48: Kathy Ireland

48: Kathy Ireland

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Billy Graham & Me

• 48 •
KATHY IRELAND

Author, philanthropist, actress, entrepreneur, model and designer; CEO, Kathy Ireland Worldwide

I had the privilege of meeting Billy Graham at the Special Olympics. I did not know he was going to be there but when I saw him, he had this larger-than-life presence. Yet he was so gracious and so kind, and he actually took the time to meet with our family.

Meeting him was especially moving for me since he had taught me an important lesson about integrity. When I was a young woman, I read that Billy Graham was always aware that he needed to have boundaries in place to protect his relationship with God, and with his wife, family, and church. So he decided that he would keep his door open whenever he had meetings with members of the opposite sex. He didn’t exclude women but insisted that multiple people be present to avoid any possible confusion.

As a young Vogue, Cosmopolitan and Sports Illustrated model, and even later when I left modeling to pursue a business career as a designer and CEO of an international licensing franchise, I found myself in a world that is often dominated by men, many of questionable character. But I had learned from Billy Graham’s example that I had to have clear boundaries in place to avoid situations in which there might be some misinterpretation. Like him, I too needed boundaries to protect my values, my faith, and my family.

I understood that it’s far easier to protect our reputations in advance than it is to do repair work. Billy Graham also showed me that the need to protect our reputations is not just for those of us in the public eye. Every one of us, whether we like it or not, are all role models, unless we’re living in complete isolation. Someone is looking; they’re watching; they’re paying attention, and I think it’s so important to make sure that the messages we’re sending are in line with the ones we send through our behavior.

While I will never put any pastor on a pedestal, if someone’s minister is living in hypocrisy, it can really do a particularly serious kind of damage. Even though we are all role models, the enormous impact that religious leaders can have on so many people’s lives gives them a special kind of responsibility. Billy Graham has met that high standard. He is a man of integrity who set, and kept, boundaries that protected his faith and family, showing people like me that we must all try to live the message that we speak.

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