The Search for Gentlemen on Valentine’s Day

McDonald’s is not the only fast food chain offering toys in their meals. Burger King restaurants in Israel are giving away an “adult toy” in a special Valentine’s Day meal tonight. Consumers will find a feather duster, head massager, or blindfold among their Whoppers and French fries. The marketing campaign seems to be trying to appeal to the same crowd that is rushing to theaters to watch the latest installment in the Fifty Shades of Grey movie trilogy, Fifty Shades Darker, which opened this week.

For those who are looking for a more romantic way to show love to a boyfriend or husband than fast food toys or S&M movies, you can nominate that boyfriend or husband to be America’s top gentleman. Each year, the organization I founded, the Network of enlightened Women, known as NeW, runs The Gentlemen Showcase, a national competition that honors young gentlemen. “College Gents” and “Gents Under 30” are nominated throughout the month of February by someone sending in a short note about why these men are gentlemen. Voting begins March 1.

The nominations show that there is more to love than what the Fifty Shades of Grey series depicts. In the nominations for significant others, women highlight the way gentlemen care for them and treat others. These men demonstrate respect and kindness; their willingness to put others before themselves is admirable.

Bailey Wayland, a student at George Mason University, nominated her fiancé, Cory Legg:

Cory is the definition of a gentleman. While being a sergeant in the Army, he is constantly available for other soldiers when they need his help—whether that be car rides or helping them fix their car, and he never seeks monetary compensation. When he’s home, he loves watching his nieces while his brother and mother are either at work or have to run errands and he drives his grandmother to church. As my fiancé, he gives me unconditional love and support, and I couldn’t be prouder of him.

Tomi Ladeji, a senior at Liberty University submitted a nomination for her boyfriend, Stephan Berghoffer:

Stephan is the absolute perfect gentleman, and I am not just saying that because he is my boyfriend. Stephan is the kind of guy who will go out of his way to make sure other people are happy and safe. Recently I had some complicated health issues and needed emergency care. I thank God that Stephan was there to call an ambulance and make sure I received the treatment that I needed immediately. Although Stephan had to go to work, he called out, stayed with me the entire time and made sure I had everything I needed to be comfortable while recovering. He has such a positive outlook on life and his attitude just makes people instantly adore him. He treats me with nothing but respect and shows the same level of respect to everyone around him.

Makenna Lenover, a student at the University of Pennsylvania, nominated her boyfriend, Collin Moyer, a Penn State student:

Collin is a Gentleman in all that he does, and has been lovingly at my side for three years. We are halfway through our second year of college in a long distance relationship, and his faithfulness, devotion, and effort he puts into making this work is more than a testament to his good nature already.

I dealt with a lot of bullying my senior year of high school, and Collin put everything on the line to stand up for me. Those days of eating alone in the guidance office weren’t so lonely with Collin by my side.

Collin never lets the romance die. We’re three years strong and I am still always surprised by his sweet gestures, homemade dinners, and little notes.

The Gentlemen Showcase isn’t just about significant others. Stephanie Farmer describes her nominee, Connor Hickey, a gentleman she used to work with on a political campaign:

His first week on the job was one of the hardest weeks I had on the campaign. I was stressed beyond compare. I remember I left my desk for a meeting, and when I came back he had brought me lunch. He hardly knew me, but he wanted to make my day a little better. A few months later, my car broke down on the side of I-95. I called a half a dozen people and no one would help me. Connor answered right away and jumped in his car without batting an eye to help, even though I was 45 minutes away and it was during rush hour traffic. This is the kind of person Connor is. He always puts others before himself and he does not hesitate to help someone in need.

A gentleman is defined as “a chivalrous, courteous, or honorable man” and that is exactly what Connor is.

There are so many mixed messages about what it means to be a man today. As the contest entries show, however, there are still a lot of great gentlemen out there. The Gentlemen Showcase honors and highlights them to serve as examples to others.

So, this Valentine’s Day, remember that the holiday is about more than flowers, chocolates, or “adult toys.” It is about honoring love, kindness, and commitment. And gentlemen.

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