Morality in Business and Politics

Calypso entices Odysseus, who stays with her for seven years before returning to his wife, Penelope.

The topic arose with a handful of acquaintances this year; otherwise, I probably would not have felt it necessary to write about it. Given the way I feel the

zeitgeist is flowing and the situation where the U.S. Secret Service has found itself in the past several days, this is something that needs to be addressed.

Most people that know me know that I feel that President Obama is very hit-or-miss with his policies; however, I think his administration’s recent actions hit the nail right on the head. Over a dozen officers created a stir from possible activity with prostitution, and they were all sent home immediately. One officer, General Fraser, commented that it was behavior “not in keeping with the professional standards expected.”

More poignant, though, was a comment by a street vendor named Edwin Yepes, who said in a CBS article, “They are supposed to come here and set the example….it’s better if they don’t come than if they damage our image of them.”

What a stain on the United States!

And yet, recent conversations I have had seem to indicate that many people don’t see a connection between personal judgment and professional performance. The classic examples are Kennedy and Clinton; one acquaintance told me it was okay for these men to X-Y-Z as long as they were doing their job. While there is no denying that these men performed superbly on the job, their judgment has to be questioned.

Isn’t discipline necessary to manage? Self-restraint? Prudence? How can I as a citizen, shareholder, etc expect to trust you with matters of the economy or civil rights when you engage in dalliance and infidelity? Put another way, if you are willing to break the vows of a marriage, a vow in front of God or country (sometimes both), then how much more should I be willing to trust your fiduciary duty to me, a shareholder, or your inauguration vows to the public, me as a citizen? It just doesn’t equate well.

How does this relate to MPAs? We are the future business leaders of the 21st century. Why should it be okay for a leader or executive to participate in lascivious or unjust activities that break trust? Being a CEO or senator is not, not a justifiable response. As MPAs, we have the opportunity to set the example in the years going forward and to set the tone, among ourselves and to the generation that follows us, that faithfulness, honesty, and integrity are necessary components of a worthy role model.

Yes, I get it—if you do your job well, what does it matter? But it does matter. And I can’t believe it doesn’t matter to you! The lack of respect for matters in one’s personal life reflects a lack of respect overall. It reflects a self-serving attitude, meaning that you are not the primary beneficiary of any hour of labor.

As I said before, this is the 21st century. Odysseus twice strayed, once with Circe and once with Calypso, on his journey back to his beloved Penelope. (Imagery enough: Circe’s temptation of Odysseus’ men led them to be transformed into swine, which is probably commentary on their actions.) Homer’s tone was not in any way reprimanding of Odysseus’ additional distractions. However, that was then, and this is now. In today’s society and today’s value system, we need to reevaluate how we view our heroes and not create a double standard for those in the news daily. If Odysseus’ quest had taken place in our time, Penelope would have well beat him and rightfully so.

Thus, I oblige public and private leaders that your service and personal lives be reflections of each other. Only in this way will our nation be that in which our founders envisioned. The Secret Service agents were sent home because that position required more than just the president’s safety—it contained a moral component buried somewhere in a term called “professional.” As such, we should carry that mentality into the workplace upon graduation. Being professional entails more than just doing your job well; it means being one of integrity and honor too, as well it should.


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