The Importance of a Role Model
[download response sheet for your answers]
Find out what a role model really is and places you can find a positive role model for yourself.





Section: What is a Role Model?
A role model or mentor is a person who demonstrates a particular behavior, skill, or social role for another person to emulate. Role models might emerge because of character and conduct or because of particular skills and talents.


Task #1:

Click on each of the Black Leaders featured below and record who they looked up to as a role models. Write down at least one trait the role model demonstrated.

SNCC Role Models

Julian Bond
(see EBL bio)
- Founding Member of SNCC
- Former Member of Georgia's Congress
- TV Commentator on America's Black Forum
- Chairman of the NAACP
(Find out more about James Forman)
Mary McLeod Bethune & Eleanor Roosevelt

Dorothy Height
(see EBL bio)
- Former Leader within the YWCA
- Past President of the National Council of Negro Women
- Humanitarian Aid Worker in area of Social Justice
(Find out more about Mary McLeod Bethune and Eleanor Roosevelt)
Influential People: Black Role Models

Vernon Jordan
(see EBL bio)
- Lawyer
- Former President of the National Urban League
- Former Executive Director of the United Negro College Fund
- Former Advisor to President Clinton
(Find out more about Benjamin Mays, Rufus E. Clement, Roy Wilkins, and Clarence Mitchell)
Influential People: Black Role Models

Eleanor Holmes Norton
(see EBL bio)
- Lawyer
- Former Chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
- District of Columbia House Representative
(Find out more about A. Leon Higginbotham and Pauli Murray)





Section: Does a Role Model have to be Famous?
No, many people respect famous people because they are often skilled in a particular area such as music or sports or because they have money or power. Some famous people try to be strong role models who others can look up to. However, there are definitely some famous people with skills you respect that would be bad role models because they have gotten in trouble with drugs or the law.


Task #2:

Write down the names of three famous people that have a skill that you respect but would not be a good role model for you.






Section: Can a Role Model be a Member of my Family?
Yes, often people select a member of their family to serve as a role model. Even if your goals differ from your family members there may be attributes of your parents, aunts and uncles, grandparents, and older siblings that you respect and can learn from. However, not everyone has a member of their family that would be a suitable role model in every way. It is ok to select a role model that is not a family member.


Task #3:

Each of the Black Leaders below respects certain qualities of a family member. Watch each video and then write down who these leaders learned from and the qualities they demonstrated.

Breakfast Lessons & Political Parents

James E. Clyburn
(see EBL bio)
- History Teacher
- U.S. Congressman with focus on Environmental Justice and Civil Rights
- Chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus
Influential People: Parents

Earl Graves
(see EBL bio)
- Businessman
- Founder of Black Enterprise Magazine
- Author on the topic of Black Business Development
Influential People: Grandmother

Robert Franklin
(see EBL bio)
- Minister
- Author of Books on Social Justice
- Former President of the largest African American Theological Center





Section: Where Else can I look for a Positive Role Model?
Positive role models can be found all around us. Think about people you look up to from school, or religious functions, or from your neighborhood that have admirable qualities. You don't have to like everything about them, but you can still respect them for being hardworking, knowledgeable, courageous, determined, or moral or having another attribute you value.


Task #4:

Each of the Black Leaders below respects certain qualities of a community member. Watch four of the five video clips and then write down who these leaders learned from and the qualities each demonstrated.

Influential People: Community Members

Floyd Flake
(see EBL bio)
- Minister
- Former U.S. Congressman
- President of Wilberforce University
Influential People: Community Members

Mary Futrell
(see EBL bio)
- Teacher
- Former President of the National Education Association
- Dean of Graduate School of Education
Black Community

Johnnetta Cole
(see EBL bio)
- Professor of Anthropology, African American, and Women's Studies
- Past President of Spellman College, a HBCU
Influence of the Community

Charles Ogletree
(see EBL bio)
- Lawyer and Law Professor
- Former Chairperson of the Black American Law & Students Association
- Director of the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice
WWTD? Harry Truman as a Role Model

James E. Clyburn
(see EBL bio)
- History Teacher
- U.S. Congressman with focus on Environmental Justice and Civil Rights
- Chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus





Section: Do you have a Role Model in you own Life?



Task #5:

Think of at least 4 people that have a skill or attribute that you respect.




Discussion Question:
Write down your personal role model and at least three traits this person demonstrates that you respect. Your role model could be a parent, teacher, religious leader, national figure, musician, sports star, or anyone else you respect and look up to. (If you do not have a role model describe the type of person you would select as a role model.) Why have you selected this person? Be prepared to discuss the importance of this individual on your life in the group discussion.



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