It’s President’s Day, and I see that it has been five years since the most popular Ethics Alarms President’s Day post was published. That one, from 2011, reminds us of the ethics wisdom and leadership acumen of the remarkable men who have served their country in the most challenging, difficult, and ethically complicated of all jobs, the U.S. Presidency.
In the middle of a campaign season littered with some disturbingly unethical candidates, it seems especially appropriate to re-post that entry now….with some updates. In 2011, I left out three Presidents, including the current one. Now all are represented, most of them well.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the Presidents of the United States of America:
George Washington: “I hope I shall possess firmness and virtue enough to maintain what I consider the most enviable of all titles, the character of an honest man.”
John Adams: “Because power corrupts, society’s demands for moral authority and character increase as the importance of the position increases.”
Thomas Jefferson: “On great occasions every good officer must be ready to risk himself in going beyond the strict line of law, when the public preservation requires it; his motives will be a justification…”
James Madison: “No government any more than any individual will long be respected without being truly respectable.”
James Monroe: “The best form of government is that which is most likely to prevent the greatest sum of evil.”
John Quincy Adams: “Always vote for principle, though you may vote alone, and you may cherish the sweetest reflection that your vote is never lost.”
Andrew Jackson: “One man with courage makes a majority.” (Attributed)
Martin Van Buren: “No evil can result from its inhibition more pernicious than its toleration.”
William Henry Harrison: “There is nothing more corrupting, nothing more destructive of the noblest and finest feelings of our nature, than the exercise of unlimited power.” Continue reading