CHARACTER MATTERS On Election Day and Every Day

Election Day is only a little over a week away and candidates of good character are on the minds of the voters. It was Booker T. Washington who said "Character, not circumstance, makes the person." And the rank and file voters seem to agree.

Our mail has been abundant these past weeks..."good character" and "reform with change" is what our readers are looking for in those running for public office. And we agree with them. Expressly, the voters are calling for and supportive of persons with sound character and not individuals with a temporary quick -change make-over, or those who arrogantly bloviate from scripted talking points, or those who pander to the audience and change message to conform to the latest polls. The voters are looking for honesty, consistency, competence, and genuineness.

Recently, the Associated Press-Ipos poll found that 55 percent of those surveyed considers honesty, integrity and other values of character and competence as the most important issue to voters. It is apparent, these qualities make a difference in the minds of the people. And this appears to be the case if the candidates are running for a position on a school board, local municipal government, county -wide races, or for an elected position at the state or federal level. Secondly, the public wants to support candidates who have a passion for matters which need "reform" and change. The public wants to see reform on matters that are just plain wrong, or are not working, or functions that are in serious need of realignment or reformulation. The voters want to see "wrongs" corrected, incompetence eliminated, over spending ended, and wastefulness brought to a halt. In the near future, we will give attention to these "reform" concerns. Today, we address the "character matters" issue.

It was Adam Smith who brilliantly stated: "good character is the final piece of wisdom." These eight words have a full measure of meaning. Indeed, it is the character of the individual that makes the person. For the voters, it is the substance of the person and not the style of the candidate that really counts.

We are now in the midst of the election season... there are county-wide races, several local elections, the Presidential primaries of 2008, and the annual school board elections held usually in the spring. The fact of the matter is: the bottom line criteria in the minds of the voters come down to the over all character of the candidate. For without good character, being a good orator, a clever debater, or a slick campaigner, just does not cut it. President John F. Kennedy said it well "Courage, not complacency is our need today. Leadership not salesmanship is what is required." To put it bluntly, we are right to demand good character of our leaders and to believe that character and discipline is inseparable from leadership credibility. It was John Locke who said "The discipline of desire is the background of character....for the actions of men are the best interpreters of their thoughts." In effect, when character is lacking, the public will lose confidence and government is ineffectual.

The history of the world is filled with various despots, warriors, and demigods who have held onto power by autocratic force. Milton Friedman was correct when he said that periods of human freedom and times of individual rights from oppression "are few and rare in the course of human history." Truly, history indicates that freedoms are only secure when individuals of character are empowered and the unprincipled are contained.

Today we look for good managers in positions of leadership. But, in the minds of the voters, it goes beyond that. Good managers are people who do THINGS RIGHT, but leaders... with good character... are people who do the RIGHT THING. Good leaders do not command excellence, they BUILD excellence. To reach excellence one must have a profile of character and courage. And a person with that sound quality possesses solid core values and 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, tenacity, self-discipline, and consistency in thought, willpower and courage. And furthermore, in the words of Ronald Reagan "America needs principled leaders, not labels and idle rhetoric, such as is bantered about today. From some well known candidates we have had an endless run of verbal banter as to what they "would not do." But these same visible candidates run short on purposed solutions as to what they "would do." A leader, once convinced a particular course of action is the right one, must have the determination to stick with it and be undaunted when the going gets tough" in the style of Ronald Reagan and Winston Churchill.

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'.

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. One's character will be tried and tested and is judged by what one does in day by day situations and when the times are challenging and demanding. Currently, these are those times.

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 media personality, a physician, a business person, a mechanic, or an elected public official ... it is good character that counts. When all is said and done, we believe that people, not material things, are America's greatest resource; and people, including our leaders of good character are America's greatest treasure. Indeed, nationally and locally, certainly on Election Day and every day thereafter...Character does make a difference for this generation and for generations to come. That is how we see it FROM OUR PERSPECTIVE.