The death of Christopher Reeve will hit a lot of people pretty hard. He worked with so much determination to regain movement and he stayed optimistic. It’s an inspirational story, and it’s a shock that the story is now over. As my wife said, “He wasn’t supposed to die.” He vowed to walk again, and we believed it.

In the second presidential debate last week, Kerry brought up Reeve as an example of who we can help and why stem cell research could be so important. Here’s the quote, from the official debate transcript:

“You know, I was at a forum with Michael J. Fox the other day in New Hampshire, who’s suffering from Parkinson’s, and he wants us to do stem cell, embryonic stem cell. And this fellow stood up, and he was quivering. His whole body was shaking from the nerve disease, the muscular disease that he had.

“And he said to me and to the whole hall, he said, ‘You know, don’t take away my hope, because my hope is what keeps me going.’

“Chris Reeve is a friend of mine. Chris Reeve exercises every single day to keep those muscles alive for the day when he believes he can walk again, and I want him to walk again.”

Nancy Reagan, Ron Reagan, Michael J. Fox, and Christopher Reeve have done a lot of good as activists, because they are respected and admired by the public. But there are thousands more who are not well-known, and those people are equally worth fighting for.

It’s appropriate that Christopher Reeve, the man forever known as Superman, would fight so hard to overcome the limitations of his crippled, human body. Superman is an icon, not just an old comic. The idea speaks to a generation of kids who dream to be something more, and it’s the reason that that memorable scene in Iron Giant can bring an adult to tears.

Manton Reece @manton