With today’s 24/7 media coverage and tell-all culture, public figures find themselves under more intense scrutiny than ever before. Many of these figures become role models for the world watching them, and many of us become personally and emotionally invested in their words and actions. And when they let us down, it can be devastating.
In his address at the first Greenwood assembly of 2013, Principal Hardy highlighted two stories about falls from grace that have recently dominated the media: Lance Armstrong’s confession that he used performance-enhancing drugs when he won 7 straight Tour de France titles, and former TDSB Director of Education, Christopher Spence, who admitted that he plagiarized an opinion piece.
“There’s a sense of being let down, of being misled, when we learn about things like this,” Principal Hardy said. “Lance Armstrong’s extraordinary achievements, and his work raising money for cancer research, were tarred by cheating. Christopher Spence was a role model for many teachers and students in Toronto, but regrettably, he failed to observe one of the most important lessons we teach in classrooms: the importance of academic honesty.
“When role models betray our trust, it can be difficult to continue to trust others who we admire,” Principal Hardy said. “We have to remember that not everyone cheats. For every person who lets us down, there is someone who unexpectedly does something wonderful.”
Principal Hardy cited the example of Dwight Orchard, a 23-year-old George Brown student. Dwight jumped down onto the subway tracks at St. Clair West Station to help a man who had fallen onto the tracks, even as an oncoming train headed towards both of them. Once the man was safe, Dwight – who was battling pneumonia-like symptoms – simply boarded the next train. The media only got wind of his heroic act when a Toronto Star reporter tracked Dwight down using a photo posted on Facebook by a witness.
“He didn’t wait around for attention or accolades,” Principal Hardy said. “He saw someone in danger, and he did what he felt needed to be done. This is a great reminder that for every role model who makes the wrong choice, there is someone else who makes the right one.”
One less dramatic example of human kindness happened in December at a Tim Horton’s in Winnipeg, where 228 customers “paid it forward” at the drive-through window. Apparently, this spontaneous gesture of goodwill went on for over 3 hours. “Events like this and the one at the St. Clair West station remind us that there is some kind of moral balance in the world, and that even though people we admire don’t always do the right thing, many people do.”