An Issue Regarding Character
August 15, 2004
Good character in leadership: does it really matter anymore? About "Character" some have responded "let us get on with real issues and forget about this character stuff." President Calvin Coolidge said it well; "Character is the only secure foundation of the state." Well known University of Virginia sociologist James Davidson Hunter explains that the American people demand good character when he said "character matters, we believe, because without it, trust, justice, freedom and stability are impossible." In this election season, we believe that the bottom line criteria in the minds of the voters should come down to "Character." For without good character, being a good orator, a clever debater or a slick campaigner, just does not matter. President John F. Kennedy said it well "Courage, not complacency is our need today. Leadership not salesmanship is what is required." We are right to demand good character of our leaders and to believe that character is inseparable from credibility in leadership. This is especially true in our representative democracy. The history of the world is filled with various despots, warriors, and demigods who have held onto power by autocratic force. But in a democracy, we are responsible for our leaders. And our responsibility begins at the ballot box.
It has been said, "good managers are people who do things right, while leaders with good character are people who do the right thing." Good leaders do not command excellence, they built excellence. To reach excellence one must first be a leader of character. And a person with strong character possesses solid core values and valued principles. These principles should be based on a "belief in the individual" and resultantly grounded in trustworthiness, fairness, respect, and responsibility for mankind. The person of character shows drive, energy, determination, self-discipline, and consistency in thought, willpower and courage.
We believe that public service is a high calling that is grounded in personal values rather than market values. It involves looking out for the collective best interest of all, rather than a narrow interest of a few. Public service should attract people who desire to maximize their 'self worth' rather than their 'net worth'. They are those who think more in terms of "everyone" rather than "me." The simple but powerful truth is-- public service requires top talent with core values of decency, consistency and honesty who meet the serious challenges recognizing that that their actions affect many.
President Harry S. Truman once remarked, "A man cannot have character unless he lives a fundamental system of morals that creates character." Character, as we see it, does not emerge from a vacuum. It is tied to convictions that shape not only a leader's life, but also the positions one represents. Therefore, character consists of beliefs as well as actions. One's character will be tried and tested and is judged by what one does in day by day situations and certainly in challenging situations.
All of us are cognizant that life is full of difficult decisions and the right choice isn't always the easy choice or a popular decision. But in the final analyses, one must do what is right based upon the very best information at hand at the time and make a judgmental decision, which flows from the base line of a solid character, supported by long held values.
We believe that character is doing what is right even when nobody is looking. We believe that good character is required in all walks of life. If one's walk is that of a student, a teacher, a farmer, a banker, a physician, a business person, a mechanic, or whatever one's choice in life, it is good character that counts. The American dream is the promise that if one studies hard, works hard, and dedicates oneself; one can be whatever one chooses to be. In the final analysis, we believe that people are America's greatest resource. And people with good character are America's greatest treasure. That is how we see it FROM OUR PERSPECTIVE.