So you probably remember that Michael Phelps sat next to me on the Acela from NYC back in December. He played on-line poker, I wrote a sermon. Before he got off in Baltimore, he gave me a nod.
So we’re pretty tight.
This week Michael was suspended from competition for three months by USA swimming for pics of him smoking marijuana. There will be many who disagree with his suspension, saying he’s a swimmer, not a role model. Let him do whatever he wants with his own time.
It pricks a question that cuts a wide swath across our culture. What kind of character do we expect from those who are ‘public leaders’? USA Swimming said they issued the suspension because they ‘decided to send a strong message to Michael because he disappointed so many people, particularly the hundreds of thousands of USA Swimming member kids who look up to him as a role model and a hero.”
A role model of what? How to swim really fast? Can anyone realistically ascribe to doing what he did? He has once in a generation physical gifts for which he doesn’t even acknowledge his Maker. Why does being a public leader carry with it the requisite of having role-model like character? Who decides what is role-model character? We seem to think (or want) that because someone can do something else well– kick a ball, ride a bike, lead a country, run a company, sing, dance, or rap– that they should also have character. We find ourselves admiring their physical, intellectual, and musical accomplishments and we hope (wish) that they had character commensurate to their calling.
How do we elevate to public leadership those who have true character? How do we get these role models in front of our kids? What do we do when those whom we scream for, cheer for, and celebrate let us down?
Who cares for Michael’s dusty soul?