Earlier this week, Cornell junior Alfonse Muglia won our 2013 Gentlemen’s Showcase. We asked him a few questions about his win, what it means to be a gentleman, and who his role models are. Read his answers below!
Do gentlemen still exist? Why or why not?
Gentlemen absolutely still exist today. I think this contest demonstrated just that. My peers, representing schools across America, displayed the traits of respect, generosity, and honor that should be expected of all men, and there are plenty of classmates at Cornell that are just as qualified for this recognition. At the same time, as a society, we should remember to hold these characteristics in high esteem and actually make a conscience effort to encourage gentlemanly behavior.
What is the best piece of gentlemanly advice you have received?
Well, a true gentleman is honorable, and I can recall being told to “never tell a lie” since before I could walk. But the best advice I’ve gotten dealt with how being honorable is much more than just being truthful. It actually came in a book I read about Gov. Chris Christie, which described how the political message Christie portrayed in his first gubernatorial race was pretty consistent with the tone of his message back in the 80s when he first ran for office. I remember not being able to read another page for an hour because I was so shaken up by what that meant. It was a pretty unique way of thinking about what it means to be honorable and what it means to be a gentleman too. By being consistent, you can take pride in the fact that you are making a commitment to stand for something (or someone), without the temptation of lying, cheating, or molding just to please others.
If I could have a runner-up piece of advice, it would be a Henry David Thoreau quote that a friend told me in the midst of a long discussion back in high school. “The greatest compliment that was ever paid me was when one asked me what I thought, and attended to my answer.” I have tried to apply that to my interactions with both friends and strangers, because it displays a sense of courtesy.
Who are your role models for gentlemanly behavior in your daily life or in pop culture?
I would definitely have to say my Dad for that one, because he really exemplifies the precious things that a gentlemen does to make other people’s lives easier. Like the way he will drop my Grandma off at the front door of Church, not because she has any trouble walking from across the parking lot but because “hey, she doesn’t have to,” as he says. To be honest, I tried to think of a celebrity to make it more interesting for everyone, but, you know, I really just couldn’t. Everything I know about being a gentleman has come from him. (Maybe Uncle Phil in the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. I did always admire the way he took Will Smith under his wing.)
What is something you have done or said that exemplifies a gentleman?
The best way I think I have exemplified a gentlemen is through the little, daily things I have tried to do in order to make other people’s lives easier and show them that they are important to me. My friends sometimes say that I am good at mediating their arguments, because I guess I help them understand the other person’s viewpoint. Also, it really means a lot to me that many at NeW’s Cornell chapter thank me for publishing more materials in the Cornell Review from their members. Much of that relationship comes from the strong connection the women made with last year’s editors too, and we have tried to unmute many voices on campus this semester! I think what is more important is when men give others a chance to express their opinion and go out of their way to show others that they are happy to have them in their lives.