Ethics Lessons And Ethics Dunces: The Two Young Men Who Knocked On My Door

missionaries-men-mormon2I was exhausted yesterday after five hours teaching lawyers and accountants about ethics when there was a knock at my door. I could see through the window that the visitors were two young men wearing nametags, holding clipboards, forms and brochures, and I was in no mood for a sales pitch or to being asked to help some Mormons travel to Tangiers. I opened the door prepared to give them the bum’s rush.

They were good, though. Their pitch involved a free estimate and a discount for replacing our home’s casement windows. It was a local business using recent college grads, they explained. I explained in return, curtly, that I wasn’t interested, but they persisted, being personable and low key all the while. I decided that I admired their persistence and interpersonal skills—it helped that my dog liked them–and ultimately I agreed to let them give me an estimate on roof repairs, as our roof had sprung some small leaks and we might even need a new one.

They called their office as I listened and scheduled a free assessment and estimate for today at 10 AM. I gave them my phone numbers. I took their cards. Though I was exhausted and had planned on giving them less than five minutes of my time, I ended up talking to the two for twenty minutes. I felt good about it too: they were just starting out in the workplace jungle, and had done an excellent job. They were personable, professional, and determined, spoke well and had a pleasant demeanor. One was black, the other Hispanic. I thought they had earned some positive reinforcement.

Well, it’s 11: 22 AM the next day, and they haven’t shown up, and haven’t called. When they do, I’m going to tell them that they blew it: I’m not trusting a company that can’t keep its first appointment. I don’t know why they missed their promised time, and I don’t care. The key factor is that they missed it. Continue reading

Accountability Check: No, Sarah Wasn’t “Sacrificed” And She Has Nobody To Blame But Herself

Yeah, that's all you need, Sarah...

Yeah, that’s all you need, Sarah…

When one woman who drives me crazy sets out to defend another one using ethics-crushing illogic, I cannot withhold my hand.

Or gorge.

The wimpiest pseudo-conservative op-ed columnsit who ever roamed the Earth, Kathleen Parker, has delivered a column titled “The Sacrifice of Sarah Palin.” Its thesis? “Blame for her general collapse beginning in 2008 can be placed in large part upon her own party, which used her and cast her aside.”

Well, Parker proves with her fatuous essay that blame can be placed on Republicans, but she doesn’t prove that it should be. Sarah’s reputation is on life support after delivering a speech at the Iowa Freedom Summit that included passages like these… Continue reading

Ethics Quote of the Day: “Emily Webb”

“Goodbye to clocks ticking — and my butternut tree! And Mama’s sunflowers — and food and coffee — and new-ironed dresses and hot baths — and sleeping and waking up! Oh, earth, you’re too wonderful for anyone to realize you! Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it — every, every minute?”

—- Emily Webb, the heroine of Thornton Wilder’s 1938 drama “Our Town,” in her climactic speech in Act 3, cutting short the one day in her life she has been permitted to relive after dying in childbirth.

Thornton Wilder

Thornton Wilder

It’s a gorgeous spring Sunday in Northern Virginia, and by happenstance Garrison Keillor chose today’s installment of his “Prairie Home Companion” to allude to Emily’s famous,  heart-breaking speech at the end of “Our Town.” The speech is so familiar to many of us that we tend to forget how perfect and right it is, one of those remarkable, inexplicable times when a writer manages to express the important thought that is beyond expression.

Emily’s speech reminds us that the ultimate unethical act is wasting the remarkable opportunity that is a human life, and, at the same time, failing to appreciate the wonder that passes by our senses in the process. The answer to Emily’s question is, of course, no—nobody, not poets, not geniuses, not heroes nor saints—realize life every minute. Wilder’s, and Emily’s immortal words, however, spur us to try.

On this beautiful day, in this beautiful country, Emily’s speech is an excellent catalyst for calm, resolve, perspective, and hope.



The Comment of the Day: “The White Male Scholarship”

Tim LeVier defends the controversial white male scholarship, as well as other scholarships determined by race and gender. Here is his Comment of the Day, in response to my post, “The White Male Scholarship”:

“…This is actually a subject that I feel passionate about for exactly the reasons you state. I’ve mentioned on this blog (in the comments) before about how I feel with regards to student groups that support every student except the straight white male. What’s a guy like me to do when everyone’s at their meetings? The names of their groups suggest exclusion of others and create an unwritten rule that you should only attend if you meet the qualifications.

“With regards to student groups, I think your post would be more accurate. I think there’s more opportunity for all individuals to flourish in mixed student groups plus it spreads awareness of your “race-based” goals when you aren’t just ‘preaching to the choir.’

“However, for scholarships, surprisingly, I have to take the opposite approach. I think it’s because I believe that with scholarships, it’s about providing opportunity, whereas with student groups it’s about taking opportunity. Continue reading

“American Idol” Jumps the Ethics Shark

Just four audition episodes into the new “American Idol,” it is obvious that the show is done. It might hang on for a few, even several more seasons; after all, “Happy Days” continued for almost a decade after Fonzie jumped the shark. But it’s still over, and it wasn’t because the show lost its center and star, the acid-tongued, irresistible Simon Cowell…well, not exactly. It didn’t have to be the case, but when Simon left, the show lost the one thing it has to have–integrity. Continue reading