, but their situations necessarily required great effort -- they weren't really going out of their way to display heroism, they were simply involved in situations where they ended up proceeding along a single path which was somewhat pre-determined.
On the other hand, folks like Andrew Goldstein have made choices or taken steps to demonstrate what i would call active heroism. They made a choice they didn't have to, at risk of negative outcomes they didn't have to deal with, for the potential benefit of others they may have no connection to or knowledge of. This is a different sort of heroism or courage, one that deserves more credit & recognition, IMHO. Of course, some well-known heros fall into this category: Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, and JFK to name just a few.
Since i'm an entrepreneur with financial, social, & scientific interests, i'd like to highlight a few folks from the world of academics & business who've earned my vote for active heroism: Muhammad Yunus, Jim Fruchterman, Hernando DeSoto, Jared Diamond, Craig Newmark, Pierre Omidyar, Jeff Skoll, George Soros, Mike Milken, and Bill Gates. Yunus & Fruchterman are tremendous social entrepreneurs who have touched the lives of many less fortunate. DeSoto & Diamond went to incredible lengths to create two of the most amazing and extensive research & literary works I've ever read (Guns Germs & Steel, The Mystery of Capital). Craig, Jeff, & Pierre are great internet entrepreneurs who created large online communities, and now they're creating online opportunities for those same communities. Soros, Milken, and Gates are polarizing figures who may have focused on individual objectives early in their careers, but all chose to put significant %'s of their wealth to productive use for society at large later in their lives.
Lastly, one of my own personal heroes is my wife Saya. She chose to emigrate from Japan to the US to study jazz, at a time when she didn't speak English very well, and didn't have a lot of financial or other support from family to pursue a career in music. For someone to actively decide to travel thousands of miles to a new country & culture, commit themselves to learn an entirely new language & new style of music, with only a small chance at achieving economic and/or notable success -- well, she's certainly one of my heros.
I think we should be careful to reserve the words Heroism, Courage, and Bravery for those unique individuals who really do go out of their way to demonstrate such characteristics actively; and not just for folks who simply did what anyone else would do in their shoes -- however dangerous, flashy, pretty, or dingy those shoes may be. Instead, let's use those words to describe the unique few who took off the shoes they had on, stepped off the well-paved road ahead, and chose to walk a very different, unusual path. These are the real Heros.