Some years back, I attended a wedding of a young couple where the groom’s speech left his father a humbled and incredibly happy and fulfilled man.
The groom had said with great appreciation, “As far as I can remember, I‘ve always wanted to grow up and be like my father. He loves and respects my mother and always consults her about almost everything. He regards her as the most important person in his life and is always ready and willing to do things for her. That’s what I want to be to my dear wife.”
Six years and two sons down the line, he has loved his wife and children and they are all as happy as they can be. Becoming what you want to be is a lifetime process that requires focus and intention. Every single day that dawns, you are becoming that person.
To this young man, his father was his role model: he had values, principles and practices that the son admired and he was motivated to become like him. The psychologists tell us that our parents especially the same-sex parent has the biggest influence on a child’s development and the influence lasts for a lifetime. The groom’s journey to becoming a loving, caring and generous husband had started in his childhood!
Humans actively learn from each other and one Bible proverb tells us that: Iron sharpens iron.
The Oxford Advanced Learner’s dictionary defines a role model as: a person you admire and try to copy.
Parents are the child’s primary role models. When you start school, then the teachers are added on this list followed by any other person in your community whom you consider competent and an achiever and carries herself/himself with respect. The most visible in our environment like athletes and actors tend to drive many people to become the best they can be. The role models teach us to identify our true potentials and how to strive to make use of them fully.
Among the many are:
Stephen Kiprotich, the winner of the Men’s Marathon during the London 2012 Olympic Games.
Phiona Mutesi , known as the Queen of Katwe, the young international Chess player from the slums of Katwe in Kampala.
The late Rotarian Sam Owori whose passion to serve others helped him leave Uganda a better place than he found it.
Usain Bolt, the 9-time Olympic gold medalist.
Lenin Moreno, the 44th President of Ecuador who is also known as the “the President in a wheelchair.”
Malala Youssafzai, the 15-year-old year-old Pakistan girl who defied the notorious Talibans by standing up for the education of girls. She survived an assassination attempt in 2012 and went on to become the youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014
The other side of the coin is that there are also negative role models who demonstrate harmful and disruptive behavior in our communities. They influence us to accept negative behavior as normal in our society thus bringing out the worst in each one of us.
One famous quote spells this out: “Children are great imitators, so give them something great to imitate.” Anonymous.
Positive role models bring out the best in each one of us. They are badly needed by all young people as they struggle to develop their own identities. The psychologists tell us that each one of us has the responsibility to act in ways that make the world a better place. We cannot contribute to making the world a better place unless we know who we really are: our strengths and weaknesses and embrace them fully. We use our strengths to lead and excel and the same time use them to improve our weaknesses where possible.
There are two ways in which one can find her/his true identity:
- By finding and following what you love- in this respect one is guided by the positive role models in the world around us. In them we see what we want in our lives and they demonstrate, motivate and inspire us to become what we want to be.
- By being totally different- These take pride in their uniqueness and their indomitable spirits turns them into Trail Blazers. These include people like Emeritus Professor Josephine Nambooze, the first Ugandan woman doctor and Engineer Proscovia Njuki, the first Ugandan woman engineer. Professor Nambooze had to transfer to an All boys school to continue with the science subjects she needed to pass to join the only medical school of the time while engineer Njuki was the only student in her A-level Mathematics and Physics class in an All girls school!
Role models help us to find our own identity and strength, open up possibilities for getting what we want in life. They empower us to chart our own career paths. We learn from them and take responsibility for our own lives.
Since childhood I had wanted to care and help people and somehow I felt I could achieve this by becoming a medical doctor. In the late 1960’s , when Dr. Alex Sempa who happened to be an old girl of my school , became the second woman medical doctor after Dr. Josephine Nambooze, my future was more less sealed. I just wanted to be like Dr. Sempa. From that time, I trusted myself that if I worked hard and smart, I would become a doctor. Later, when I met her in person, she became my idol. She offered me an insight into the realities of being a doctor. In today’s jargon I would say from that day, I started faking it until I made it.
When I joined the Makerere University Faculty of Medicine, and Dr. Josephine Nambooze was one of our senior lecturers in Public Health, it pushed me into wanting to live my dream so badly that I worked extremely hard and smart to achieve it.
“My role model didn’t tell me, he showed me.” Anonymous
I grew up in a different world where a child was brought up by the whole village. Today’s children operate in their own world where the internet has shrunk the world into a global village. In this Global Village, things are changing all the time and fast too and the environment is generally competitive and harsh. The students have many options and sometimes they are spoilt for choice so they need more guidance than our generation; they need more role models.
We are all ‘Works in Progress’ needing modeling and reshaping.
Adults also need role models to push them from mediocrity and develop into greats. Positive role models are human just like any of us; facing problems and obstacles in life but they strive to overcome them. Observing them and sharing their experiences ignites the same passion towards life.
Whenever we receive motivation, inspiration and mentorship from these role models it gives us the responsibility to become positive role models for the young generation. This is what keeps the conversation going- one generation lending to the other.
By the lives we live and how we behave and carry ourselves in our communities, we are influencing many people around us especially the young ones. May we all strive to be positive role models who will leave the world better than we found it.
Looking back, my best role models who turned me into an all- round human being are my mother and father. The best way of paying them back is to be the role model that I needed when I was growing up.
Two more quotes: “One man with courage makes a majority.’’ Andrew Jackson
“When the whole world is silent, one voice becomes powerful.” Malala Yousafzai
When a snail moves, it leaves a trail of slime. Are you leaving an indelible impression for others to follow along your path?