Carol Costa: What Antoinette Tuff + Miley Cyrus Teach Us

Thursday, August 29, 2013


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Antoinette Tuff and Miley Cyrus are two examples of what is very admirable and what is so very wrong with society's women.

It was the best example. It was the worst example. Within a span of less than a week America had the opportunity to witness the actions of 2 very different women. As we process the news, I am hoping that parents, and families everywhere impress on upon their daughters and sons the heroism exhibited by Antoinette Tuff is to be celebrated, honored and modeled and the foolishness and exploitation of Miley Cyrus, and company soundly rejected. This is a tale of 2 women.

As a society we have grown used to the constant bombardment of news. A steady influx of feeds, Tweets and posts that keep us connected to the world and its happenings. Now with access to TV programming on our hand held devices, tablets and with the mere click of a mouse we are very plugged in. As the news plays out as part of our day it does provides many teachable moments (if we choose to seize them) along the way. The past several days are no exception, as we met the accidental negotiator, Antoinette Tuff and then witnessed the regrettable Miley Cyrus “breaking Disney”. Complete contradictions, yet they each bring a chance to help our children and ourselves better understand the impact of choices.

Bad Choices

I admit it; I am officially old, as I had to Google twerking. My initial inclination was that it meant in new urban speak, a Tweeting jerk, but alas, I was so very wrong. My Google search inspired by my social feeds, in the wake of the VMA’s brought me on a YouTube journey that really pained my eyes and ears, as I took in the video of the Cyrus antics. Believe me, I was not shocked by Miley’s performance, as there is a rich American tradition in pop music and culture to push the envelope, Elvis did it, the Stones did it, and so too did Madonna and many others. But what happened at the VMA’s with Miley was very sad; in a number that lacked talent, choreography and style. I saw young woman exposed and exploited by an industry, shunned by her peers and laughed at by a wide variety of spectators. Miley Cyrus made a choice, albeit a bad one and bad choices usually come at a cost. This brings us to the teachable moment. This is a chance to show young girls in our lives that objectifying women and being used is never a good thing, it rarely reaps good consequences and like a bad Facebook post or ill conceived Tweet it can haunt you for a very long time. Please young ladies, I ask you to keep this VMA act in your head as a “what not to do moment” you will be better for it.

Brave Choices

In sharp contrast are the actions of Antoinette Tuff, who provided the nation a glimpse into the heart and head of leader. A woman who made a choice to face danger armed with nothing but a heart, a brain, faith and humility. The recorded 911 call of school bookkeeper Tuff, for me, evokes emotion and a demonstration of what making a daring choice is. Antoinette, with her experience, maternal instinct and obvious faith made a choice to connect with the human core of this troubled young man. Her choice saved lives and presented us all a chance to observe bravery in the face of a gunman. Tuff’s compassion and outward calm combined with a skilled Kendra McCray, the 911 dispatcher who fielded the call are nothing short of amazing. Tuff’s approach with the gunman melded a peaceful exterior, a motherly tone and an understanding of human suffering that cut right to the core of a man on the edge. She chose to speak to him, not at him and in doing so parents got to gather their babies rather than ID their bodies. “Don’t feel bad, baby. My husband just left me after 33 years... I’m sitting here with you and talking to you about it! I got a son that’s multiple-disabled. ... We're not going to hate you, baby, it’s a good thing you’re giving up." said Tuff exposing her own woes to the heavily armed man. In very different ways both Miley Cyrus and Antoinette Tuff exposed themselves to us. For Cyrus the exposure was superficial and shallow. For Tuff the exposure was human and touching.

I Want to be Like Tuff

Antoinette Tuff epitomizes so much we should teach our kids; honesty, bravery, calm, and spiritually grounded. Perhaps not only our children should look to these 2 tales, elected officials and political hopefuls should look at them as well. The choice to be of substance, the choice to develop and keep a strong moral core, the choice to practice conviction leadership and the ability to truly identify with fellow man are tools every good leader needs. Antoinette Tuff exhibited those qualities and so much more. She taught us it is not always a good guy with a gun that can stop a bad guy with a gun. She is an American heroine and we must hold her up as an example for our children and leaders to aspire.


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