Role Models: Examples of Character and Leadership serves as the textbook for the curriculum. We believe kids need positive role models to look up to and emulate. Unfortunately, many kids today report they do not have role models. Other times, the role model is, at best, a curious choice. The Role Models textbook highlights 17 individuals who exemplify the different character traits covered in the curriculum. This book offers a mix of historical figures that have stood the test of time like Amelia Earhart, Booker T. Washington and Helen Keller, as well as contemporary figures who are worthy of our admiration, such as Pat Tillman, Christopher Reeve and Oprah Winfrey. Quizzes and vocabulary lists accompany each chapter.
After three of his siblings died from Muscular Dystrophy, Mattie wrote 5 national best selling books on poetry to deal with his sorrow. Mattie lost his battle with MD at the age of 13.
(excerpt from book) Mattie Stepanek is the youngest person profiled in this book. His life clearly demonstrates that good character is not just reserved for adults. In fact, character knows no boundaries when it comes to age, ethnic background, gender, or religion. Every person is capable of taking responsibility for themselves, treating others with respect and acting with integrity. Doing so, however, requires a conscious choice. Every day of his life, Mattie strived to be a better person and to make a positive difference in the lives of others. Former President Jimmy Carter said, “Even a child who lives 10 or 11 years can have an enormous impact, and I think Mattie is one of those special people.” Millions of Americans have lived longer lives, but few inspired more people than Mattie did. While most adolescents can’t wait to reach adulthood, Mattie made his mark at a young age by living each and every day to the fullest, despite overwhelming obstacles.
Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger
Chesley Sullenberger is most notably known as the pilot who successfully landed US Airways Flight 1549 in the Hudson River with all passengers and crew surviving the ordeal. While most know that he had seconds to respond after both engines were knocked out after hitting a flock of birds, he believes that he had a lifetime to prepare for this incident.
(excerpt from book) Some people say it was luck. Some say it was fate. Some say it was a miracle. In fact, what happened on January 15, 2009 – landing a commercial jet airliner successfully in the Hudson River with 155 passengers and crew surviving the ordeal – is commonly referred to as the “Miracle on the Hudson”. However, after studying the events and the participants involved, one thing is clear – luck had little to do with the outcome of this trouble-filled flight and the real miracle was that Chesley Sullenberger (Captain Sully) was the one piloting the plane. He had the training, the experience, the decision-making skills and the calmness to pull off such a landing. Indeed, the usually humble Captain Sully later reflected on the incident, saying, “I think, in many ways, as it turned out, my entire life up to that moment had been a preparation to handle that particular moment.”
Booker T. Washington
Booker was born a slave. After overcoming so many obstacles, he became the first principal of Tuskegee Institute and later served as an advisor to several presidents.
(excerpt from book) Despite Booker’s young age, his stepfather had already secured him a job working in the salt mines. He put in ten to twelve hours of physical labor every day in some of the worst working conditions imaginable. Not long after Booker arrived in West Virginia, one of the first schools for black children opened up close to his home. Remembering his vision of “paradise,” Booker was eager to learn to read and write. However, his stepfather would not allow him to leave his job and attend school. Booker was determined to not let this decision deter him from his goal. He successfully pleaded with the teacher to give him lessons at night, after he finished his long shift in the mines. After some time under this arrangement, Booker negotiated a deal with his stepfather that would allow him to attend school during the day. Booker was to rise before dawn and work in the mine from 4-9 a.m. He was then allowed to attend school during the day, only to return to the mines for another two hours in the evening. He was determined to get an education-no matter how hard he had to work or what he had to overcome.
Eisenhower was the Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in Europe during WWII and orchestrated the D-Day Normandy Invasion. He was later elected as a two-term president.
(excerpt from book) The primary question is, how did Eisenhower, a man who was only a colonel in 1941 and had no combat experience, come to be appointed Supreme Allied Commander? The simple answer is “respect”-he gave it and expected it in return. Subordinates and superiors alike had a deep level of respect for the man nicknamed Ike. This did not happen by accident. Eisenhower earned the respect of those around him. In the Army, people often move from post to post and are frequently reassigned to other commanding officers. Eisenhower’s philosophy was simple. “My ambition in the Army was to make everybody I worked for regretful when I was ordered to other duty.” To accomplish that, he would often work up to eighteen hours a day, seven days a week. He was loyal to his superiors and routinely exceeded their expectations. They knew that Eisenhower was a man who could be trusted. In the 1930s General Douglas MacArthur described Eisenhower as “the best officer in the Army. When the next war comes, he should go right to the top.”
When the dust settled after the Enron scandal, Sherron was the only person to have reported the unethical behavior to the CEO. She also testified before the U.S. Congress.
(excerpt from book) Watkins became more determined than ever to stop the fraud at Enron. She set up a meeting with Lay. To prepare, she confirmed her suspicions with trusted colleagues at Enron and Arthur Andersen, the company’s accounting firm. She did her homework to ensure her facts were accurate. In the process, she also exposed herself as a whistleblower. Being a whistleblower is a lot like being a tattle-tale-and no one likes a tattle-tale. Texas law provided no protection for whistleblowers, meaning that Watkins could be fired very easily. Still, she wanted to come forward because she was convinced that it was the right thing to do. According to her mother, “[Sherron] knew she had to say something. But all along, she never imagined that she was going to be the only one.” Jessica Uhl, a coworker, praised Watkins’ courage, saying, “She had the sense of conviction to do what she did, and the ability to articulate what needed to be said.
Judge Sonia Sotomayor
Judge Sonia Sotomayor was born in NY City and was mainly raised in one of the housing projects in the Bronx. In 2010, she became the first Hispanic-American and third female to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court.
(excerpt from book) According to President Barack Obama, Judge Sotomayor possesses that kind of integrity. “What Sonia will bring to the Court,” he said, “is not only the knowledge and experience acquired over a course of a brilliant legal career, but the wisdom accumulated from an inspiring life’s journey.” What was not lost on the president was the significance of the first African-American president nominating the first Hispanic American to the Supreme Court. He saw this moment as historic and her story as inspiring. He went on to say, “This is a wonderful day for Judge Sotomayor and her family, but I also think it’s a wonderful day for America.” He knew in his heart that this was yet another step in the right direction for this country. “It’s about every child who will grow up thinking to him or herself, if Sonia Sotomayor can make it, then maybe I can, too.”
Amelia displayed tremendous courage in becoming the first woman to fly across the Atlantic Ocean. She went on to set all kinds of flying records before her death in 1937.
(excerpt from book) As she did before each trip, Earhart wrote a letter to her husband that was only to be opened in the event of her death. It read, “Please know I am quite aware of the hazards. I want to do it because I want to do it. Women must try to do things as men have tried. When they fail, their failure must be but a challenge to others.” Amelia Earhart never had regrets. She lived life to the fullest and brought a certain level of intensity that few of us will ever know. While she died far too early, her courage paved the way for women to earn equality with men in the work world and their personal lives. Her progressive ideas about equality-once considered outrageous-are the norm in the 21st century. Because of her pioneering spirit, more women became pilots and more Americans took an interest in flying as a way of travel. For all of these reasons, Earhart is one of the great role models of the 20th century.
The actor most recognized for his role as Superman, broke his neck in a riding accident in 1995. For the next 9 years as a quadriplegic, Christopher learned to appreciate the full meaning of life.
(excerpt from book) For many people, life without movement below the neck might not seem worth living. However, in his book Still Me, Reeve expressed feelings of hope and gratitude. Despite his injury and the resulting limitations, he filled his autobiography with words such as thankful, appreciative, lucky, and fortunate. Few people would have the courage to turn such a tragedy into a second opportunity at life. Christopher Reeve would be the first to say that the transition did not happen overnight. After the accident he was initially filled with self-doubt, suffering setbacks only a quadriplegic could fully understand. But Reeve slowly learned that he still had a lot to offer his family and the world. He could be a loving husband to his wife, a nurturing father to his three children, an advocate for other victims of spinal cord injury, and a source of inspiration to millions of people.
Martin Luther King Jr.
Using the tactics of non-violent resistance, Dr. King led the Civil Rights Movement during the 1950s and 1960s, which ended segregation and Jim Crow Laws in the South.
(excerpt from book) Now, every year millions of Americans of all races can reflect on King’s powerful message of tolerance, equality, and justice. His legacy reminds us what can be accomplished if we work together to overcome our differences. His ability to exercise complete self-control in the face of anger, violence, and hatred is the single greatest factor that enabled him to change so many lives. We all have a duty to continue King’s dream of freedom and equality in America. We must never forget the sacrifices he and thousands of others made to ensure all Americans might enjoy the unalienable rights guaranteed in The Declaration of Independence. And we must never take these rights for granted. Exercise your right to vote, study hard at the school of your choice, and find a way to contribute to society. Finally, we can honor Dr. King by learning to exercise self-control. There are many excuses to get angry, but no good reasons to lose your composure. When we have dignity ourselves and show respect for others, we are honoring the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
At 18 months of age, Helen caught a fever that left her blind and deaf. Despite her disabilities, she learned to communicate, graduated from college and dedicated her life to helping others.
(excerpt from book) Helen attended classes with the other Cambridge students, but she could not hear the teacher or see the blackboard. Therefore, Annie Sullivan attended each class with Helen and spelled the lectures into her hand. Afterward, Helen would type up her notes from memory on a special device called a Braillewriter. Sometimes her assigned books were translated into Braille, but other times Sullivan had to read each book and translate it. It was as if Annie Sullivan was attending school too. The two were almost inseparable, studying late into the night. One of the few times they weren’t together was during testing periods. Because most people did not understand the language between Helen and her teacher, the school took special precautions to ensure academic integrity. Despite the hardships, Helen passed all of her classes. She would later write of these obstacles, “I have the consolation of knowing that I overcame them all.” The director at Cambridge had this to say about Helen’s performance: “No candidate in Harvard or Radcliffe was graded higher than Helen for English.”
He was one of the most accomplished entertainers of the 20th century. Yet, Bob Hope is most noted for entertaining the troops from WWII to Desert Storm.
(excerpt from book) Bob Hope lived to be 100 years old, a milestone that few people reach. His life reads like a history lesson. He experienced firsthand many noteworthy events of the 20th century. For example, during his life he witnessed major advancements in transportation, from the automobile to the airplane to the space program. When he was a child, radio was still a new-fangled form of entertainment, but Hope later saw the birth of cinema, television, and the Internet. He lived through the Great Depression, five wars, and countless world tragedies. Through it all, Bob Hope was one of the most beloved and celebrated entertainers of the 20th century. He made seventy-five films, took part in 475 television programs, and wrote ten books in his 100 years of living. However, he is most noted for entertaining U.S. military troops during every war from 1941 to 1990. Over and over again, he said thank you to those brave men and women who fought for freedom and democracy.
Arthur was the first black male to be the number 1 ranked tennis player in the world. Yet, he will be most remembered for his character and integrity off the court.
(excerpt from book) When ESPN counted down the top 100 athletes of the 20th century, eight tennis players made the list. Yet the name of Arthur Ashe, who won several tennis championships in the 1960s and 1970s, was nowhere to be found. This was not necessarily an error in judgment or an oversight by the selection committee. Arthur Ashe was undoubtedly considered for the list, but the athletes were judged solely on their on-court performances, not what they did off the court. If the selection criteria had included character and off-the-court accomplishments, the outcome would have been far different. As ESPN commentator Dick Schaap put it, “[Arthur Ashe] was a very, very, very good tennis player, but he was not one of the two or three greatest tennis players of all time. But if you voted on the two or three most impressive, most significant athletes of all time, you would put Arthur Ashe up there with Jackie Robinson and Muhammad Ali.” Arthur Ashe was indeed a great tennis player-at one point in his career he was ranked #1 in the world-but he was unquestionably a better person than he was an athlete.
After September 11, 2001, Pat gave up a 3.6 million NFL contract to fight for his country in the war on terror. He lived a principled life and died fighting for his ideals.
(excerpt from book) Pat Tillman left behind a $3.6 million pro football contract when he enlisted. Many people could not understand why he would sacrifice his dream of playing in the NFL for an annual salary of $17,316 in the armed forces. Tillman declined all interview requests once he joined the Army, so no one can definitively say why he joined or what he hoped to accomplish. However, based on his reaction to the attacks of 9/11 and the kind of person he was, we can make a few educated guesses. First, his decision to enlist was not a publicity stunt. If it had been, he would have accepted the offers of multi-million dollar book deals, movie contracts, and commercial endorsements. His face and image would have been everywhere. To the contrary, Pat Tillman was a person with deep convictions who made decisions based on principle. The clearest answer as to why he joined the Army Rangers came from Joseph Bush, an Air Force sergeant who just happened to run into his football hero when both were serving in Saudi Arabia. Bush asked the same question many others had: “Why would you give up the NFL for a life like this?” Tillman’s answer: “For the love of my brother. And for the love of my country.” Jim Rome, an ESPN analyst, said, “When he gave up his career to join the Rangers, people said, ‘How can he do that?’ Pat said, ‘How can I not?'”
Nancy and Ronald Reagan had a loving relationship that lasted 5 decades. Through their Hollywood careers, public lives and many illnesses, they always supported each other.
(excerpt from book) At that moment of Ronnie’s greatest weakness, Nancy remembered the vows that she had taken more than forty years before-“for better, for worse, in sickness and in health”-and she never questioned what her role needed to be during her husband’s remaining years. She would take care of Ronnie, just as she always had. Nancy once said of her husband, “Everything was always fine as long as he was there.” Although Ronnie was physically with her for the next ten years, it was not long before his memory and personality were gone. The Ronnie she knew and loved could not be seen anymore in the shell of a person that remained. Alzheimer’s is “really a very cruel disease, because for the caregiver, it’s a long goodbye,” said Nancy. Through it all, she pledged that she would, as always, remain by his side. “Theirs was an unalterable love,” one biographer wrote.
Cal Ripken Jr.
The new iron man of baseball played in 2,632 consecutive games, all with the same team. Cal felt a responsibility to play everyday to the best of his ability.
(excerpt from book) Despite fortune and fame, Ripken never lost sight of his priorities. On the day that he broke Lou Gehrig’s record, he started his day by driving his daughter to her first day of first grade. Ripken also requested that Ryan and Rachel be permitted to throw the ceremonial “first pitch” before the game that evening. After the game, he presented his children with his game jersey and showed them that he wore a special T-shirt underneath that read, “2130+ Hugs and Kisses for Daddy.” In the middle of all hype surrounding his record-breaking performance, Ripken didn’t forget to tell his children how much he loved them.
Despite meager beginnings, Oprah became the first African-American female billionaire. Due to her compassionate nature, she gives freely of her time and money to help others achieve success.
(excerpt from book) Closer to home, Winfrey participated in the Big Sisters program to mentor disadvantaged girls in the Chicago area. She invited the girls to her home for sleepovers, took them on field trips, and generously financed shopping sprees. The most important part of the job, however, was to be a role model. Winfrey tried to keep the girls on the straight and narrow. “When we talk about goals and they say they want Cadillacs, I say, ‘If you cannot talk correctly, if you cannot read or do math, if you become pregnant, if you drop out of school, you will never have a Cadillac, I guarantee it!'”
For the past 25 years, Coach K has led Duke to 10 final four appearances and 3 national championships. He runs a top-rated program and his student-athletes graduate.
(excerpt from book) Another facet of Coach K’s leadership style is that he likes to keep things simple. He initiates the following handshake deal with each player: “I’m going to give you 100 percent. In return, I expect you to graduate.” He does not take the term “student-athlete” lightly. Coach K’s main objective is to help his student-athletes walk away from Duke with a college diploma. To reinforce this focus on academics, he stresses the importance of time management. Players are expected to maintain a balance between school and basketball. Each player receives a personal date book and is encouraged to map out the entire semester in advance, paying special attention to important exams and due dates for class projects. Finally, Coach K stresses academic integrity. He makes it clear that the worst thing a student-athlete can do is cheat.