While many were skeptical about his honesty, I believed Lance Armstrong. When the Tour de France champ recently admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs, I felt betrayed, but most of all, I was disappointed.
I don't know why I stood by Armstrong. I'm not a cycling fan. I've never even watched a Tour de France race. The only knowledge I've even had about Armstrong is that he is a seven-time Tour de France champion; he had cancer; he founded the Livestrong Foundation; he was engaged to Sheryl Crow; and he had denied accusations of doping for as long as I can remember.
However, I felt that too many people were negatively judging Armstrong because of the extent of his success. I thought: "Why can't people just leave him alone? Can't someone ever achieve something great without other people causing speculation/doubts?"
After watching his admission interview with Oprah Winfrey, I was angry. Not only had I wasted time thinking about how/why I believed Armstrong was innocent, but a lot of my good faith was greatly misused. This man represented America, cancer survivors, cyclists and others, yet he had the nerve to deny these accusations for so long.
While part of me was disappointed and upset at Armstrong, the other half was asking, "Wasn't it obvious?" Armstrong isn't the only influential public figure to disgrace himself. Michael Phelps was photographed appearing to use marijuana. Kristen Stewart cheated on her boyfriend with a married man. Chris Brown assaulted his girlfriend, Rihanna. Arnold Schwarzenegger admitted to having an affair and fathering a child with a woman who wasn't his wife.
Many of our public figures are irresponsible. They are blessed with talents and success, yet they make mindless decisions that accomplish nothing but negativity. They often ignore the fact that they have fans who just want somebody to look up to. I don't buy into the notion of "Please, they are only human. Everybody makes mistakes." That just does not apply to someone given the opportunity to be a role model on such a large scale. Fame comes with responsibilities. If celebrities can accept the benefits of notoriety such as money and name recognition, they can deal with the prospect of being proper leaders.
Since it's so difficult to find a celebrity worthy of being a role model, I'm trying to find inspiration in everyday people. For example, a few days ago I read a story about Officer Mike Hill of the Jennings, La., Police Department. He helped a mentally disabled teen achieve his dream of being an officer by giving him a uniform, appointing him as his backup partner, and regularly paying him visits in a squad car. People like Hill deserve to be called "role model" much more than celebrities. Teachers, public servants, social reform advocates -- people who can make a difference, either widespread or just with one person -- are the ones deserving recognition.
That's a good thing, because given the recent low standards that celebrities have stooped to, I am skeptical when it comes to admiring any of them.
Why would I want to be disappointed yet again?
The Life in Perspective board is made up of teens who write for the features sections. Laila Kazmi is a senior at Salesian High School in Richmond. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.