John Wayne: The Role Model

I love movies, and have always looked for role models from the silver screen.  And when it comes to positive role models, John Wayne rises to the top of the list.  His characters epitomize doing what’s right, standing up for yourself and those weaker than you, telling the truth, keeping your word, and being a man’s man.  Sure, many ladies like John Wayne too, and everyone can learn from his positive traits, but one thing for sure, John Wayne was a man’s man and a great role model for men to emulate.

A common theme in many of Wayne’s films was personal responsibility.  This is something anyone can model. It was illustrated well in 1973’s Cahill U.S. Marshall when Wayne, as J.D. Cahill boards a train with his prisoners, settles in with his shotgun cocked and pointed at them, pulls down his hat to take a nap, and is interrupted by the prisoner Pee Wee Simser (Rayford Barnes).  Pee Wee says, “Oh, dad-blast it J.D. Now, you ain’t gonna go to sleep with that old Greener on cock, are ya?”  Cahill replies, “That’s right.”  Pee Wee says, “If you even twitch your finger by accident, you could blow our heads off.”  Before closing his eyes and taking a nap, Cahill tells him, “If you call the tune, you pay the piper.  Meaning, if you don’t like the treatment, don’t rob the banks.”  Yes, personal responsibility was important to the Duke.

Keeping one’s word was another common trait possessed by Wayne and the characters he portrayed, and something we can all model.  Remember when Wayne, as Hondo Lane, in the 1953 film Hondo, tells Lt. McKay (Tom Irish) he isn’t going with him when McKay tells him he wants Lane to saddle up and accompany them? McKay asks why, and Lane tells him, “Gave my word.”  McKay then asks, “Your word to whom?”  When Lane tells him Vittorio (Michael Pate), McKay starts to say, “Surely a word given to an Indian desperado wouldn’t be…”  Hondo Lane cuts him off and says, “Mister, when I give my word, I keep it.”

Yes, personal responsibility, keeping one’s word, and many other positive traits can be found in the films of the Duke.  Watching these movies makes one want to be better, to act more like the heroes Wayne portrayed.  And I’m all for that.  So grab your favorite John Wayne movie and when it’s over, stand a little taller, be a little bolder, and use Wayne as a role model to be a better person.

Alain Burrese is an author and speaker.  His books include the Tough Guy Wisdom series. Tough Guy Wisdom: John Wayne vols. 1 and 2 will be released in 2013.


  1. Alfred Somerville says:

    We need more lawmen like J.D. Cahill and Rooster Cogburn! No sympathy for criminal scum, and quick to administer their own idea of justice when pushed too far. The whole problem with this country is that we’ve been taken over by the “damned pettifogging lawyers”(Rooster’s phrase), and we have lost sight of justice in our nitpicking about “the law”.

  2. I agree with you Alfred!

  3. jeff tomassetti says:

    we need more people like John wayne,he love’ed this county,and could have been one of are great presidents,of all time’s. respect,honesty,and morrals…..
    you couldn’t ask for a better role modle.

  4. So true Jeff!

  5. Teri says:

    John Wayne was a TRUE AMERICAN…by the original standards set by our nation’s founders. His legacy continues to set the mark to which we should all aim!

  6. Christiane says:

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  7. Cleo says:

    John Wayne, and most of the roles he played, imprison men in an emotionless, black and white world. I’ve date a few men who use him and his characters as a guide on how to act in the world and common threads include not communicating in relationships, thinking any question is a challenge to their manhood (which I suspect they are worried about), and using bullying to get control in relationships. Wayne (and characters) was a lone wolf. Yeah, they tried to portray him as a true man, but underneath the skin he was just a kid who was bullied who grew up to be a bully. Treats people weaker than himself terribly. And can anyone say narcissist?

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