By now you might have seen the video of the beauty pageant contestant poorly answering a question. Surely an embarrassing moment. And it’s easy to two-dimensionalize this young woman into merely a joke. But just as you and I are not to be defined by our greatest failure, our most embarrassing moment, or our greatest weakness, so also this young woman is more than a funny video we blog about or a humorous note we email our friends.
You have to be impressed by the poise with which Lauren Caitlin Upton, Miss Teen South Carolina, has handled herself in the aftermath. Interviewed Tuesday on NBC’s Today Show, Ms. Upton remarked,”Everything did come at me at once. I was overwhelmed and I made a mistake. Everybody makes a mistake. I’m human. I seriously think I only heard about one or two words of the actual question.”
The Associated Press story continues:
“Upton’s former principal Creig Tyler remembered her as a well-rounded student.
‘She took college-prep and honors courses and performed well,’ Tyler told The (Columbia) State newspaper.”
President Clinton had decided that he no longer wished for Stephanopoulos to be his communications director. This really threw Stephanopoulos for a loop. But he received some sage advise from Rep. Tony Coelho:
“Nobody will remember what happened to you. They’ll remember how you handled it.”
By all accounts Ms. Upton is handling her mistake well and this is how we should remember her.
It is a great tragedy when we allow ourselves to be defined by our failures and perhaps a greater tragedy when we define others that way.