She's a wizard, Harry.
Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

Twenty years ago, the British author gave us a true star. (Not the one you’re thinking of.)

By Clifton Leaf
June 26, 2017

Happy Monday. Twenty years ago today saw the public debut of an inspiring superhero. I speak, of course, of Hermione Granger, the brilliant and daring young wizard whose first year at Hogwarts coincides with ours. J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone hit UK bookstores on this day in 1997—a year before it came to the states (under a slightly revised name: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone).

As one might expect, the namesake character in the series gets the lion’s share of love from readers, moviegoers, and wand buyers at Ollivander’s shop at Universal Studios Florida. But Hermione is the real role model—a thinker and a doer, someone who derives most of her wizardly power not by genetic inheritance but rather by endless study and practice. Unlike her Gryffindor besties, who routinely act out of impulse, Hermione is smart enough to weigh the risks of action and inaction—and then courageous and creative enough to act decisively in the face of invariably dim odds. Why? Because it’s necessary. That’s what heroism is.

The new “Wonder Woman” movie sings, likewise, because its protagonist’s power comes as much from her endless study and training—and her big-hearted humanity—as it does from her Olympian parentage. Audiences don’t cheer Wonder Woman because of her godlike speed, strength, and agility. We cheer her authenticity.

Which makes we wonder if the real superpower in these stories isn’t, simply, humanity.

What could be more magical than that?

This essay appears in today’s edition of the Fortune Brainstorm Health Daily. Get it delivered straight to your inbox.

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