Originally Published: September 22, 2009 4:50 p.m.
When I was a child my mother used to encourage me by telling me I might someday be the President of the United States, a U.S. Senator, an astronaut, or a famous musician or actor. She had a wonderful way of helping my brothers and me dream big. She would often tell us stories about famous musicians or read to us about leaders who were making a difference in the world. I was taught that these leaders were people to admire. They were role models and examples of the kind of person I should try to be like.
Today, it can be discouraging to see the many poor role models that are being offered to our children. From our sports arenas to Capitol Hill -- our youth are watching too many celebrated Americans be rude, irresponsible, unfaithful, and criminal.
A few examples from this month alone include:
Former U.S. Senator John Edwards from North Carolina who repeatedly denied allegations of having an affair with campaign worker Rielle Hunter. A similar incident occurred with a U.S. President in 2000. Like the former President, Edwards finally admitted to the sexual affair when evidence piled higher than his lies, but then repeatedly denied fathering Hunter's child. Now with a new wave of allegations it appears he will admit he is the father of the 18-month-old girl.
This entire journey of lies not only imparts an appalling role model, but our hearts also ache for his wife Elizabeth, who is trying to honor her wedding vows and weather yet another storm. This must be especially painful for her now as these new revelations include a repulsive charge that Edwards promised his mistress a wedding after Elizabeth, who has cancer, passes.
Mike Duvall, who was a two-term member of the California Assembly, was caught on an open microphone in a Capitol hearing room bragging about how he was able to carry on two extramarital affairs at once.
Tennis superstar Serena Williams who, during the U.S. Open semi-final, smashed her racket after losing the first set and hurled an expletive-laced tirade at a line judge for calling a foot fault on match point. Fans and reporters heard the superstar athlete shout, "You better be (expletive) right! You don't (expletive) know me! You're lucky I'm not shoving this ball down your throat!"
Rapper Kanye West, who rudely interrupted musician Taylor Swift during her acceptance speech for best female video at the MTV Video Music Awards. West jumped on stage, jerked the microphone from Swift's hand and declared Beyonce should have won the award.
Countless other sports stars, actors, politicians and musicians are being allowed to cross the role-model line -- often without being held accountable.
More and more we see news headlines reporting on American celebrities with stories of domestic violence, soliciting prostitutes, willful failure to provide child support or spousal support, federal tax evasion, possession and use of drugs, violating court orders, cruelty to animals ... the list goes on and on. What's worse, many of them gain popularity from these exploits and are not held accountable.
Our young people already see far too much violence and wrong behavior on television, in theaters and on the Internet. Society should not wrap this behavior in a blanket of acceptance when it comes from celebrities and government leaders.
Accountability is an essential part of a successful life. It's a character trait that can be respected and ultimately helps all of us get through tough times. We need to expect more from those who would lead our children into the future.
Help your children and grandchildren find true heroes -- the best place to start is within the walls of your own home.