My first hero was the old, bald captain of the Starship Enterprise NCC-1701-D. Oh sure I wanted to be Data, but I looked up to Picard. See Picard worked hard for his fearless, dauntless persona. Data was just fearless by virtue of being a machine. Picard earned his courage through discipline.
But it wasn’t just courage. Sure Picard could stare down the Borg, the Romulans, the Klingons, even himself and never blink. Everyone knew he wouldn’t blink. The whole crew (and their families, TNG was a weird series) could have complete confidence in Picard. That was only a part of it.
It wasn’t even his command presence or reliability. Those were all side-effects of who he was. Picard was an explorer with the heart of a philosopher. He thinks deeply on every topic, always balancing the rules with doing the right thing. In fact, in one episode he says, “There is no greater challenge than the study of philosophy.” Later in that episode he adds, “Open your mind to the past — art, history, philosophy — and all this starts meaning something.”
You could do worse for a hero. Captain Kirk was little more than a space cowboy — all bravado and space whores. Captain Picard on the other hand was a professional peacemaker. He’s a diplomat and a negotiator. Places all over the universe become better just for having him there.
More than that, he’s an advocate for humanity and justice, able to deliver amazing speeches on any ethical problem at the drop of the hat. Whether he is defending Data as sentient or humanity as fundamentally non-violent (this is something we become prior to Star Trek’s time) or defending a dumb Ensign for being the wrong race, he is undefeatable because he has spent more time wrestling with the issue than anyone else in the room. He thought about it longer. He can’t help it; he’s a deep thinker and because of that he has a responsibility to what is right.
Of course Picard was a stoic — all about duty and while he was generally selfless he never lost perspective and found a healthy balance.
Even now, I’m thinking I picked a pretty good hero as a little boy. I’m proud of myself.