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LIGHTS, CAMERA, CRUCIBLES 1: Captain America #122

Warwick Fairfax

July 5, 2022

Our eight-week summer series, LIGHTS, CAMERA, CRUCIBLES, kicks off this week. We examine some of the most popular film heroes — superheroes, sports heroes and action heroes — to extract key learnings and practical action steps to help you move beyond your crucibles to a life of significance. We begin with Captain America, whose “I can do this all day” attitude offers inspiration for staying strong and standing tall when setbacks and failures come. What makes Captain America, aka Steve Rogers, heroic is not the super soldier serum that transforms him from a 120-pound weakling rejected by the army several times during World War II into a muscular front-line fighter who beats the Nazis. What truly makes Steve Rogers Captain America is not something given to him, but something he had all along: character.

Highlights

  • The goal of the series — to be a “popcorn podcast” (2:31)
  • Why Warwick is excited about the series (4:54)
  • Psychology Today on how heroes improve our lives (6:59) 
  • Introducing Captain America (22:11)
  • Steve Rogers’ crucible (23:54)
  • The root of Captain America’s heroism (27:27)
  • How Steve Rogers’ physical weakness makes him compassionate (30:02)
  • Captain America’s first crucible after receiving the super-soldier serum (35:40)
  • The pain of being rejected by soldiers (38:18)
  • Captain America’s first taste of battle (42:33)
  • The hero’s selfless choice (50:06)
  • The unique nature of Captain America’s hero journey (55:17)
  • The legacy of Captain America (59:47)
  • Points to reflect on (1:12:15)

Transcript

Warwick Fairfax:

Welcome to Beyond the Crucible. I’m Warwick Fairfax, the founder of Crucible Leadership.

 

Abraham Erskine:

The serum amplifies everything that is inside, so good becomes great; bad becomes worse. This is why you were chosen, because a strong man, who has known power all his life may lose respect for that power, but a weak man knows the value of strength and knows compassion.

 

Steve Rogers:

Thanks, I think.

 

Abraham Erskine:

Whatever happens tomorrow, you must promise me one thing, that you will stay who you are, not a perfect soldier, but a good man.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

When you boil it all down, that’s a succinct, extremely accurate description of what a hero is, a good man or a good woman. Hi, I’m Gary Schneeberger, cohost of the show. That clip you just heard is from the movie Captain America: The First Avenger.

Our focus today, as we launch our new summer series, Lights, Camera, Crucibles: What Our Favorite Movie Heroes Can Teach Us about Overcoming Setbacks and Failure. We chose Captain America, not only because we’re debuting this series on the day after Independence Day in the U.S., but also because of the lessons the shield-wielding hero and his alter-ego, Steve Rogers, reveal about moving beyond crucibles with an attitude of, “I can do this all day.” What makes Steve Rogers heroic is not the super soldier serum that transforms him from a 120-pound weakling rejected by the Army several times during World War II, into a muscular frontline fighter who beats the Nazis. What truly makes Steve Rogers Captain America is not something he was given, but something he had all along, character.

Our goal here in doing this is to make this a fun and insightful time. Each of these eight episodes that we have planned… You’ve heard of the phrase popcorn movies, summer movies that are big, blockbuster excitements. We’re hoping this becomes a popcorn podcast, that it offers excitement, inspiration, hope, healing, and some practical actions steps for you while we all have a little bit of fun.

The series is all about… You may have gotten the idea when I said, “Lights, Camera, Crucibles,” that in fact it’s about movies. It is, but specifically, it’s about movie heroes, a mix of superheroes, sports heroes, action heroes, when they all have one common denominator. That’s this. Their stories just don’t entertain us; they enlighten us.

One of the things we say the show always aims to do, in the intro, especially on the YouTube version that you can run over and see, we always talk about how we want to enlighten people. We don’t want to commiserate; we want to elevate. That’s the goal of this series. Entertain, yes, but elevate, for sure.

The films that we’ve chosen, and we’re going to keep them secret week to week, we’ll tell you… You kind of have a hint of what the first one’s going to be, because you heard the clip at the start of the show, but these are all films that Warwick and I love, and millions of movie goers besides us love. Sometimes, for generations they have loved these characters. 

It’s not because, or at least not just because I am a superhero geek, a bit of a fanboy. It’s not because Warwick loves history and loves heroes and has since he was a boy, but it’s because these movies all surround themes that we discuss every week on Beyond the Crucible. Some of those themes are overcoming your worst day; learning and applying the lessons of your crucibles; shifting your perspective to understand that these setbacks and failures didn’t happen to you but happened for you; the importance of faith and authenticity and living a life on purpose, dedicated to serving others; and sometimes having a secret identity and wearing a cool costume. Okay, I made that one up. That’s not something that we have always talked about on Beyond the Crucible, but we may talk a little bit about it today. Stay tuned. We have some surprises.

Like any good summer activity, we hope this does two things: one, that we have fun, that you have fun; and two, we get to spend some meaningful time together. That’s our goal here. Have fun. Spend some meaningful time together. We think that we’ll do just that. Warwick, what are your feelings? I’ve been blabbing here. What are your feelings about starting this Lights, Camera, Crucible series about movie heroes?

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Well, I think both of us… I love heroic movies, be it superhero movies, historical movies, books, figures. I mean, I grew up with my dad telling me about some of the heroic figures in history, whether… Obviously, in America, we think of Washington and Lincoln. Because my dad was an anglophile, I grew up hearing stories about Admiral Nelson of Battle of Trafalgar fame, and the Napoleonic Wars, and the Duke of Wellington at Waterloo. 

I think what attracts me to heroic figures is they’re typically up against odds. They’re tested both physically, strategically, but they’re tested in their character and they always come through. That’s the essence of being a hero. You are tested and you come through, and your character, if anything, is refined or sharpened at times, but they’re people that we can learn from. When we suffer challenges and crucibles, how can we emerge better, stronger, especially in our character? How can we be focused on others, rather than just ourselves? There are so many teachable moments in these larger than life figures, that we love talking about them not so much because, oh, who of us will ever be Captain America? It’s more we love the story, and we like to think that we could see ourselves in the movie, or we like to think, on our better days, we too could be selfless and heroic, even in small ways, so it inspires us to be better than maybe we thought we could be. That’s why I think we all love heroic figures in movies.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

To level set beyond just what the excellent points that Warwick made, but it’s not just us. We’re not just the only two people who think this is a worthwhile subject to talk about, how you can apply some of the lessons of hero movies to your life. Psychology Today did an article a couple years back that it called Five Surprising Ways That Heroes Improve Our Lives. We’re going to go through those five ways here, just so you get an idea of why it is we’re spending, we’re committing so much time and effort and energy to this series and this subject.

Here’s the first reason that Psychology Today says heroes improve our lives. Number one: Heroes produce a recently identified emotion called elevation. This one fascinated me. That’s why they made it number one, I’m sure. Recent research suggests that heroes and heroic action may evoke a unique emotional response, which a professor at NYU has called elevation. 

He borrowed the term elevation from Thomas Jefferson, who used the phrase moral elevation to describe the euphoric feeling one gets when reading great literature. The article goes on to say, “Elevation is described as similar to calmness, warmth, and love.” The professor at NYU argues that elevation is “elicited by acts of virtue or moral beauty. It causes warm, open feelings in the chest.” Seems like a lot of the beats that we talk about in crucible leadership, especially when it comes to the benefits of living a life of significance and the benefits that that has on other people, doesn’t it?

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Absolutely. Think of when you’re in high school, or maybe you’ve had kids in high school. One of the things you always say is, “You are judged by who you surround yourself with,” so surround yourself with people that will elevate you, people that will respect you, value you, people that you can really help yourself.

The people you’re around can elevate you. On the other hand, if you’re around the wrong crowd, it can lead to terrible things. In some cases, sadly, in high school or beyond, it can lead to drugs, substance abuse, gangs, terrible things. 

One of the great things about heroic movies is you’re surrounding yourself with folks that elevate you. Some people talk about appealing to your better angels. We’re all a mix of good qualities and not so good. All of us are imperfect, but by watching heroic movies, it can indeed elevate you. It can appeal to your better angels. It can appeal to your better instincts. It does what we all want to have happen with ourselves and our kids. We all want to be our best selves. I honestly believe that heroic movies play a role, if not a significant role, in our culture, in the ability to help us all be the best selves that we can be.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

That leads very nicely, Warwick, to the second point in this Psychology Today article, and that is that heroes heal our psychic wounds. It says, “Tens of thousands of years ago, when humans first tamed fire, tribe members huddled around a communal fire at the end of each day for warmth and protection, but the act of gathering around the fire encouraged another activity, storytelling. These first stories were, no doubt, tales of heroes and heroic action, and these tales were a salve for people’s psychological wounds. Hero stories calmed people’s fears, buoyed their spirits, nourished their hopes, and fostered important values of strength and resilience. Life now had greater purpose and meaning. There is no doubt that humans today are no different from our earthly ancestors. We are drawn to good hero stories, because they comfort us and heal us.” Another fair point, with what we’re about to talk about, what we’ve all experienced in watching these films.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

That is so profoundly true, Gary. I mean, human beings, for thousands of years, ever since we were humans, have, as you said, gathered around the campfire and told stories of heroic deeds. Every culture that I know of has these stories.

I know, for me, as I’ve mentioned before, I think, on other podcast episodes and in my book, Crucible Leadership, my dad read me heroic stories of the Greek heroes from a book from, I don’t know, somewhere in the 1800s by Charles Kingsley, called The Heroes. You’d hear stories of Perseus; Jason and the Argonauts; and stories of the Trojan Wars, which there have been a few recent movies on that; and stories of Odysseus taking 10 years to come home to his beloved wife, Penelope. The gods were sort of angry at him for a variety of reasons, but he wouldn’t let it stop him. Nothing would stop him from coming home to his kingdom, to his people, and to his wife. The Greeks, thousands of years ago, would sit around campfires or wherever they were gathered and tell stories of these incredible heroes in their culture.

It’s just, it’s part of being human is to tell stories of heroes in our culture. It reinforces our culture, our values, and again, helps us be our best selves. Telling stories is an intrinsic part of being human.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

Yep, and the podcast is today’s answer to the campfire, in many, many ways, in terms of the stories that are being told around it. Here’s the third point in Psychology Today’s article: Heroes nourish our connections with other people. “The content of hero stories,” they write, “also promotes a strong sense of social identity. If the hero is an effective one, he or she performs actions that exemplify and affirm the community’s most valued models, who perform behaviors that reinforce our most treasured values and connections with others.” We’re really going to get into that, not just in today’s episode, which is about Captain America. It’s not a spoiler alert; you heard it in the clip, but about all the heroes that we talk about. They really do reinforce our most treasured values and connections with others.

One of the things that draws me to these kinds of movies is that I see in the characters I love and I appreciate the higher aspirations that I have for myself. I think that’s a fair point to make about why these films are so popular. Yeah, the special effects are great. Yeah, the dialogue’s snappy. The action’s good, but at the end of the day, it’s the character of the heroes and the values of the heroes, I think, on which these movies rise and fall.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Yeah, absolutely. I mean, we like to see ourselves as a Steve Rogers, who overcame his crucibles and was selfless. We like to identify with these heroes. We like to think, in some small way, maybe there’s a part of Steve Rogers that could be us. Back to the Psychology Today article, it absolutely elevates us and inspires us. That’s the value of stories.

I mean, one of the things you hear in adult learning a lot is, if you hear a speech, you might forget the points, but you remember the stories. Or in the Bible, with Jesus, His main points were all told through stories. Storytelling is a very valuable way to teach lessons to ourselves, to our kids, to our loved ones, our team members. It’s a valuable way of teaching. It’s inspiring. One of the best ways to really try to get better, as a human, is just identify with some of these figures, not so much to be literal superheroes, but just more of the character and how we deal with adversity. I think it’s incredibly helpful to our souls and in our lives.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

That’s an important point to make in a podcast called Beyond the Crucible. That comes from a life practice called Crucible Leadership, that it is to overcome. Part of the journey, part of the story, is overcoming those difficult moments, and getting up. Again, as we get into Captain America here in a bit, we’ll see a lot of those beats in the Captain America story.

In fact, there’s the fourth point in Psychology Today’s article, and that is: Heroes show us how to transform our lives. “A comparative mythologist, named Joseph Campbell…” I never knew there were comparative mythologists. I wonder if there are other kinds of mythologists, but he’s a comparative mythologist. “He said, in 1988, that all of us undergo a hero-like journey throughout our ordinary human lifespans.” You sort of alluded to that when you were talking just a little while ago.

“‘During our lives,’ he wrote, ‘we undergo a truly heroic transformation of consciousness. Only when we heroically risk change and growth in our own lives will we reach our full potential.’ As spiritual teacher, Richard Rohr notes, ‘Hero stories inspire us all because they call us all.'” Love that.

“Hero stories inspire us all because they call us all.” I mean it’s not… It’s really impossible to watch a hero story, be it superhero, action hero, sports hero, real-life documentary hero somewhere, it’s really hard to watch a film like that and not feel inspired and called to the same level of excellence, the same level of soul, of character, that these mythical sometimes, real sometimes, heroes display, isn’t it? It’s almost an impossibility not to be not just elevated, but to be drawn into following that path.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Absolutely. I mean, as you’re talking about heroic figures, I think of Luke Skywalker in the first Star Wars film in, what is it, 1977, or somewhere there abouts? I’d say, more screenplay analyses and heroic analyses have been done on that movie than any other. It’s a template of how to give a speech, how to write a screenplay, without getting into it all. Luke Skywalker starting as a simple young boy, young man, in this far off planet. His family gets killed, and he ends up part of the Rebel Alliance, becoming a heroic figure.

Well, he had to go through crucibles and journey and growth. That would be a whole other discussion, but yeah, I think heroic figures typically go through an arc of learning, of dealing with crucibles, overcoming them. In a sense, these heroic movies that we’re going to be talking about are almost an archetype of what does it mean to be a crucible leader? We talk on the podcast and in the book all the time about learning the lessons of your crucible, living in light of your design, finding a vision that maybe came out of the ashes of your crucible, focus on others, living a life of significance. That’s what the figures in these movies do. They live the crucible arc, the refining cycle, as we call it. It’s a great way of learning how to not let your worst day define you, and how to move on to a more fulfilling life.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

Here, listener, is proof that this idea is breathed outside of me and Warwick, because I have not shared with him what I’m reading out of Psychology Today, and he just led perfectly, he just set the plate perfectly for the fifth point in the article. That is: Heroes turn us in to heroes ourselves.

“Good heroes,” they write, “use the power of transformation, not only to change themselves for the better, but also to transform the world. In the classic hero journey, the newly transformed hero eventually transforms society in significant and positive ways. Psychologist Erik Erikson’s Stages of Human Development suggests a similar hero trajectory for all of us. Adults grow in significant ways, and then in midlife reach a stage of generativity, which Erikson defines as the time when people give back to the society that has given them so much.”

We haven’t written it that way, as that’s what a life of significance is, but that’s what they’re describing there, right? They’re describing a life of significance. It makes you feel significant, and it passes value onto the culture.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Absolutely. I think there was a generation of historians that talked about the great man theory of history. Obviously, we would say the great person, the great man, the great woman theory of history. That was the idea that individuals can transform society. That’s maybe not as fashionable today, because we live in a more cynical age and, yes, our heroes typically are not perfect. They have their flaws, but as we’ve discussed before, in fact just on the last podcast, we talked about Winston Churchill and his whole never give up. He was one man-

 

Gary Schneeberger:

Your never is actually never, never, never, never… 

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Exactly right.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

I memorized it for the show.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Exactly right. Here he was in May 1940, new prime minister of Britain, when it felt like Britain against Nazi Germany, against the world at the time. America would come into the war later, in late 1941, but Britain could be forgiven if they were obviously fearful, feeling like, gosh, we’re one little island. How will we protect ourselves against the might of Nazi Germany, but in one sense, through the power of his example and the power of his rhetoric, Winston Churchill, with this idea of we will never give up. We will fight them on the beaches, in the villages, in the towns. No matter how long it takes, we and our commonwealth, which includes Australia and Canada, we will fight on.

One man, one woman can make a massive difference. Now, we’re not all going to be Winston Churchills, but even if it means in our town, in our village, in our neighborhood, in our company, in our division, wherever it is, and in our families, we can have a massive impact, far more than we would think. Never underestimate the ability to live a heroic lifestyle. It’s a bit of a stretch, maybe, for most of us, but let’s understand it as a heroic life in terms of character and service, in modeling what we believe. That kind of heroic life is attainable by all of us. It’s just a matter of living what we believe. It has a massive impact, far more than we would realize.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

And it’s a great bridge to the first hero that we’re going to talk about, because that’s one of the characteristics, one of the things that makes Captain America a hero. As we teased at the top of the show, our first hero that we’re going to unpack is going to be Captain America. We’re just about ready to launch into that. I think I’m ready to begin that discussion, Warwick. I think I’m ready to dive in. I think I’m ready to go. I’ve got the… There’s the Captain America T-shirt. I’ve got the Captain America hat. I’m so excited, I forgot to put my glasses back on, but I guess that’s… You know what? When you’re talking about heroes, sometimes the alter-ego wears glasses, sometimes the hero doesn’t. That’s not Captain America’s story, but that is the story of a few of them, and there’s my Captain America shield, if you’re… We’re all ready to go. Talk about Captain America.

I can actually still read my notes without my glasses on, so I’m just going to let them go. I’m just going to let it go just like this. We’re going to fly just like this and see what happens.

Where we’re going to start, Warwick, is with the movie Captain America: The First Avenger, which is where the movie versions of Captain America all began. That was in phase one of what they call the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It was a story of a young man, Steve Rogers, in World War II. He really, really, really wanted to be a soldier. He wanted to fight.

The problem for Steve Rogers was that he was slight and he was sickly. His crucible, when we meet him, is that this kid from Brooklyn, who wants to get into World War II, can’t join the Army, because they keep rejecting him. So intense is his desire to serve, in fact, that he travels to several recruiting stations in the preamble, the pre-story, the backstory, of Captain America: The First Avenger, hoping to find one recruitment center that’s going to give him the chance, but the odds are high.

Here’s how high the odds are. This is fascinating to me. I didn’t realize this until I began doing some of the research for our conversation today, but in one scene in the movie, where he’s in one of those recruitment centers, when his paperwork is stamped 4-F, which means he’s rejected, the audience gets a fleeting glimpse on screen of his physical history, including his ailments. It’s flashed too quickly by to really understand what it says in its entirety, but here’s the fun part.

When Marvel wrapped up the first phase of its Cinematic Universe, it issued a boxed set of all the DVDs. In that boxed set, they had dossiers of all the characters who were in The Avengers. Included in that, right here you can see, there’s their top secret, inactive, classified file, but in that, they take that very piece of paper that shows up in Captain America: The First Avenger, can’t really see it there well, because of the sun, but here’s the ailments that are listed on that sheet that flew by too quickly for movie goers to understand.

Here are the odds. Here’s the crucible that Steve Rogers faces as he wants to go join the war effort and do his part for his country. Summary of patient health issues: asthma, scarlet fever, rheumatic fever, sinusitis, high blood pressure, palpitations or pounding in heart. I’m going to run out breath saying this. Easy fatigability, heart trouble, nervous trouble of any sort, has had household contact with a tuberculosis patient, and he has a parent/sibling with diabetes, cancer, stroke, or heart disease. He is also only 5’7″ and 110 pounds. Makes it pretty clear why Steve Rogers is having trouble getting into the Army, doesn’t it?

 

Warwick Fairfax:

That guy’s a mess. I mean, you know how it’s like slight of stature. I mean, 110 pounds. I mean, wow. Rheumatic fever, tuberculosis. I mean, it’s just… He is the antithesis of a heroic figure. That kid’s not, I mean, you would think, poor kid. He’s not going to be able to do anything. I mean, if there’s a breath of wind, you’d think he’d fall over.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

Right.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

I mean, he’s just sickly. Can you imagine being in the heat of battle and having a nervous disposition? Do you want that guy to have your back? I mean, probably not. Maybe he’ll suffer a heart attack or something. Yeah, he is the antithesis of what a hero would be, which makes his story even more remarkable, really.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

Yet, in the very next scene, in the very next scene, after he’s been rejected several times, the first glimpse of what indeed makes him a hero comes up. He’s in the movie theater. After one of his rejections, he goes to see a movie. At that time, at the movies, they ran newsreels beforehand, and because it was World War II, they were reporting back. Remember, there’s no TV at this time that’s hour by hour, no CNN telling you what’s going on in the theater of war. You’ve got to watch these newsreels. 

He wants to see what’s going on, but there’s some guys in front of him in the theater, who are mouthing off, and they’re talking to the newsreel. Steve Rogers, slight, sickly Steve Rogers gets a little upset about that. He wants to hear what’s going on. He wants to serve his country, and he wants to know what’s going on in the theater of war.

What ends up happening, he gets into a fight with one of the bigger guys in front of him. Later, the guy goes outside and beats him up in an alley. He just pounds him. He keeps punching him, and Steve keeps falling down and getting knocked down. Eventually, the guy who’s beating him up takes a little sympathy on him, and he says, “You just don’t know when to quit, do you?” And Steve’s response would end up coursing throughout all of the films in which Captain America appears. That’s this first one, Captain America: The First Avenger. That’s the second one, Captain America: The Winter Soldier. That’s the third one, Captain America: The Civil War, as well as all four Avengers movies.

This is the attitude of Steve Rogers, of Captain America, as it plays out through those movies. Here’s what he says to that bully, as that bully beats him up. “I could do this all day.” He says it many more times, throughout those other movies, as I said.

Warwick, when I heard that, in screening this movie for this purpose, it occurs to me, that could be the motto of moving beyond your crucible, couldn’t it? Recognizing that life knocks you down, but it has lessons to teach you, and you’ll learn them if you adopt the attitude of, “Okay, I could do this all day, if that’s the way it turns out.” Is that fair, to sort of summarize the way crucible leadership works?

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Absolutely. Really, to get over your crucible, you have to have that attitude of perseverance, that I could do it over.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

Yeah. It really is a good perspective to think about when you face crucibles. Can you be someone who looks at crucibles… We say, they didn’t happen to you; they happened for you. One way of expressing that in a different manner is to say, “I could do this all day. I know what’s on the other side of persevering through my crucible, so I’m going to press in and I’m going to do that.” 

Steve Rogers life changes when he meets one Dr. Erskine, who’s a former German scientist, who’s working on developing a super soldier formula for the U.S. government agency, The Strategic Scientific Reserve. He selects Steve over more physically capable and militarily experienced candidates, because as we heard in the clip that started the show, Steve is a weak man. Physically, he is a weak man. 

Here’s the important point there, though. Erskine believes, because of that, he will value strength, and he will do it with compassion. That, in Erskine’s mind, is what makes a super soldier. That’s a pretty, again, life applicable lesson that, going back to the Psychology Today article, that we should all aspire to, that in our hearts we all want to aspire to. It’s not who we can beat up. It’s who we can comfort. It’s who we can show compassion to. It’s who we can love. That’s the nature of “heroism” as defined by Captain America and, I think, in our own hearts.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Absolutely. I mean, those early scenes are particularly helpful in this movie, when you just see this young, slight of build, doesn’t seem like a heroic figure, but what Dr. Erskine sees in Steve Rogers is maybe not heroic physical stature, but heroic character. He’s somebody that will stand up, as we’ll see, to bullies. He’s somebody that, because he doesn’t have natural strength, he values compassion. He values character. He values doing the right thing.

Later on, we’ll see, I think Dr. Erskine says, “Steve, don’t change. Don’t change in your character. Keep who you are,” when he’ll get the serum.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

Right.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

One of the things he says in that clip that I think is really… It’s very thought provoking when he says to Steve, “The serum amplifies everything. It makes a bad man, a bad person better; a good man, a good person better.” Steve already had character. Did it make him even of greater character? I don’t know, maybe. I guess that would be Dr. Erskine’s premise, but I think what that says is sometimes you could say strength is found in our weakness. I know, for me, given what I’ve gone through, losing a $2.25 billion, 150-year-old family media company in Australia, I think it… I’d like to think it gives you a level of compassion, a level of empathy for others. 

Sometimes out of weakness, physical weakness or whatever, there can be great strength that comes out of that. See, Dr. Erskine chose Steve Rogers because of the strength of his character. That was a profoundly wise choice that a lot of other people wouldn’t have done.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

No. In fact, the colonel, played by Tommy Lee Jones, is having none of it in the beginning, right? He… “You bring a 90-pound asthmatic into my barracks?” I mean, he’s very gruff. He’s perfect Tommy Lee Jones there, but he doesn’t see it, because he doesn’t spend any time, he doesn’t get to spend any time with Steve Rogers, aside from what’s happening on the training field. He sees a bunch of people who are stronger. That’s what he, as a military man, has been taught to believe is what wins wars, physical strength.

Erskine in the doctor who, while he was in Germany, ended up having to give the serum, before it was ready to go, to a very physically strong man, but a bad man, Johann Schmidt, who ends up being the villain Red Skull in the movie. He’s seen what happens when strong, morally questionable people get that serum. He doesn’t want to see that happen again.

One of the key things, before Steve Rogers receives the serum and becomes the physical embodiment of Captain America, the last thing that Erskine asks him is, “Do you want to kill Nazis?” He wants to get at Steve’s motivation. Okay, he wants to go join the war effort, because he’s been to five or six different places to fill out a form, been rejected each time. That’s against the law. He doesn’t seem to care, because he wants to fight so badly, but Erskine says, “Do you want to kill Nazis?” 

Steve’s response, again, gets to the character of Steve Rogers and then Captain America, because he never loses that character. Steve’s response is, “I don’t want to kill anybody. I just don’t like bullies.” He sees Hitler as a bully. He sees the Nazis as bullies, and he wants to stop those bullies in the same way that he wanted to stop that guy who was talking over the film reels in the movie theater. That’s the essence of Steve Rogers, and that becomes the essence of Captain America.

Steve is given the serum. He gets the serum, and that gives him strength, speed, and the ability to take and throw a punch. They’re exponentially greater than they were before. He captures a Nazi who has infiltrated the experiment and shot Erskine to death. He winds up in the papers as a hero. 

Here, then, comes Steve Rogers second big crucible of the film, and his first big crucible as Captain America. The U.S. Government doesn’t send him to the front to fight the war. The U.S. Government, and this kind of hurts me that this is played for a joke in the film, the U.S. Government sends him on a PR campaign. Being a PR guy, by profession, I’m like, oh, that’s terrible. The PR is like the evil assignment in the movie, but for our purposes, why it’s a crucible is he’s not… Steve Rogers realizes he’s not using all the gifts he’s been given, right? 

We talk about gifts you’ve been given, a lot, not usually in this context. They’ve been injected into you through science, but he’s still been given gifts, and he feels like he’s not using them. He’s longing for what we’ve called, in a previous series, second act significance, right? That’s where he finds himself, as he’s on this PR tour selling war bonds.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

You know, what’s fascinating about this is both the Army’s maybe misuse of him, arguably, or the… I mean, the Army has an attitude of, look, here’s this larger than life figure. We need money to fuel this war, and one of the main ways they did that was selling war bonds to people, so he was serving a good purpose, which is raising money for the war, but he could’ve said, “Look,” maybe he didn’t want to kill Nazis, but, “I want to protect America. I could do a lot more at the front.” Maybe he grumbles a little bit, but basically he’s like, look, if this is where I’m needed in the war effort, and if this can help raise millions of dollars for the war, I’m not going to overly complain.” 

Like a good soldier, he went ahead and did it, which I think is remarkable in terms of humility. He didn’t say, “I’m not doing that. I’m Captain America. How dare you?” No.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

Right.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

He’s like, okay, I may not like it. I understand why they’re putting me there. Raising millions of dollars for the war effort is not bad. I get it. War bonds is a big deal, selling them. But yeah, it definitely wasn’t using his gifts, wasn’t maybe the best place to put him, but in his humility, he went on with it, put on a good show, and did his best to make the best of a bad position, another important lesson.

All of us in life are going to face times in which we’re not in the best place for our gifting, but we do our best anyway. Sometimes you don’t have a choice in the short run. That showed remarkable character, the way he approached it.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

You’re right. At first, he kind of embraces that role. He’s symbolic. You’re right. The war bonds are going up. They’re raising a lot more money with him, but yet, deep down inside, when he was going to all those places and wanting to sign up for the war, he wasn’t thinking of being a PR guy. He was thinking of being a soldier. He doesn’t want to raise money; he wants to raise Cain, right? He wants to take it to the enemy, and he gets a little picture when his playing field shifts from all those war bond rallies to the front. 

He goes to the front, and he meets, when he does his shtick with the chorus girls singing the star-spangled man song, and all the dances, and the fake Hitler he knocks out, but he does it in front of soldiers who are on the front lines, and they boo him. They mock him. They say, “Bring the girls back.” 

One of the interesting things about, of all the projectiles that Captain America knocks away with this thing right here, with his shield. Of all the projectiles he knocks away with his shield, the first ones are fruit thrown at him by servicemen, who think he’s shirking his duty, because they don’t know the whole story. That weighs on him.

The next scene that we see him in, Warwick, is when he is visited by Captain Peggy Carter, who’s a British agent, who’s working with the Strategic Scientific Reserve. They’ve kind of taken a shine to one another in a very sweet way, and she says something to him. Listener, I’m going to ask you the same thing I’m going to ask Warwick. Does this sound familiar, what she tells Steve Rogers/Captain America, who’s selling war bonds, but not fighting? “You were meant for more than this,” she says to him. Pretty familiar subject around these parts, isn’t it?

 

Warwick Fairfax:

It sure is, Gary. I mean, as listeners would know, we just finished an amazing series on Second Act Significance. I’d say, pretty much every guest we had reached that moment of you were meant for more than this, whether it was Robert Miller being a pretty successful lawyer in New York for decades, and it’s like, is this all there is? Is this all there is? He had a love of music, and now has a very successful band, Project Grand Slam, doing a mix of Latin/jazz fusion. Every guest we had, had a is this all there is moment.

As we heard last week, I had what I called a cubicle moment, an is this all there is moment, when I was in the mid ’90s to early 2000s. I was working in an aviation services company in Maryland doing business marketing analysis, and I was getting good performance reviews, but it’s like, I felt like I was, as a person of faith, dishonoring God in the sense that I wasn’t using all the gifts that I’ve been given, so I ended up quitting, got into executive coaching, and from there, through a variety of ways, ended up writing my book, and now Crucible Leadership and Beyond the Crucible.

Many of us have had this is this all there is moment. Am I using all my gifts for a higher purpose? Have I defined it in a way that’s helping others? This was really, maybe it wasn’t a cubicle moment. Obviously, he was out there getting thrown fruit by servicemen, which had to have… Here he was trying to help America.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

Right.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

That’s got to be absolutely soul crushing, to be mocked by the people on the front lines. I can’t think of a worse psychological crucible. I mean, it would’ve been devastating. Is this what I was given the serum for, to get thrown fruit at and mocked by soldiers, my fellow soldiers? Is this all there is? Surely, there must be a higher purpose. It’s a classic moment. It definitely is.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

Yep, and he finds that higher moment, courtesy of Peggy Carter who, at the camp there on the front lines, or kind of behind the front lines quite a bit. He discovers that a lot of American and British allied servicemen have been taken prisoner by the Nazis, who are winning the war. At this point, they’re kind of cleaning up a little bit, because Johann Schmidt, the Red Skull has hijacked… If you’re a fan of Marvel, you’ll know what the Tesseract is. If you’re not a fan of Marvel, let’s just say it’s sort of cosmic energy. He’s been able to leverage this cosmic energy to create weapons that give the Nazis the upper hand.

They’ve captured all these POWs. He hears about it. The colonel doesn’t want to send anybody there, because it’s so far behind enemy lines, but Steve Rogers hears that one of those POWs could be his friend, Bucky Barnes, his boyhood chum, who is/was everything that Steve wanted to be, strong and capable and accepted immediately into the military, and women loved him. That’s all the things that Steve sort of aspired to be in his heart of hearts.

He thinks that Bucky, even though some say he’s dead, he thinks Bucky might be one of those POWs, so he goes, unauthorized, unordered. He goes behind enemy lines himself, and he liberates the camp where these POWs are being held. He gets with him along the way, this wonderful motley crew of British and American soldiers, who kind of go on to become Captain America’s Howling Commandos, and some other things that happen in the film and certainly in the comic book universe.

What I thought was so great about that scene, Warwick, is when it ends, when he comes back the hero, the first thing he does… Everybody’s applauding him. Crowds are parting, because he’s coming back with all these POWs, but the first thing that Steve Rogers/Captain America does is walk up to the colonel, played by Tommy Lee Jones, and say, “I’m here to turn myself in for disciplinary action,” because he recognizes, he absolutely knows he left without authorization. That’s his character on display. It’s another key building block, that character in moving beyond a crucible to lead a life of significance that we talk about all the time. There’s something else that happens in that moment, Warwick, when Peggy Carter is talking to the colonel, that also speaks to a key component of what it takes to get beyond your crucible. Talk about that a bit.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Yeah, absolutely. I mean, it’s a classic scene in that you would think a normal hero comes back and says to the colonel, “Hey, you had no faith in me. Well, take that.” 

 

Gary Schneeberger:

Right.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

“Look at all these people cheering me. They may have thrown fruit at me before. Well, now, they’re cheering me. I’m the big hero. You’re an idiot. You made a mistake, so you’d better have a good assignment for me. Otherwise, Colonel, I’m going to talk to the general, or the head of the war office or, hey, maybe even President Roosevelt. If you’re too stupid to listen, people are going to listen to me now.” That would’ve been an approach, an arrogant, hey, I’m the hero, but that’s not at all what Steve Rogers did.

He knew that he had gone against his orders. It’s like, okay, I did what I did to help people, but I recognize that what I did was against orders. I’m ready for discipline. He was just humble, submitted to authority in the best sense of that word. If he was about glory, his response would have been totally different. It shows everything about his character, and-

 

Gary Schneeberger:

And it shows everything about how wise Dr. Erskine was in not picking one of those guys that was killing all of the tests, that was killing all the tests on the training field, because that’s the kind of thing one of those guys would’ve said if they came back, and that’s not who Steve Rogers is.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Absolutely. They would’ve said, “Hey, look at me. I am the champion. Cue the Queen rock group music, We Are the Champions.” 

 

Gary Schneeberger:

Right.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

I mean, that would be kind of what you’d be hearing, but while the colonel may not have really judged correctly, Agent Peggy Carter, the British agent working with the group did, because when the colonel asked Agent Peggy Carter, “Well, why did you allow Steve to go on this mission,” and she says, “I had faith.” She believed in him. She saw what Dr. Erskine saw in Steve Rogers, a man, a person of high character, of selflessness, who’s always about the cause and about his fellow soldiers, not about his own glory.

She had faith in who he was, as a person. She saw those really aspects of greatness, greatness of character, in him that Dr. Erskine did. Yeah, it’s a wonderful line, “I had faith.” She knew who he was, and she knew what he could do.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

Right. That’s one of the things that you talk about in your book and we talk about on the show quite a bit is the importance of faith. The importance of believing that this isn’t the end, and whether that comes from us or that comes from others. Other people having faith in us is also a great driver. I mean that is, again, listener, I stress that’s one of the reasons why we’re talking about these films and these heroes, because they touch on the beats that we’ve been talking to you about now for more than 120 episodes of this show. That’s one of the things that, I think, makes this such a robust, fun discussion.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Just before we leave that point, and what you’re saying is so true, I think one of the points I want listeners to really consider is you can surround yourself with naysayers, who will say, “You know what? You’re a screw-up. You’ve failed. You’ve hurt people. You deserve, maybe not to be in prison, but to be in a virtual prison. You deserve to be treated like lepers in the Bible, to be shun, not seen. You’re unforgivable, irredeemable. You’re a hopeless waste of space.” 

Now, that’s an approach. You can just surround yourself with those people if you want to, and it doesn’t mean you don’t have to return to the things you’ve done and make it right, but you want to surround yourself with people, who say, “You know what? I get it. You’ve made mistakes. Maybe you’ve made choices that weren’t as good as others, but I believe in you. I believe that I would say greatness in you, but greatness in the sense of character, the ability to achieve dreams that maybe others may not see. I believe in who you are and your capacity and what you can do.” Surrounding yourself with people who elevate you and appeal to your better angels is a massively important part of achieving your dream to a life of significance.

Surround yourself with people who will say, “You know what? I believe you can do it. I believe you are better and more capable than you ever realize.” Those are the kind of people that we want to have in our corner.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

Yeah, and Steve Rogers/Captain America proves capable. He brings down the villain of the peace, the Red Skull. He defeats him, and he does it in a way that, again, stays so true to his character, in the sense that he doesn’t… He says to Dr. Erskine back in the beginning when he’s asked, “Do you want to kill Nazis?” “No, I don’t want to kill Nazis. I just don’t like bullies.” He doesn’t kill.

So many times, heroes in action films, in particular, will take out the bad guy. I’m working on a book right now about the James Bond films, and James Bond pretty much offs every bad guy his path crosses. That’s not the way that heroes tend to operate, superheroes tend to operate. They don’t kill. Captain America says, “I don’t want to kill anybody. I want to simply stop bullies.” 

What ends up killing the Red Skull is his own megalomania. He’s so fascinated and obsessed with this Tesseract, this other worldly source of power, that he grabs it, and it blows up on him, and he dies. That then… It happens on his plane, and that leaves Steve Rogers on the plane, Captain America on the plane, and he’s got a choice to make. That choice is… There’s a bomb. That plane is set to drop a bomb on New York, so he can live and let that happen, or he can take that plane, and he can crash it in the ocean to save other people’s lives.

By this time, listener, I think you know, even if you haven’t seen the movie, what Captain America is going to do. Unlike the Red Skull, who can’t control the power he wields, Steve Rogers could control the power within him. That leads him to make the ultimate sacrifice in the end, fly the plane with the bomb into the ocean, and there he is presumed dead. 

Again, Warwick, that really makes… I mean, the smartest guy in this movie to me is Dr. Erskine, because he gets it with just a few conversations of hearing a few things that Steve Rogers said. This is the kind of man, after putting that serum in Johann Schmidt’s arm and what that made bad worse, he saw this physically weak man, who was good in his heart, and he could make that good better, and that’s what he did to the end, or to what seemed like the end, when Steve Rogers dropped that plane in the water, even though he had fallen in love with Peggy Carter, she with him, and that ended that, he thought, but there’s more to come, as there always is in superhero movies, right?

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Absolutely. It’s a great point. He was always about the greater good. It’s not about me. Obviously, with everything that was on that plane, yeah, he could have annihilated New York and probably part of the Eastern Seaboard of the U.S., but he was willing to sacrifice himself for the greater good of his country and the men and women that live here.

He was the true hero, in that it’s not about me. It’s about a higher purpose. I’m just doing my best to help those around me.

There’s an interesting moment in one of the later scenes of the movie, when Steve Rogers is struggling with Johann Schmidt, the Red Skull, the head of HYDRA, on the plane. Well, actually, I think it was earlier, come to think of it, in the Alps space, but it’s sort of part of this end of the movie.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

Right.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Johann Schmidt, the head of HYDRA asks Steve Rogers, “Well, what makes you so special?” In other words, Dr. Erskine had been forced to inject Johann Schmidt with the serum, or basically Johann Schmidt took matters into his own hands, but he’s thinking, why in the world would Dr. Erskine choose you? Here I am, Mr. Super-Nazi, Aryan super race, Johann Schmidt. Why you? What’s so special about you? 

Steve Rogers said, in answer to that question, “What’s so special about you?” He says, “Nothing. I’m just a kid from Brooklyn.” 

 

Gary Schneeberger:

Right. 

 

Warwick Fairfax:

It’s like he doesn’t think of himself as special. Now, the honest answer, which he’s too humble to say is, “Well, Dr. Erskine saw the purity of my character,” but he’s too humble to see that. It just completely nonplussed Johann Schmidt. It’s like, “Say what?” It’s like, “I’m up against this person, who’s potentially going to beat me, and he’s nothing special?” I mean that’s how humiliated to be beaten by nothing special, if you will. He just, he couldn’t process it, but that just shows you his humility and his willingness to just sacrifice himself for the greater good, and not big-note himself.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

One of the things that I got, as we were preparing this series, is this book called Hollywood Heroes. The subtitle is How Your Favorite Movies Reveal God. It’s not all just a spiritual, a Christian tract, if you will. There are some other great insights. One of the great insights it has about Steve Rogers/Captain America and the hero journey he goes on, that’s different from a lot of the hero journeys that we’ll be talking about, and that we’re familiar with in the culture…

The book says this, “Unlike most superheroes, and despite being around almost 80 years in comic books,” because Captain America did indeed date back to the ’40s in comic books, “Captain America is unique in the sense that, as a character, he is static. He undergoes almost no moral change over the course of his story arc. Rather than a moral journey, we are instead treated to the story of his dedication, bravery, and commitment to his principles, often in the face of overwhelming odds.”

That’s his story arc. His story arc is going from physically weak to physically strong, but not changing internally, fortitudinally strong, and that is both rare, in many cases, and I think something we all can and should aspire to, especially as we encounter crucibles, because Captain America does not let his crucible define or stop him. Along the way, he becomes… Right? As the movies play out, he becomes the true crucible leader, in our language, of The Avengers, because they all recognize that he may not be the most powerful one. The Hulk is more powerful. Iron Man’s smarter, but Captain America becomes the leader because of his innate qualities.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Yeah, it’s so true, that point you’re making, Gary, from the Hollywood Heroes book. In very many cases, in real life, people may start out with a reasonable degree of character, but whether it’s Hollywood or success in sports or in business, the more normal arc is they get carried away with the fame. They get surrounded by people who are hangers on and say, “Man, you’re amazing. You’re brilliant. You’re fantastic,” and they said, “Yeah, I pretty much am, aren’t I?” And the character erodes with the fame and the money and the power, whether it’s in politics or Hollywood or wherever. 

It’s rare that politicians or people in movies or wherever are seen as incorruptible. We talk a lot in Crucible Leadership about Lincoln, who may be termed sort of the incorruptible man. His character, if anything, it was strengthened, but it wasn’t changed. He was the same person before he became into office, or even the latter stages when he was greatly respected. It didn’t change him, but that’s rare. Somebody like Steve Rogers, with all the accolades and his physical strength and the admiration, most people would start saying, “I’m pretty hot stuff, aren’t I? I’m pretty amazing.”

 

Gary Schneeberger:

Right.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

The fact that he wasn’t flies in the face of the more normal example in the culture that we live in, so that’s something to be understood and modeled. Don’t let success, whether it’s in your neighborhood, high school, business… The size is irrelevant. Wherever you live, you could be pretty hot stuff, even if it’s like a junior on a high school basketball team somewhere.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

Right.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Don’t let the accolades destroy your character. Remember, be the same person in the sense of the good part of you, after you have succeeded. Steve Rogers is just an incredible example of that, which is, unfortunately, ultra-rare in our society today. Most people are corrupted by success, unfortunately.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

Yep, yep. There’s a great scene at the end when it’s VE day, Victory over Europe day, in the war, and there’s a scene that shows these young kids playing in the street. They’re all exultant because America’s one the war, and they show this young boy. He’s got a metal garbage can lid in his hand, and he’s painted it up like Captain America’s shield. He’s painted up that garbage can lid like Captain America’s shield, and he’s playing Captain America with his friends.

We talk all the time here at Beyond the Crucible about the importance of leaving a legacy, something that you can be proud of, something that those who inherit that legacy can be proud of. Many times, that’s your family. Here, what Captain America’s done is left a legacy that his country can be proud of, that the next generation of his country can be proud of, and that is an absolutely key outcome, is it not, that we often discuss as the fruit of living a life of significance?

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Absolutely. I mean, at the time, as the war ends in Europe, Victory in Europe, somewhere around May 1945, give or take, everybody assumes that Captain America is dead. Now, maybe he’s not, but nobody knows that at the time, and so whether it’s his friends, like the colonel, Peggy Carter, Bucky Barnes, I mean, just people that really love him and respect and admire him, they think of him as somebody that’s left a legacy of giving his all to his country, to the Allies, at least in the movie, of helping to defeat Nazi Germany, and living a life of character. 

It was never about him, but was standing up to bullies. It’s a life of service. It was a life of humility. That’s exactly the kind of thing that you want young people emulating and respecting. That’s the legacy, as of the 1940s, that he had left. I mean, maybe we won’t all be Captain America, obviously, but whatever level and whatever area, wouldn’t you want that to be your legacy? That you’re a man or woman that are respected for your character, how you lived your life, a life of service caring for others. Isn’t that how we all want to be seen and respected after we’ve gone? I mean, to me, the answer is absolutely.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

Yeah, and as we’ve said, as you’ve hinted again there, Captain America does not die. He crashes the plane in the water, and as is wonderful about the comic book world, you can have kind of miraculous things happen. He’s frozen in suspended animation in the plane that he crashes in, and the U.S. Government pulls him out in the 2010s, and he hasn’t aged. He’s alive.

What’s interesting about that is he emerges as a man out of his own time, but still rooted in his timeless principles. We see that in Captain America in all the films that follow, the two sequels to his movie, and then the four Avengers films. He spends… His belief, his faith in Bucky Barnes, his pal, exists, even though Bucky had been captured by the Nazis, had been programmed to become an assassin for HYDRA, had done some terrible things. The U.S. Government wanted to wipe him out, and Captain America, again, having faith and belief in his friend, wouldn’t go along with that, defied some of his orders, because he believed in his friend. He was a loyal friend, who could see in the heart of the man who had been reprogrammed by the bad guys.

That, in the end, as you pointed out, as we were talking about this beforehand, that faith ends up being well-founded, doesn’t it, in Bucky Barnes? He’s not the Winter Soldier. Even though he’s been programmed to be the Winter Soldier assassin for HYDRA, at the end of The Avengers movie arc, he’s somebody. He’s back to being Bucky Barnes, right?

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Absolutely. You know, as you said, Bucky Barnes was brainwashed by the Nazis and HYDRA, but Steve Rogers wouldn’t give up on his friend. He felt like somewhere in there, beneath the programming, there was the good Bucky Barnes, his buddy growing up. He fought for that and eventually was able to redeem him, which is amazing.

In those latter movies, beginning with the movie that came after the first Captain America, well, I guess, at the end of that movie, come to think of it, he goes through another crucible. It’s like, gosh, I’ve lost everybody I know. It’s now 2010s.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

Right.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

At that point, he doesn’t have a clue where his beloved Peggy Carter is, and obvious, eventually, that will be revealed, but at the time he didn’t know. Everybody that he’d known is probably dead or close to it, but it’s like, okay. That’s got to be a devastating crucible, to lose 70 years of your life, whatever it was at the time, but it’s like, okay, this is pretty awful, but here I am. How can I serve my country? How can I serve the planet? What’s the next mission? It’s never about him. It’s always about leaving a legacy, even when he loses many decades of his life, and for all he knows, at the time, his beloved Peggy Carter.

It was always about a life of service. It was never about him. Whatever crucible came, even a crucible of time, as you say, he was moored in his principles, and he always wanted to serve his country and serve the world. That was always, always him, and this is in a, how can I put this, character of humility. It’s just incredible.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

I love that you mentioned his beloved Peggy Carter, because she does show up in some of the sequels. She’s much older, obviously, because she’s lived through the passage of time. She’s aged, where he hasn’t, and he visits her in the hospital in one movie, where she’s ill, but he never loses that torch he has for her.

In the final Avengers movie, Avengers: Endgame, which involved some time travel, all the different Avengers have to go back in different places of time to retrieve these time stones, like the Tesseract that the villain Thanos has used to wipe out half of mankind. They have to go back and get them, so they can defeat Thanos. 

Captain America goes back, and he gets one of the stones. They get all the stones regathered, and Iron Man saves the day, loses his life in the process. That’s not a spoiler. The movie’s been out for a couple years, but at the end of the day, when that’s done, earth has been saved, each of the Avengers has a role to play, to go back to the time where the time stone they have came from, to go put it back in place.

Captain America volunteers to go put the stone that he had back in place. There’s a scene at the end of that movie, where the other Avengers are waiting for him to come back through the portal. It should only take seconds, what looks like it takes years. What takes years on the inside of the time travel, on the outside takes seconds.

They’re waiting for him, and he doesn’t come back, and they don’t know why he doesn’t come back. The audience finds out first why he doesn’t come back. There’s a scene that’s cut to a house. The camera goes through a window, and there, inside the house, is Steve Rogers dancing with a young Peggy Carter. That dance that they talked about in the first Captain America movie that we’ve been talking about, that first dance that they never got to take, that she weepingly says, “I’ll take a…” He says he’ll take a rain check, and she says, “Yes, I’ll meet you next week,” and she knows it’s not going to happen.

Captain America chose, rather than come back and continue to serve, he felt like he’d lived his life of significance. He’d given all he could to his country and to the world, and now it was his time to enjoy a different slice of a life of significance, and that was life with Peggy Carter, so he stayed in the 1940s. He married Peggy Carter, and that was the way that he lived out his life, because of what time travel allowed.

It was a very beautiful ending to this story, and it speaks to what we’ve been talking about. He felt called to serve. He lived a life on purpose, dedicated to serving others, and now that act of significance, that life of significance, now included love, marriage, and that which he had denied himself so long while pursuing his heroic calling. It was really a beautiful way to end the story arc of Captain America, I thought.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Absolutely. It was never about being in the limelight. It was never about, hey, I’m part of S.H.I.E.L.D., and I’m part of all these incredible things that are going on in the present day, and hey, let’s just keep on with the mission, and oh well. It’s like, well, I’ve served my country. I’ve served the planet, and he just felt like the season is changing, and maybe… We don’t really know what happened in the alternate universe, when he goes back to the ’40s and what happened from the ’40s on. That movie hasn’t been made after Avengers: Endgame, but let’s assume he lived a more quiet life. We don’t know, but it’s possible. Maybe it’s teased a bit there.

It wasn’t about the size of the impact. It was about, where am I called to now, and to have the opportunity to be around the love of your life, maybe have kids and a family. It was just never about the size of the impact. It was just try to be of value wherever that was, be it of big note or of small note. It was never about him. It was just try to serve a greater purpose and be a good friend, whether it be to… and husband to Peggy Carter, or a good friend to Bucky Barnes. It was always about just sticking to who he was before he had the serum. Really, it’s a great end of the arc of his story.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

Absolutely, and we go back to what we started talking about early on, his view, carried throughout the movies, that I could do this all day. It’s really… I didn’t think about this until right now, as you were describing life with Peggy Carter. He’s able to find, being with Peggy is something else he could do all day, and he gets the chance to do that, live many years with her, when he goes back to the ’40s. That’s just a beautiful wrap to his story and to the arc of how he dealt with crucibles and how he found a life of significance. It really is.

He’s, I think, the perfect, the perfect hero for us to discuss, not just because yesterday, when listeners are hearing this, yesterday was the Fourth of July, Independence Day in America, right? It’s not just because, just 24 hours ago, you saw fireworks and you had a cookout. It’s because the story really does have application to how we can live lives of significance, and that, I think, makes it both entertaining, beautiful in its own superheroic way, and also quite meaningful.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Absolutely. I mean, well said. It’s a great character, a great movie to launch this series with, a selfless life, whose focus is always on others, not liking bullies, defeating Johann Schmidt and HYDRA, being loyal to his friends, Peggy Carter and Bucky Barnes. I mean, he’s just a great role model of… He’s a bit like they talk about Lincoln. Lincoln’s greatness was not so much in defeating the South in the Civil War. Historians have said Lincoln’s greatness was in his character.

Well, I think in a similar way, actually, Steve Rogers’ greatness, Captain America’s greatness, wasn’t so much in the achievements or his physical strength. Steve Rogers’ greatness was in his character. In that sense, you could almost say he’s an Abraham Lincoln archetype in some way.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

Very well said, and a very good place for us to… I don’t want to say land the plane, given some of the arcs of our, the beats of our conversation here. It’s a good place to throw the shield in and say, “We’re done.” 

There’s one thing I want listeners to ponder, again in this book, Hollywood Heroes. They have reflection questions, like you do every time on your blog, Warwick. They have reflection questions for how you can think about the story of Captain America, and one of them really struck me as something that would be good for people to think about, and that’s this: “Captain America is other focused. His moral compass compels him to help others. Who do you know who tends to be other focused, and what do they do that helps them maintain that focus?” 

Another question that’s also very good about that, says this: “Can you think of someone in your life who makes you better, the way that Captain America made other people better? Have you told them?” This idea that… Who’s other focused? Who’s someone who inspires you in that way? What do they do that helps them maintain that focus? How might you learn from them? And then, is there somebody who makes you better, who does that for you? Have you told them, and if you haven’t, what are you waiting for? Both great questions to ponder as we wrap here, aren’t they?

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Absolutely. Yep, it’s… Thinking of your moral compass, make sure that you stay true to your fundamental beliefs. Don’t let the world erode you. I mean, it’s funny. I haven’t mentioned this that often, but when I was a teenager, I had this thought in my mind. I never wanted to become world weary, because I had this sense that the world, left to its own devices, can erode your character, erode your optimism, faith in others, and I never wanted to be cynical. I would say, by the grace of God, I’m not cynical. I am realistic, but I’m not cynical. 

You want to stay true to your moral compass, and yeah, think of people that have made you better. Yeah, I’m a great believer in encouragement. If there’s somebody that’s a role model, maybe it’s your mom, dad, teacher, maybe it’s somebody at work, think of why you admire them, and absolutely, as Gary, as you just said, tell them. Thank them, and tell them why. I always believe, if you’re going to give a thank you, be specific, you know?

 

Gary Schneeberger:

Right.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

You are, in a lot of ways, a hero or somebody I admire because you did A, B, and C, whether it was their kindness, their compassion, their integrity, whatever it is, absolutely. It will bless them and encourage them and maybe reinforce them to keep going, because even our heroes can sometimes have days when they’re a little tired.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

Yep. Well, with that, we’re going to declare that Red Skull is defeated, and so is Thanos, and we’re going to move on. Here’s how we’re going to do this, listener. We’re not going to give you the full rundown of everybody we’re going to talk to. We know who the… I mean, talk to. Yes, we’re going to talk to… Our interview with Captain America was just supposed to have… No, everyone that we’re going to talk about, all of the stories we’re going to explore, we’re not going to lay those out in advance, except at the end of each episode.

I will tell you now that next week, Warwick and I will talk about Batman and the lessons we can learn about overcoming crucibles and leading a life of significance from Batman. The primary, and there’s a lot of iterations of Batman, as you know. The primary iteration that we’re going to talk about is the 1989 Michael Keaton movie, just called Batman. We’ll bring in some of the other stuff, but the primary movie we’re going to talk about is that movie with Michael Keaton from 1989.

If you want to be up on the conversation, as Warwick and I go through it, you’ve got the opportunity to take a look at that movie over the next week, and listen in to our conversation as we get there. Until the next time we are together and have that conversation, remember that we know that crucible experiences are difficult. We know that it takes heroic efforts to move beyond them. You have to must that ability, that desire, that integrity to do this all day sometimes, when you feel like you can’t go on. You have to find a way to do this all day, because the reward is you can learn lessons from your crucible that will pay dividends down the road, and that road will lead you, as you learn those lessons and apply them to your life, to exactly the place that Steve Rogers/Captain America found himself, not only when he was saving the world but also when he was spending eternity, the rest of his life, with Peggy Carter, and that is to a life of significance.