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ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- Nearly 1,000 Naval Academy midshipmen attended a lecture by former NFL defensive lineman Feb. 6 on the role of gender, relationships, ethics and maturity in leadership.
Joe Ehrmann is a former NFL player, named to the All-Century and All-American football teams at Syracuse University who is now a motivational speaker.
He is a former Baltimore Colts "Man of the Year" award winner, also named "Man of the Year" by the Frederick Douglass Society and the National Fatherhood Initiative.
Ehrmann explained that most of the gender definitions in society are based on misconceptions. For example, we are falsely led to believe that manhood is defined by athletic ability, sexual conquest and economic success. Misconceptions of femininity include the notions that "worthy" women are rescued by "Prince Charming," that beauty and body define a woman's worth, and that women can either be honest and real or loved and accepted, but not both.
These misconceptions are damaging because "you move toward and become that which you believe about yourself," he said. Ehrmann told the midshipmen they have to redefine who they are outside of these misconceptions.
"You have to define what you will stand for, who you will stand with, and what you will stand against," he said.
To Ehrmann, true masculinity and femininity are defined by the same two things. The first is our relationships with others, our capacity to love others and allow others to love us.
"The people we touch, mark, love, imprint - they're going to be here long after we leave this earth," he said. "My success is defined every day by the impact, influence and integrity of my relationships."
The second thing that defines us is our commitment to a cause, he said. "All of us have a responsibility to give back, to make the world more fair, more just, more hospitable for every human being."
He encouraged the midshipmen to continue developing their own leadership style and their own definitions of what is important in life and leadership.
"You are signs of hope for your family, your community and your country," he said.