Ethics Hero: Robert F. Smith [UPDATED]

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If your reaction upon seeing the headline above was “WHO?” then it is fair to say, is it not, that that the mainstream news media has not sufficiently publicized the news made by Smith of late to permeate your consciousness. After you have read about him, it would be prudent to ponder why this might be.

The reason Smith is an Ethics Hero is this: He was the  Morehouse College  class of 2019 Commencement speaker, and after receiving his honorary degree, announced that he would pay off the entire class’s student debt.

The gift to the all-male, “historically black” college in Atlanta appears to to be worth about $40 million, and will affect nearly 400 students. It is the  largest individual donation to a historically black college or university. [ Not to inject a sour note, but if previously racially exclusive white colleges cannot continue their discriminatory ways by designating themselves “historically white colleges,” then the “historically black college” dodge to encourage and justify racial discrimination in both admissions and institutional marketing ought to be retired permanently. The so-designated colleges now have a collective student body that is about 22% white. ] Continue reading

Ethics Hero: Arby’s!

Why don’t businesses do this kind of thing all the time?

A 97-year-old  World War II veteran who calls himself “Mr. Doug” has been eating lunch, by himself, at an Arby’s in Chandler, Arizona almost every day.

An employee asked him why he was such a regular. The veteran told him that he has no family, and that he always has the same thing at the fast food restaurant because it is one of the rare meals that doesn’t upset his stomach.

The Arby’s staff took a collection and bought Mr. Doug a $200 gift card, and even gave him their phone numbers, so if he can’t get to Arby’s they will deliver lunch to him. Then corporate headquarters learned about the staff’s kindness, and went one better: It  announced that Mr. Doug could eat at Arby’s free of charge for the rest of his life.

My WWII vet Dad would have been 97 this year. Unfortunately, he hated Arby’s.

A suggested modified slogan for the company, which I’m sure Ving Rhames could deliver with gusto:

“Arby’s! We have THE ETHICS!”

Encore: On the Importance Of Christmas To The Culture And Our Nation : An Ethics Alarms Guide

[As promised, here is the Ethics Alarms Christmas package, lightly revised, last posted three years ago]

I don’t know what perverted instinct it is that has persuaded colleges and schools to make their campuses a Christmas-free experience. Nor can I get into the scrimy and misguided minds of people like Roselle Park New Jersey Councilwoman Charlene Storey, who resigned over the city council’s decision to call its Christmas tree lighting a Christmas Tree Lighting, pouting that this wasn’t “inclusive,” or the  CNN goon who dictated the bizarre policy that the Christmas Party shot up by the husband-wife Muslim terrorists had to be called a “Holiday Party.”  Christmas, as the cultural tradition it evolved to be, is about inclusion, and if someone feels excluded, they are excluding themselves.  Is it the name that is so forbidding? Well, too bad. That’s its name, not “holiday.” Arbor Day is a holiday. Christmas is a state of mind. [The Ethics Alarms Christmas posts are here.]

Many years ago, I lost a friend over a workplace dispute on this topic, when a colleague and fellow executive at a large Washington association threw a fit of indignation over the designation of the headquarters party as a Christmas party, and the gift exchange (yes, it was stupid) as “Christmas Elves.” Marcia was Jewish, and a militant unionist, pro-abortion, feminist, all-liberal all-the-time activist of considerable power and passion. She cowed our pusillanimous, spineless executive to re-name the party a “holiday party” and the gift giving “Holiday Pixies,” whatever the hell they are.

I told Marcia straight out that she was wrong, and that people like her were harming the culture. Christmas practiced in the workplace, streets, schools and the rest is a cultural holiday of immense value to everyone open enough to experience it, and I told her to read “A Christmas Carol” again. Dickens got it, Scrooge got it, and there was no reason that the time of year culturally assigned by tradition to re-establish our best instincts of love, kindness, gratitude, empathy, charity and generosity should be attacked, shunned or avoided as any kind of religious indoctrination or “government endorsement of religion.”  Jews, Muslims, atheists and Mayans who take part in a secular Christmas and all of its traditions—including the Christmas carols and the Christian traditions of the star, the manger and the rest, lose nothing, and gain a great deal.

Christmas is supposed to bring everyone in a society together after the conflicts of the past years have pulled them apart. What could possibly be objectionable to that? What could be more important than that, especially in these especially divisive times? How could it possibly be responsible, sensible or ethical to try to sabotage such a benign, healing, joyful tradition and weaken it in our culture, when we need it most?

I liked and respected Marcia, but I deplore the negative and corrosive effect people like her have had on Christmas, and as a result, the strength of American community. I told her so too, and that was the end of that friendship. Killing America’s strong embrace of Christmas is a terrible, damaging, self-destructive activity, but it is well underway. I wrote about how the process was advancing here, and re-reading what I wrote, I can only see the phenomenon deepening, and hardening like Scrooge’s pre-ghost heart. Then I said… Continue reading

Well, It Was Heart-Warming While It Lasted: The “Ethics Hero Epic” Turns Sour

In the November 2017 post titled, An Ethics Hero Epic: Johnny Bobbitt, Jr, Kate McClure, And Americans, Ethics Alarms told the inspiring story of how homeless veteran Johnny Bobbitt gave his last dollar (twenty of them, to be accurate), to stranded motorist Kate McClure of Bordentown, New Jersey, who was driving through Philadelphia to visit a friend when her car ran out of gas in a tough section of the city. In gratitude, McClure started a GoFundMe campaign for her rescuer, writing,

I would like to get him first and last month’s rent at an apartment, a reliable vehicle, and 4-6 months worth of expenses. He is very interested in finding a job, and I believe that with a place to be able to clean up every night and get a good night’s rest, his life can get back to being normal.

When I wrote the post, her campaign had attracted donations totaling almost $380,000.

Makes you want to cry!

Not as much as this does, though…

Johnny is back living under a bridge, panhandling for change. GoFundMe is investigating whether McClure and her live-in boyfriend absconded with most of the donations, which eventually amounted to about $400,000. Johnny claims that his once grateful benefactor and friend have been spending the money that was supposed to ensure, in Kate’s memorable words, that “his life can get back to being normal.” Continue reading

Chaos, Kindness, Vivian Landis, and Me

Yesterday I attended the funeral of Vivian Landis, mother of my long-time friend Lise Landis. Vivian was 98 years old when she died, and by all accounts had a wonderful and rewarding life. She also played a big part in mine, by doing what she apparently did routinely: being kind.

Mrs. Landis, along with her late husband Paul, were, by sheer chance, placed in the position of being the Chaos Theory butterfly in the Amazon jungle that causes a momentous chain of events by flapping its wings. They exemplify to me why it is vital for all of us to strive to live using ethical values. We have often no idea what the results will be, but the odds are they will be more good than bad.

In 1972, I had been rejected by all of my choices for law school, though I had been wait-listed at Georgetown. However, it was August, the fall semester was looming, and no word from Washington, D.C. had reached me. Discouraged but resigned, I said the hell with it, and resolved to take a year off, perhaps to craft my thesis on character and the American Presidency into a book. In the meantime, I decided to join my parents and sister on what bid fair to be our last family vacation. Dad had planned one of his typical forced marches, this one through Reno, Sequoia National Park, Yosemite, San Francisco, and Seattle.

I was having a great time, relaxing, enjoying the sights, when a ranger tracked us down on the Yosemite canyon floor. Our next-door neighbors in Arlington Mass. had sent a telegram forwarding a Georgetown telegram to the Marshall homestead: a slot for me had just opened up in the 1975 Class, but to claim it, I had to be at the Law Center to register Monday morning—and it was Sunday. And I was in California.

I wasn’t even sure I wanted to go to law school at that point, but my dad was determined that I should take the opportunity. We cut short our Yosemite visit and drove to San Francisco, where I was deposited on a red-eye to Dulles. I had few clothes, and knew nobody in the District of Columbia or anywhere near it. Somehow, I was assured, my family would have a plan for me by the time I arrived. I was to call their hotel in Frisco once I had registered. Continue reading

Ethics Hero: Texas Ranger Pitcher Cole Hamels

This has been a terrible year for Ethics Heroes. No, I don’t consider a sexual harassment or sexual abuse victim who comes out and accuses a man ten years after the alleged incident a hero. A hero would risk her own interests and welfare to protect all the potential victims over those ten years, by blowing the whistle before the harm to others, not after it. No, millionaire football players who engage in pointless and incoherent protests to turn what should be a unifying public event into a divisive one aren’t heroes either.

Maybe I need to do a post on all the phony “heroes” of 2017. There were a lot of them.

Cole Hamels, however, is a real ethics hero.  The 33-year-old Texas Ranger pitcher and his wife Heidi are donating  their 32,000-square-foot mansion and 100 acres of land in southwest Missouri to Camp Barnabas, a charity that provides camps for children with special needs and chronic illnesses. The Hamels’ gift is valued at $9,418,400.

In the statement,  the athlete said that he became committed to the mission of  Camp Barnabas as he learned about the charity. “Seeing the faces, hearing the laughter, reading the stories of the kids they serve; there is truly nothing like it,” he said. “Barnabas makes dreams come true, and we felt called to help them in a big way.” Continue reading

An Ethics Hero Epic: Johnny Bobbitt, Jr, Kate McClure, And Americans

Kate, Johnny, and Kate’s boyfriend. I bet you can tell which is which…

I learned about this story days ago, and got so distracted by all the nauseating ethics news that I neglected to write it up. I apologize. This kind of story should always be the top priority.

Kate McClure of Bordentown, New Jersey, was driving through Philadelphia to visit a friend when her car ran out of gas in a tough section of the city. McClure pulled over, got out of her vehicle and began to walk to the nearest gas station. But Johnny Bobbitt, Jr, an ex-Marine who lives on the streets, saw her plight and immediately took charge. The neighborhood was a dangerous place for a woman to walk alone, he told her, and suggested that she get back in her car, lock the doors, and leave matters to him.

A few minutes later, Bobbitt was back with a full gas can, and gave Kate  20 dollars, the only money he had to his name,  to make sure she could get home safely.

McClure said she did not have money to pay Bobbitt back that night, but she returned several times to the spot where he sits, offering him a few dollars and useful items.. Then McClure started a GoFundMe for her rescuer. She wrote,

I would like to get him first and last month’s rent at an apartment, a reliable vehicle, and 4-6 months worth of expenses. He is very interested in finding a job, and I believe that with a place to be able to clean up every night and get a good night’s rest, his life can get back to being normal.

So far, her campaign has attracted donations totalling almost $380,000 for Bobbitt.

The veteran has been homeless for over a year because of real problems. He has battled drugs, bad choices and probably emotional issues as well. I hope this story has a happy ending. So far so good, though. Johnny demonstrated exemplary ethics, sacrificing his own well-being for a stranger. Kate demonstrated genuine gratitude, empathy and concern, and took affirmative action to try to pay him back. And the American public, as it usually does, showed that when sufficiently alert, it knows how to reward good and selfless deeds.