I have a friend who works in Malawi with Doctors without Borders, providing them with lab support so they can save lives. She’s a hero. You won’t know her name.
I have a friend who, with his team, was instrumental in developing a new cancer treatment that has the potential to save countless lives. Even when the treatment becomes public, you won’t know his name. He also invests a lot of time and energy into educating people about science and climate change. He’s a hero, too.
I have a friend who works in biotechnology, creating new and sometimes radical sustainable solutions to old problems. That sounds heroic to me, but you’ve never heard of him.
I have another friend who is about to travel to Zambia to work on a project aimed at saving the lives of countless mothers who die of diseases that are laughably preventable in the west. She’s a hero. You don’t know her name.
I have a lot of friends who invest their hearts, souls, and every spare moment into the education and welfare of the young people they teach. They are heroes, but unless they’ve taught you, you’ll never know their names.
Yet you probably all know the names of dozens of people who are famous for pretending to be someone else, for making lots of money, for being able to kick and catch a ball, for looking good in a dress, or for simply being famous. You may even know the names of their children, who they’re dating, and the shoes they wore on this week’s random red carpet.
I suspect none of the people I listed above want to be famous. In fact most of them would be appalled at the thought. But a quick look at your average newspaper shows numerous profiles of people who are famous for their fame, and maybe one of someone who has done something to make the world a better place. On a good day. Many days there are none. And don’t get me started on magazines. Just don’t.
So what are we teaching our children? As they watch us, wide eyed, and take in everything we do as a model for their own behaviour. Learning what to care about, and what their priorities should be. While we gossip about who celebrities are sleeping with, and how dreadful they looked in that dress, we despair about our children growing up shallow, caring about appearance over substance, and not being interested in science.
How would a magazine sell if it profiled only people like those friends I mentioned above? People who make a difference to the world. People who invest themselves in changing the world. People who care about what they do, and do things that matter. Would it sell? Would anyone care?
At the Oscars, the #askhermore campaign encouraged journalists to care about more than what an actress was wearing. But what about caring about more than fame for its own sake? What about teaching our children that the pinnacle of human achievement is not being famous? That they can Be More? That’s what I want my children to learn. Go ahead. Show them they can #BeMore.