Written by Camaron Stevenson
The exchange between Bruce Wayne and Harvey Dent in The Dark Knight has a line that has resonated with people since it hit the screens in 2008. When comparing Gotham’s caped crusader to Julius Caesar, Dent told Wayne that people like Batman and Caesar, “either die a hero or… live long enough to see [themselves] become the villain.”
Caesar may have turned the republic into a dictatorship, but what about those who started as villains, and later became heroes? Here’s a few notable names that fit the bill.
1. Tom Wheeler
After a successful run as a lobbyist for the cable and wireless industry, Wheeler was appointed as the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission by President Barack Obama in 2013. The conflict of interest over Wheeler’s past sparked a major controversy, which got worse when documents leaked in 2014 that indicated Wheeler was considering allowing internet service providers to violate current net neutrality laws.
He Became a Hero When
In 2015 a letter signed by Google, Facebook, and more than 100 other companies was sent to Wheeler asking him to protect net neutrality. The letter, coupled with multiple online protests and petitions led to a complete turnaround by Wheeler. He now vows to protect net neutrality, and says his new regulations are, “no more a plan to regulate the Internet than the First Amendment is a plan to regulate free speech.”
2. Nelson Mandela
Nelson Mandela was a revolutionary in South Africa. His antagonists labeled him as a communist in a time when communism was a nasty word and a terrorist before everything was labeled as terrorism. Mandela was imprisoned more than he was free from 1962 to 1990, and targeted by both U.S. and British intelligence as being a serious threat.
He Became a Hero When…
People realized that his revolutionary ideas would do South Africa a lot of good. After decades of political upheaval, Mandela was elected South Africa’s first President in 1994. During his presidency, Mandela worked to eradicate discrimination in what he called “the Rainbow Nation.” He increased welfare spending significantly every year to combat the crippling poverty throughout the country. His programs brought electricity to millions, got children into schools, and boosted employment. His presidency is known as, “a golden age of hope and harmony” for the nation of South Africa.
3. Alfred Nobel
Alfred Nobel amassed a large fortune creating explosives like dynamite and ballistite, and much of what he invented was used by the military. His involvement with such destructive and dangerous substances brought him a reputation he was unaware of, until the death of his brother Ludvig. When his brother died, a local newspaper thought it was Alfred who had passed, and his obituary read: “The Merchant of Death is Dead… Dr. Alfred Nobel, who became rich by finding ways to kill forepeople faster than ever before, died yesterday.”
He Became a Hero When…
Once he became aware of what his legacy would be, Nobel used his fortune (which equivalents to $3.1 billion today) to encourage the furthering of sciences and arts. He established a series of awards to honor people who make selfless sacrifices in the name of physical science, chemistry, medicine, literature and peace. These awards are one of the greatest honors one can receive, known as the Nobel Prize.
Camaron Stevenson is a Web Producer for the TV show RightThisMinute. In his free time he likes to make goofy videos with friends and catch up on his reading. See what he’s up to on Twitter and Instagram: @ThisIsCamaron.