The most valuable lesson my role models taught me is that the game is lost only when we stop trying for the greatest excellence of which we are capable.
Because I was born in the middle of the Depression and my parents and older brother and sister were constantly occupied by our family grocery store and their jobs, I had an unusually spare relationship with the members of my family. All of them were bright, hard-working, loving, and generous people, and while we did not have all the time together we would have liked, their influence on me was all good and useful. Outside of my family there were few, if any, individuals who made lasting impressions on me.
But there was the world of books.
Over the years, three different heroic figures had the greatest influence on me -- Thomas More, Abraham Lincoln, and of course Jesus. In the case of More, I was impressed because he combined the law and public service and religious belief so well. And in the end, he put conscience over consequence to himself.
Lincoln's language fascinated me.
And Jesus offered me -- and many millions of others -- the best rationale for living. Actually, these "mentors" intimidated me a bit because they were all so far beyond what I could ever be. But they set examples to admire and strive for. I wound up a lawyer in public life who is still struggling to learn to use language well, to put conscience over consequences, and to understand the world's basic rationale. All of this I have done very imperfectly but better than I would have without my three role models.
The most valuable lesson my role models taught me is that the game is lost only when we stop trying for the greatest excellence of which we are capable. I'm still in the game.