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Are there any events in history where one or a few lives have been sacrificed for the...

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stephaniegoesgrr | Student, Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

Posted September 7, 2008 at 9:21 AM via web

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Are there any events in history where one or a few lives have been sacrificed for the many to achieve the "greater good"?

I'm looking for evidence for me debate topic. I've been looking everywhere. I was hoping that through this I could finally find what I'm looking for. It can be in any situation. It could be a example from war to mythology... as long as a few people died for many.
Thank you!

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npdckrsn | College Teacher | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

Posted September 7, 2008 at 12:12 PM (Answer #2)

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You have mentioned that the example could be a war or even something from mythology.  Have you considered that some of our early pioneers in almost every field--from exploring the West to early medical techniques--gave their entire lives for the greater good? Think about the vaccines that have been developed. Then look at our national development of certain areas of the world.  The Panama Canal would never have been dug if it had been left to any other nation to finish.  And certainly there were plenty of deaths in its development.  That canal has definitely been for the greater good.  The same holds true for Hoover Dam.  And yes, people lost their lives there as well.  Usually we don't focus on the deaths or losses when we are attempting to accomplish something that is for the betterment of mankind.  Hardly anyone is going to put up a statue honoring the Daniel Boones or the Davy Crocketts, but those men gave of themselves for the greater good. Just look at history in America--or any country for that matter.

Good luck. 

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kpl1111 | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

Posted September 12, 2008 at 4:42 PM (Answer #3)

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I think the most interesting and the most convincing evidence for your debate topic is to consider the sacrifice in the medical field.  One of the best examples in history of sacrificing the few for the greater good would be the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment (info available online, keywords: Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment) where there were test subjects used to study the progression of syphilis in humans.  Ethically horrendous, but in the larger context of medicine, beneficial to the knowledge of the disease at the time.  (I sound horrible for saying it like that).  Or even the matter of any medical testing or clinical trials.  The thing about your question is really - depending on what view you take - any war would be an example of a few being sacrificed for the greater good.  Arguably, all wars are fought by sacrificing lives of the few (in the military) for the greater good of ... American freedom - breaking the reigns of British tyranny... or you can even argue that wars like the Spanish-American War was fought to help Cuba win their independence... all of the sacrifices (whether warranted or not) are subjective to the person reviewing the case.

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amy-lepore | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted September 12, 2008 at 8:44 PM (Answer #4)

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What about the Code Talkers in WWII?  These native Americans used their own (I think it was Navaho) language as a "code" to get messages across radio waves to other allied forces.  The enemy couldn't break the code since it was a true language known only to a select few.  Of course, these men who volunteered were on the front lines, and many of them lost their lives in the war since they were never far from the radio...a primary target of the enemy since knocking out communications was a benefit for them.

Good Luck!

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dbello | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted September 13, 2008 at 12:47 AM (Answer #5)

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Throughout history there have been countless human beings who sacrificed their lives for the the "many". My immediate thought was the ultimate sacrifice that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave for his beliefs. Obviously he did not set out to raise public awareness regarding civil rights for all Americans to expose himself to the notion that there was a great possibility that he would be assassinated. Dr. King was an extremely intelligent man. I am sure he understood the stakes, but chose to walk in the face of adversity. He never reaped the benefits of his prayers, however I think its fair to say that his courage, human decency, and his belief that the United States had the greatest of potential to aspire to the words of Jefferson..."All men are created equal". When the combination includes truth, honor, courage,and of course love, the sacrifice of the one in turn becomes the gateway of possibilities for everyone else.

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timbrady | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted September 13, 2008 at 7:48 AM (Answer #6)

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I would suggest that we add Jesus to the list.  Regardless of your religious beliefs, Jesus laid down his life for the people; if you do not see him in a religious sense, he laid down his life rather than give up the enduring principles that western civilization is based on.  His examples of love/forgiveness/caring/generosity ... whatever you'd like to call it, left a legacy for all of us to aspire to.

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linda-allen | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted September 17, 2008 at 3:31 PM (Answer #7)

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Jesus gave himself as a sacrifice for the good of all humanity.

My sophomore honors class is in the middle of "Julius Caesar" right now. Today we read and compared the two funeral orations in Act III. If Shakespeare had it right, Brutus claimed that Caesar had to die for the good of all Romans. Caesar didn't realize just how bad he was for Rome, so he just had to die. Brutus justifies what he did by saying that he loves Rome more than he loved Caesar.

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stephaniegoesgrr | Student, Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

Posted September 20, 2008 at 8:49 PM (Answer #8)

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Thank you everyone for all the wonderful replys! I am happy to say that the examples you gave helped me walk away from my 1st deate compition with 2nd place! :]

I had no idea what response I would get so thanks agian!

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kwoo1213 | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

Posted September 21, 2008 at 7:22 PM (Answer #9)

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Congratulations on your 2nd place finish!  That is wonderful.  The examples everyone gave you here were terrific ones.

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litteacher8 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted August 3, 2011 at 5:24 AM (Answer #10)

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This happens in any war. Wars sacrifice soldiers for the sake of the common people. We know some of them will die. They know some of them will die. It is accepted in war. We do it when there is a need for protection.

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