You know what makes for a good leader? (Newt Gingrich, take note).
I’ve been thinking about this a lot for about the past week because of this guy:
You see I went to a meeting on Saturday that he spoke at. I’ve actually heard him speak a number of times and even talked to him in person once or twice. In fact, I’ve got his autograph on a little piece of paper that says it’s a-okay for me to go into an LDS temple.*
Because, he’s not just an Olympic gold medalist, he’s also a counselor in my stake’s presidency (which is like if a bishop of a diocese had a helper). I’ve never seen him do his gold-medal winning pommel horse routine– at least not since 1984 (though I hear he still does it on occassion)–but the thing I really like about him is his self-deprecating humor.
For example, he once told a friend of mine that he had to speak at a middle school career day and he had no idea what he was going to tell those kids. In his words (which are very paraphrased, since I wasn’t there), “What am I supposed to tell them? Practice the pommel horse so you can ride that train for the rest of your life?”
The other thing I like about him is that, when I wear heels, I tower over him. Which I can’t brag about very often because I’m 5’3″. On a good day. Which means…
Peter Vidmar is … short. I’m comfortable saying that because it’s not something he’s trying to hide. In fact, he jokes about it a lot. And it always makes me laugh. Like at this meeting on Saturday. He showed a soccer picture of one of his sons when he was four years old and then said, “When you’re a four year old Vidmar, that soccer ball is huge!”
And then he told the story behind this picture that he has kept on his desk for twenty-two years. As he was driving his son to get his very first AYSO soccer picture taken, President Vidmar (that’s what we call him in our stake) looked over and saw his son had wiped his chocolatey fingers on his white uniform. So he said to him, “What are you doing? Your mom got that uniform all clean and ready for you and now you’ve smeared chocolate all over it right before your picture!” And some more stuff like that.
And you know what his son did?
The exact same thing that my kids have done–and maybe your kids too–when I’ve gotten mad at them for some little thing that doesn’t really matter in the big scheme of things.
So President Vidmar apologized, his little boy got his picture taken and when they got it back the little smudge of chocolate was barely visible. And the story could end there and the incident forgotten. But it doesn’t and it isn’t.
I’ve heard that Peter Vidmar keeps his gold medals hanging on a wall where other people can see them because he’s often asked about them. But he keeps this picture of his now grown son in the chocolate-smudged uniform on his desk to remind him every day about what’s really important in life.
After told the congregation that story and shared a few other insightful things, he showed us this video: Parenting: Touching the Hearts of Our Youth. I don’t care who you are, what religion you practice or don’t, or if you’re a parent or not, this video is for you. But I’m warning you. I’m not a cryer and I got a little choked up.
So did a lot of people, including President Vidmar and the other members of the stake presidency– who are pretty successful men in their own right. And, I’ve gotta tell you, I love seeing grown men who aren’t afraid to cry in public. Not crocodile tears, but the genuine kind. Especially the men who are very successful professionally, because humility doesn’t always get you very far in the world. But when it comes to success in things that really count…
That takes some humility.
* This is called a temple recommend and it’s not really up to President V. whether I can go or not. He just very nicely asks me questions about whether I’m following the standards we believe God has given us to live by. It’s up to me to decide if I can answer those questions honestly or not.