A picture of Dwight Eisenhower, the 34th president, hung in my sixth-grade classroom. No one paid attention to it unless our teacher, Miss Murray, referred to it to make a point. When we failed to …
A picture of Dwight Eisenhower, the 34th president, hung in my sixth-grade classroom. No one paid attention to it unless our teacher, Miss Murray, referred to it to make a point. When we failed to meet expectations, Miss Murray would point to the image of Ike and remind us that the leader of our country embodied traits defining a good and decent person: humility, honesty, empathy, integrity, strength, respect for others and more. She encouraged us to strive to be like him.
Sixth-grade teachers cannot use the 45th president as a role model today. Can you picture a sixth-grade teacher referring to the president's "performance" in the Access Hollywood tape or his defense of white supremacists at their Charlottesville rally as behavior to emulate? Nor can parents encourage their children to model themselves after No. 45, unless of course, they want them to become liars, bullies, disrespectful of women, insensitive to the needs of others and adept at crude insults. Paul Krugman, op-ed writer for The New York Times and Nobel laureate, said No. 45 is "surely the worst human being ever to hold" the office. (1)
But role models can be positive or negative. We should not allow No. 45's behavior to go to waste. It should be a prime example of how not to behave. Can you think of any better demonstration of the insensitivity and hurtful nature of mocking a person than what No. 45 did to Dr. Christine Blasey Ford? Was it not a great teaching moment for a grandparent and their grandchild watching TV together when immigrant parents were forcibly separated from their children? No. 45 is a role model to be sure - a pathetic, negative role model.
Sixth-graders are not the only ones who can benefit from having someone to admire. No one is too old to benefit from measuring their behavior against that of No. 45. Would any of us call African nations "shithole countries" or purposely and publicly embarrass longtime close friends and allies of the U.S. as No. 45 has done with Angela Merkel, Theresa May and Justin Trudeau? What about his treatment of Senator John McCain? Are we capable of behaving similarly? Let's hope not.
Role models lead by example. Thanks to the actions of a single individual, the U.S. is in grave danger of abdicating its role as leader of the free world and is instead rapidly becoming a negative role model for all to behold.
Mark Asmus is an artist living and working in Taos.
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