08/29/2012 07:02 pm ET Updated Oct 29, 2012

A Tale of Two Heroes

What's in a name? Heroism, perhaps.

In the past few days, we have learned of one man's dishonor and another man's death; both were named Armstrong, and both aroused our wonder and our admiration.

Lance Armstrong, seven times winner of the Tour de France, challenged and conquered not only his competitors but his own debilitating disease. Determined and proud, he not only set a stunning standard for the sport, but became a stirring symbol of hope for the ill and infirm.

Neil Armstrong, the first man to set foot on the moon, was literally an other-worldly hero. Brilliant and modest, he acquired the culmination of years of research and labor, immense expenditure and unprecedented technology, and with one step he changed human history.

The drug allegations surrounding the sportsman have not been conclusively proven, but he has, in effect, given up the fight to prove his innocence. That's almost an admission of guilt, but not quite. To many people, he will remain an extraordinary individual, with a will of iron and a compassionate heart that has reached out to others through his private cancer foundation.

Admiration for the astronaut, on the other hand, is unequivocal. Long after his amazing feat, he continued to work and contribute to his field, never capitalizing on his renown. He could have parlayed his exploit into a personality cult, a lucrative trademark, an American fable. But he remained reserved and private; his incredible experience was not to be marketed.

And so we have two men who achieved extraordinary fame through determination and diligence, but who responded to fame very differently. One exulted in his success, and became a hero of his time; the other shunned publicity, and became an enduring icon.

Both men had "The Right Stuff".