by Matt Gates
A new obstacle to Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s campaign arose with allegations that he bullied a high school classmate who was perceived to be homosexual.
Whether or not students believe that Romney’s alleged actions should have an impact on his presidential bid, there is one lesson that young people can clearly take from this: their behavior as teens can have an impact on their adult professional lives.
Romney is not the only public figure whose reputation has suffered due to actions taken as a teenager. During the 2008 election, Obama was criticized after stating that he experimented with marijuana in high school.
Similarly, former President Bill Clinton faced scrutiny after he admitted to using marijuana during his time in England as a Rhodes Scholar, famously stating, “I didn’t inhale.”
Former Senator Ted Kennedy’s political career was marred by reminders of his two-year suspension from Harvard for having another student take a Spanish final for him.
According to a 1991 article in the New York Times, Martin Luther King Jr.’s doctoral dissertation at Boston University is accompanied by a letter explaining that a committee of scholars found that the work was partially plagiarized. Despite recognition of King as an American hero, his image was still tarnished by a decision made early in his career.
In contrast, the actions of public figures as teenagers have come back to benefit their reputations. In a 2005 article in the Los Angeles Times, Democrat Lanny Davis, former special counsel to President Clinton, praised former President George W. Bush for defending a classmate who was called “queer” during Bush’s time at Yale. This shows that teens should not only avoid poor choices but should also try to make positive ones.
Even if students do not intend to run for political office, they should know that other people will remember their actions in the future. With the invention of social media, the current actions of students may leave more permanent evidence that can continue to affect people into their adult lives.
Obviously, the main reason why young people should make good choices and treat each other with respect is that these actions are healthy and morally right. However, the fact that students may be reminded of their decisions in the decades to come should create an added incentive.