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A Little Weird: Role Models

By Eddie Whitlock

The weekly message to Timothy Road Elementary School parents last Sunday evening included an attachment announcing that Herschel Walker would be speaking to fourth- and fifth-grade students on Monday.

To be clear, I have not liked Herschel Walker since he lied to Vince Dooley (God rest his soul) back when I, too, was a UGA student.

​You don’t lie to Vince. You don’t.

​Walker did. He assured Coach Dooley that he was staying at the University of Georgia. Then he didn’t.

​I didn’t really notice him after he left the Bulldogs.

​In 2008, he published an autobiography. Titled Breaking Free: My Life with Dissociative Identity Disorder, it’s co-authored by his therapist.

​According to a 2022 article in Axios, the therapist, Jerry Mungadze, believes that choice of crayon color can reveal whether a patient has been possessed by a demon.

​I respect people who struggle with mental health issues. Walker compared his mental health issues with having a broken leg, having it put in a cast, and being fine afterwards. That’s not how mental illness works. I honestly don’t even think that’s how repairing a broken leg works. You must do therapy afterwards and remain aware of the possibility of re-injury.

​The worst of the bad behavior that he excused in his autobiography was the physical abuse of his wife. This abuse included putting a gun to her head.

​No, I do not like Herschel Walker. If he were to quietly go away and live in Texas, I would be happy with that.

​On Monday, though, he was back in Athens.

​A friend of mine sent me a message, telling me that Herschel Walker was going to be speaking to children at Timothy Road Elementary School. She was livid.

​I wasn’t very happy about it myself. I called the school and asked what time he would be there. The person who answered the phone told me that she wasn’t sure about the time. She asked why I was calling.

​So I told her that I wanted to be there. I wanted to be standing at the entrance to the school, holding up a sign that read “Wife beaters are not role models.”

​“I’ll transfer you to the principal,” she said.

​My call went to voicemail. I left a message with my name and phone number. I told the principal that I was unhappy with his selection of a guest speaker. I never received a return call.

​I’m sixty-five. I’m not one of those people who supports exempting senior citizens from school taxes. We aren’t paying school taxes because we have kids in school. We’re paying it because good public schools serve all of us.

​I made my little sign and went to Timothy Road Elementary School. I got there around 12:20. I stood in front of the school, on the public sidewalk. I held my sign for those driving past to see.

​This was my first actual protest. I carried a sign at a pre-Covid event at Jody Hice’s office, but that was a community forum of sorts and not a protest.

​I had a few people stop to ask me about the sign. I told them about his acknowledged domestic abuse. I didn’t name the speaker. I told them to look it up. One of the folks came back to tell me they couldn’t find anything about it.

​Apparently, Timothy Road Elementary School didn’t post information on their website about it. They did, though, email parents to let them know. One parent told me that students were given the option of going to the library rather than hearing the wife-beater.

​I called my friend who alerted me to the situation in the first place. She said he was supposed to speak at 1:10.

​Law enforcement officials arrived at the school. They never bothered me. They never even came out to speak to me. I appreciated that.

​Walker arrived around 1:10. He was greeted by a person from the school and taken inside. Apparently, he spoke for half an hour. When he came out, school folks posed with him in front of the building for photographs.

​He was carrying flowers. I assume those were a gift from someone. I don’t know if he was paid to come and speak. For all I know, he may have paid the school for the opportunity.

​Either way, it was just a bad idea.

​My personal joke was that Herschel Walker spoke to the students because the school wasn’t able to get Harvey Weinstein. My friend who first alerted me said she thought they had tried to get O.J., but he was no longer available.

​Walker left around 2 o’clock, so I did, too.

​If Walker is genuinely remorseful for the way he has treated women in the past, then I’m glad. I still don’t think he needs to be the guest speaker for children at a school. For what it’s worth, I don’t think Bill Clinton should be speaking to school children either.

​My one-man protest made no difference at all. This fellow was greeted like a hero outside the school. He left being treated the same. In fact, he left carrying flowers.

​He should not have been invited to speak. He should not have been allowed to speak. If adults want to laud him for accomplishments from forty years ago, let them. But don’t confuse children about what a role model is.​

​I hope the folks at Timothy Road Elementary School make better choices of speakers in the future.

Eddie Whitlock is a Georgia native, a graduate of UGA, and wannabe writer. He retired in 2021 from the Athens-Clarke County Library where he worked as coordinator of volunteers, community service supervisor, and vending machine scapegoat.

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I completely agree with you Eddie, and I value your courage in going to the school for this one-man peaceful protest. Character matters to me, too, and I don't think someone who lied so much about his education and his career should be addressing young children as a role model. When I was a child we were taught at home, school, and in Sunday School that not telling the truth was not admirable.

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