Our View: Role models

Posted: August 19, 2013

Considerable water has escaped over the proverbial dam, but 20 years later, Charles Barkley’s words still resonate, for good or ill.

“I’m not a role model,” said Mr. Barkley, who back then was still lighting up arenas as an NBA superstar. “Just because I dunk a basketball doesn’t mean I should raise your kids.” He added that youngsters should look to their parents, or to policemen or firefighters, as role models.

The last point boasts the ring of truth. Still, if Mr. Barkley believed then — and still believes now in his second career as a TV personality — that children do not look to athletes and celebrities as sources of inspiration and imitation he’s sorely mistaken.

As fellow hoopster Karl Malone chided Mr. Barkley years ago, “Charles . . . I don’t think it’s your decision to make. We don’t choose to be role models, we are chosen. Our only choice is whether to be a good role model or a bad one.”

How true. Some, by their mere actions, are role models. They lead by example. Others, it seems, make that conscious choice referenced by Mr. Malone. Courtesy of recent news reports, we offer examples of both types of role models.

From coverage of the trial of Fort Hood terrorist Maj. Nidal Hasan comes the story of Spc. Frederick Greene, a 29-year-old from Mountain City, Tenn. Known as the “Silent Soldier” for his laid-back demeanor and professional manner, Spc. Greene suffered 12 wounds when he charged Maj. Hasan during the deadly shooting spree of November 2009 in which 13 adults and one pre-born child were slain.

In a statement issued by Spc. Greene’s family is written: “Even before joining the Army, he exemplified the Army values of loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity, and personal courage.”

Spc. Greene was living testimony to the standard set forth in John 15:13: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” Now that is a role model.

And so, too, oddly enough, is actor Ashton Kutcher, but in a different way. Best known as Demi Moore’s boy-husband and for his roles as the witless Kelso on “That ’70s Show” and now as Apple co-founder Steve Jobs on the big screen, Mr. Kutcher, 36, never impressed us as a man of depth. But on the recent Teen Choice Awards, he had this to say to his young audience:

“I’ve never had a job in my life that I was better than. I was always just lucky to have a job. And every job I had was a steppingstone to my next job, and I never quit my job until I had my next job. And so opportunities look a lot like work.”

To many of us, this is common-sense stuff, but the words attain a special power when directed toward people — i.e., kids — who’ve probably never heard them before, at least from someone considered “cool,” like Mr. Kutcher.

It just goes to show that you never know who will step to fore and present themselves as role-model material.

Charles Barkley, take note.