Today, at Cowboys training camp in Oxnard, California, we were graced by the presence of one of the all time greatest football players to ever don a football uniform: Dick Butkus. His message was simple, clear, and to the point. Surprisingly, it did not involve our performance on the gridiron. Aside from the Hall of Fame linebacker speaking about his ‘I Play Clean’ program that DeMarcus Ware headlines, Mr. Butkus spoke about our obligation to be a positive role model to the youth of America. Hearing his words prompted me to give me opinion/stance on the topic.
Dictionary.com defines a role model as follows:
Role Model – a person whose behavior, example, or success is or can be emulated by others, especially by younger people
Personally, I feel that the definition is spot on. The old saying goes, “To whom much is given, much is required.” Being in a high visibility position comes with many responsibilities that one may or may not have expected or even wanted to have thrown upon their shoulders, but it is there. Athletes, celebrities, musicians, and even reality television “stars” (I use that term loosely since I’m not much of a fan for reality shows [that’s another post all together]), must recognize that we are in an extremely influential position in society and we must act accordingly. Our decisions, both good and bad (mostly bad), are under the microscope and broadcast regionally, and sometimes nationally to the ones who look up to us the most. When a child sees their favorite (insert title here) partaking in such activities, they feel that it is cool or acceptable. Their minds are very similar to an artist’s blank canvas primed for the paint to be applied to mimic what they feel is the masterpiece that they want to eventually be one day.
We are well aware of Charles Barkley’s commercial where he proclaimed that he wasn’t a role model. I believe he later followed that stance by stating that the parents should be a child’s true role model. After weighing both sides of the topic at hand, I came to the realization that Chuck WAS correct when saying that parents should be the person that kids look up to. Conversely, I also feel that those in prominent positions should set a positive example for our kids.
Where do we find the happy medium? I feel that is rests solely on the parents to explain to their offspring what is and is not acceptable, all the while being a consistent presence of what is right. I think that those raising the children should help young people understand why a certain action is or is not proper. We are all well aware that kids’ minds are very similar to the clay Chris Cooley uses to mold his pottery, and can be shaped and moved to attain whatever the artist wants the final product to be. Of course there will be nicks, chips, the occasional air bubble, and bumps, but with a strong foundation, those can be smoothed out.
The celebs are not off the hook so easily because regardless if its fair or not, we are being held to the highest standard. Many times we are chastised for the mistakes we make and the public asks, “How the hell could he/she do that?” We must use the same fire and tenacity that keeps us at the top of our respective games to make sure we are setting the best possible example for our followers.
Please do not take this as a claim to say that I’m an saint, nor is anyone else in the public eye. We must be real with ourselves as to WHY we look up to the superstars and idols in today’s world. It is simply because of their achievements in their respective fields, the passion they have for their profession, or their persistence to reach the highest level in their field. Michael Jordan had a well documented gambling issue, but he sure could hit that clutch jumper to win countless games and NBA titles.
We all want to attain greatness, but I feel that we need to understand what part of our idols greatness we want to mirror. I ask you to find what makes that person special and put that into your own life or occupation. Peyton Manning’s or Beyonce’s attention to detail is something that EVERYONE can learn from and apply to their everyday lives. Rather than reenacting the behaviors you see in the tabloids or on TMZ, dig for the lesser documented positive traits that all the best have in them.
We have all made our fair share of mistakes in our lifetimes, and I’m willing to bet my house that we will make plenty more before the year is done. I just challenge you to learn from those mistakes, and help the next person learn as well. Help them along, and show them the way. Let me add this last challenge. Would you be proud of, or want your own children posting, tweeting, and sharing some of the same posts you put out yourself??