hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA


October 11, 2012

Role models who bite the dust

There used to be a time when I considered cycling sensation Lance Armstrong the greatest role model anybody could have.

Who would not want to pattern their lives after someone who prevailed in seven — not one — Tour de France races?

In my estimation, he personified his sport to its highest level and possessed all the qualities I would ever want to see in an individual.

Until he got busted for doping and shamed himself into pity and ridicule. I suddenly lost all respect for the man.

But his is not an isolated situation.

I had the same good feeling for Franklin D. Roosevelt until I saw a biography of his life which revealed his infidelity toward wife Eleanor Roosevelt — perhaps the most remarkable and conscientious first lady who ever occupied the White House.

Armstrong was a poster child for his generation. He was adopted by the United States Postal Department as its signature hero. And what of the half-billion dollars he raised for his federation as a spokesman for cancer?

The man had the world by its tail, only to see it slip away. One can only wonder how many other role models are out there leading porous lives.

His exposure to guilt and defamation came at the same time another Armstrong was making the news in tribute. The death of astronaut Neil Armstrong at age 82 was another news highlight, but for all the right reasons. Who could ever forget that moment in 1969 when he left his spaceship and became the first man to walk on the moon?

For that, he was a sensation who never lost his luster. A pioneer certainly in his field and one who was emulated with pride.

I always remembered his quote on the historic event, having seen it on posters and billboards: “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

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