Is it too late to step back and think about the ethical attributes we want in our next President? On the eve of the first debate between President Obama and Governor Romney, I have been pondering the qualities of character I want in the leader of our nation. Here are my top five:
- Commitment to truth--telling it, honoring it, preserving it
- Concern for the least and left out as much as for the wealthy and well-established
- Capacity for clear, fair judgment
- Character that manifests itself in courage, compassion, and justice for all
- Constitutional loyalty, with special regard for the freedoms articulated therein.
I am asking myself this fall: What does it profit a candidate for President or a candidate for Congress or either political party to win the election but, in the process put at risk the great moral vision on which this nation was founded? Even more, what good does it do if we as American people lose our capacity for judgment, our concern for our neighbors, our respect for the truth, our belief in liberty and justice for all?
Remember Atlanta born Lee Atwater, the shrewd, take-no-prisoners political adviser of Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush? Not long before he died of cancer at the age of forty, he articulated the truth he had come to know in the last months of his life,
My illness helped me to perceive that what was missing in society, and I realized that what was missing in society was also missing in me. A little heart. A lot of brotherhood. We are about acquiring in our society. Acquiring wealth, power, prestige. I know. I acquired more than most. But you can acquire all you want and still be empty. What power wouldn't I trade for a little more time with my family? What price wouldn't I pay for an evening with a few friends? It took a deadly illness to bring me eye to eye with that truth. But it is a truth that a country caught up in this ruthless ambition and moral decay can learn in my dying.
Moral inventory time for all of us, don't you think?