At first glance the roster of 10 ``real heroes'' of 1986 may seem like just another of those perennial end-of-the-year lists that rate everything from movie quality to clothes sense. But this one is different. The list of heroes - including Philippine President Corazon Aquino, Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel, and teacher-in-space Christa McAuliffe - is an expression of optimism in the future of humankind.
The Millennium Society, an international nonprofit organization, produced the list. The society was formed in 1979 by a group of young people who were graduating from college. They wished to counter the proclamations of doomsayers who were characterizing the younger generation as one without hope. Among some intellectuals it was popular to say that the young believed the world soon would be destroyed by nuclear war, and that consequently there was no point in trying to build a family or career.
``Nobody I knew thought that way,'' says Edward McNally, a 30-year-old New York lawyer who is chairman of the Millennium Society. Most people he knew similarly ``had an optimistic view of the world.''
As an expression of this optimism, he and his friends formed an organization that would welcome the next century by holding ``the celebration of civilization'' at several sites around the world on New Year's Eve, 1999. At that time the members of the Millennium Society intend to celebrate with their guests the history of civilization thus far, and to look ahead to progress in the third millennium since the birth of Jesus.
Three years ago the Millennium Society first named its list of 10 heroes because its members realized that, in Mr. McNally's words, ``there were people out there who very much today were inspiring people with hope and confidence'' about the future. In 1984 its 10 most inspiring people included President Reagan, Nobel Peace Prize winner Bishop Desmond Tutu, rock musician Bruce Springsteen, and long-running comedian George Burns.
The 10 named last year included South Africa's Winnie Mandela, Africa famine-relief organizer Bob Geldof, Nobel Peace Prize winner Mother Theresa, and Titanic explorer Robert Ballard.
The 10 heroes named this year and the explanatory citation for each:
``Philippine President Corazon Aquino for peaceful winds of change.
``Pianist Vladimir Horowitz for the international harmony.
``Entertainer Bill Cosby for the family in all of us.
``Chernobyl rescue doctor Robert Gale for serving the family of man.
``Beirut envoy Terry Waite for reason in an uncertain world.
``Humanitarian Elie Wiesel for the conscience.
``The Voyager crew for showing us new horizons.
``Wimbledon champion Boris Becker for the spirit of victory.
``The State of Liberty for holding the torch high.
``Teacher-in-Space Christa McAuliffe for the spirit that lives in all of us.''
These 10, says McNally, ``give reason to look forward to the future with confidence and hope.''