Today I’m thinking about role models. Role models on the international stage, alive today, who are exemplars for ourselves and for our children. As we grapple with continually breaking stories about A-list sexual impropriety, sexual assault, questionable business dealings, and most every kind of NO YOU DIDN’T, it’s increasingly difficult to settle on well-known paragons of the behavior that we want to emulate and want to hold up as examples to our children.
What is a role model? In its deepest expression, a role model is a person whose behavior you want to emulate. Who embodies and exemplifies your personal values, interests, and beliefs. While on the one hand we understand intellectually that we all, as humans, make mistakes, we want our role models to be beyond reproach. We don’t want to have to say, “Well, this person is amazing and upright in 90% of his or her actions and speech, so I’ll ignore that pesky 10% of not-so-great choices.” We don’t want our most beloved icons to have feet of clay.
When I sat down to write a list of my personal role models — alive, well-known, and scandal-free — I had an extremely difficult time of it. I managed to come up with 30 names, but it wasn’t easy.
I share my personal list with you not because I want to create partisanship (my list is rather left-leaning), but because I want to contribute to an honest conversation about what we hold as important on a societal level; what we want to espouse as our legacy. With your help, I’d like to triple my list, which is notably low on artists (partly because many artists are not visible personalities).
The 30 people on my list are, to my knowledge, people of character. They are leaders. I may not agree with everything these people do and stand for, but I believe that their choices are guided by something I respect. I believe that these people want to make a significant and positive impact on the world — and that they share of themselves and their talents at least in part from altruism. My selections are people who are generally esteemed as “nice people.” I get warm fuzzies thinking about them.
My list, segmented by cisgender (for no good reason) and otherwise in random order:
His Holiness the Dalai Lama
Thich Nhat Hanh
And you? Who are the role models, alive today and free of scandal, that inspire you and serve as guides along the pathway of self-betterment? Please add your thoughts in the comments. Let’s grow this list!
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