Last night I watched a documentary on Jacqueline Kennedy, who was a former First Lady, married to President John F. Kennedy in the late ’50s, early ’60s. She was so young and beautiful and different at that time that she became a cultural icon whose influences still exist today.
I didn’t know much about Jacqueline before last night, but now that I’ve learned more, I’ve decided she’s one of my role models. I want to be like her in so many ways. She was very intelligent (she spoke four languages!), elegant, sweet and reserved. She had the most soothing voice I’ve ever heard. And she was completely devoted to her husband. In this documentary it was clear she was determined to make his life easier wherever possible—which was no simple feat, considering he was the President of the United States!
I’m sure that Jacqueline Kennedy had lots of flaws. There were probably times when she failed her husband or children, or when she lost her temper or picked her nose. But I hold her on a pedestal because of the way she carried herself in public. She just emanated grace. I want people to think the same about me. (Which means I have some work to do!)
I actually have very few role models, and I think that’s because they don’t make women like Jacqueline Kennedy anymore. Or maybe it’s because women in our society are so over-exposed now; we see the good, the bad and the ugly about everyone. Celebrities’ every move is revealed for the world to see, either on video or in photographs. Even “regular” women have a spotlight on them now because of social media. We can virtually see into people’s living rooms. That high-powered woman at work goes home at night and tweets that she’s eating Cheetos and watching Lifetime TV. Somehow that changes your perception about her; in many ways she’s just like you, so why look up to her?
I fear for your generation, because this blurring of public and private is lowering your standards. The women rising to the spotlight are not necessarily the ones you should consider role models. In fact, many of them (ahem, Snooki) are examples of how NOT to act. But because of their prominent role in pop culture, they might appear to you as someone you should look up to. Nowadays, however, people don’t necessarily rise to fame because they’re talented. In fact, more and more people are becoming famous just by living their regular, usually drama-filled lives in front of a few million hungry Americans.
Daughter, I encourage you to be careful about whom you choose to look up to. Stay away from those who are the flavor of the moment and instead look for the women who consistently exercise charm and grace. Your role model should be one who gives of herself for others, who stands tall and smiles often, who thinks before she speaks. She should practice humility, gentleness, compassion and a quiet strength. And when you find someone like that, strive to imitate her characteristics, not her life. I don’t want to be First Lady, but I do want to be as graceful, loyal and elegant as Jacqueline Kennedy was. I wish the same for you.