JWR Jeff JacobyBen WattenbergTony Snow
Mona CharenDr. Laura
Linda Chavez

Paul Greenberg Larry ElderJonathan S. Tobin
Thomas SowellMUGGERWalter Williams
Don FederCal Thomas
Political Cartoons
Left, Right & Center

Jewish World Review /Feb. 26, 1999 / 10 Adar, 5759

Dr. Laura

Dr. Laura With power comes obligation to lead by example

(JWR) --- (http://www.jewishworldreview.com) A RHODE ISLAND HIGH SCHOOL MONITORED by a representative from Congress voted 40-9 to acquit President Clinton of perjury and obstruction of justice in a mock trial. The remarkable part of this occurrence was the comment offered by one of the student jury: "We elected the president to be our economic and policy leader, not to be a role model. For role models, we can look to sports stars or Mother Teresa. I want him to run our country," said the 17-year-old.

Huh? The first father of the first family, the leader of the free world, is exempt from any responsibility as a role model of character, but some guy who hits, kicks or throws a ball is assigned the position of role model? Does this student mean Sprewell, Rodman or Tyson? Does this student plan to model his life after the sports figures exposed in a 1998 Sports Illustrated magazine article for their arrogance, violence, domestic abuse, drug abuse, alcoholism, promiscuity and illegitimate children?

Even if you consider this a gross misrepresentation of the majority of those in sports, why does somebody with the responsibility for the welfare of most of humanity have less obligation to behave decently than does someone paid to do something with a ball? As Merredythe Nadeau of North Smithfield, R.I., wrote with regard to this press story, "How sad that these children believe this and that they do not look to their leaders as needing to be moral role models."

Charisma does not excuse violating the Ten Commandments, or civil law. People in power also need to lead by virtue of the quality of their lives, through integrity and personal courage. Those with power and visibility owe this to the society. It is one of the obligations of their position.

This student's comments betray cynicism and basic materialism. These young people don't expect leaders to be anything but technicians, fulfilling appointed tasks. How naive not to imagine or realize that the quality of a person's character is, in addition to his intellect and experience, necessary for the proper fulfillment of those tasks. How naive not to imagine or realize that no family or society can survive without the glue of trust and respect -- not just efficiency or effectiveness.

Now to the selection of Mother Teresa as a role model. How many of these students look at the life of Mother Teresa and are inspired to sacrifice all material privileges, even their lives, to serve others? How disingenuous to mention a deservedly hugely respected woman, whose lifestyle was diametrically opposed to anything these young people have in mind for themselves.

Young people these days seem to look up to TV and movie stars -- basically the rich, beautiful and famous. This has probably always been so. I, for one, so wanted to look like Ann-Margret when I was a teen-ager. The problem with the Rhode Island students is their lack of outrage toward those who betray trust and obligation when they were entrusted with power. Even if Ann-Margret had done something "bad" (which is not the case), that wouldn't have changed my desire to look like her. Movie stars are not trusted public servants with whom we endow enormous power.

People in positions of power have tremendous responsibilities. When they betray personal and public trust, it compromises their ability to lead. What a frightening indictment of our children that instead of outrage, there is a shrug and a sigh of relief that they will not be held to any higher standard than their material success.

Views that might have been considered as immature in our children a few decades ago are being reinforced today by the "what difference does it make anyway?" rhetoric from too many folks about the White House scandals of infidelity and alleged perjury and obstruction of justice.

This attitude has infected the workplace, too. The National Association of Colleges and Employers' Job '99 Outlook collected data for college graduates outlining the desired qualifications in new hires. Among the top 10 personal characteristics employers seek in job candidates, ethics fell last.


02/19/99:National Prayer Breakfast inspires public servants
02/12/99:Overcoming selfishness leads us closer to human potential
02/09/99: Youth's difficult lessons make us better adults
02/02/99: Rituals, icons remind us of our obligation to G-d
01/22/99: 'Consenting adults' don't always examine consequences
01/18/99: Day care no substitute for love of mom and dad
01/08/99: Don't use others' misfortunes to build your self-image
12/31/98: Tracking HIV-infected people makes good sense
12/24/98: How can we teach ethics without defining morals?
12/18/98: Parents afraid of firm values leave their children adrift
12/11/98: Spread righteousness by refusing to accept the 'code'

©1998,Universal Press Syndicate