This week two Armstrongs were in the news.
Lance Armstrong was a hero to millions, having overcome cancer, and wearing the Yellow Jersey at the end of seven Tours de France. This week we learned that he is a liar and cheat, after he was stripped of his victories for using performance enhancing drugs.
Neil Armstrong, the first human to set foot on the moon, died this week at the age of 82. In July of 1969 he was the world’s most celebrated person. He could have capitalized on his fame to become wealthy and even, perhaps, powerful. But he steadfastly refused to do so, not wanting his own personal gain to tarnish the accomplishment that he rightly saw as the result of a massive team effort.
There is a lesson to be learned from the lives of these two men. We each have a choice for how we want to pursue our lives. Lance Armstrong sold his virtue to gain the wealth and recognition that being an American Tour de France champion would bring him. He was admired and even adored by millions. But now his reputation is in shambles. He’ll still have the wealth that came his way due to his cheating, but few will think of him as admirable. Neil Armstrong accepted great personal risk to serve his country and humankind, attaining what can be considered the greatest of human achievements. He eschewed the limelight, refused to capitalize on his fame. Kept his dignity. Honored those whose sacrifices made his remarkable feat possible.
One of these two men represents the America that we’ve become, the other the America we should strive to be.