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June 8, 2016

A long time friend of mine recently asked me and some other adults to write a one page letter of recommendations for his daughter who is graduating. He will put these letters in a book for her. He asked me to write about integrity and to include a personal example. Here is what I wrote.

Dear Erin

I have been honored to know your father for over 30 years and, consequently, I have watched you and your family grow for much of that time. I have been very impressed with you and your family and I wish to congratulate you on the big step you are taking. Bob has asked me to comment on a subject that is very important to me……integrity. As a matter of fact, I believe it is the MOST important concept that you should seek to embody in your life.

First, I should say that integrity is a very broad concept and it is easy to get confused when studying it. Therefore, I think that it is more productive to focus on the main ingredient of integrity, which is simply telling the truth. It has been my experience that all other infractions such as cheating and stealing and adultery, etc, etc, always require lying.

Another point: It is possible to discover the importance of truth telling by simply studying the great philosophers such as Aristotle, St Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, and others. However…….it is religion that provides the motivation to DO the right thing and avoid lying. Therefore, religion is a very important ingredient in developing your own personal standards. I was born and raised Lutheran but I have studied many religions and it is my opinion that sincerely studying religion is more important than picking a certain one, such as traditional Christianity. I consider myself a Christian because I am a follower of Christ but I am a Unitarian rather than a Trinitarian. (I would be happy to discuss that with you in detail sometime.)

Next, I wish to say that I believe we have a crisis in our country involving integrity. We are in need of leaders and I hope you will be one. There are many ways to be such a leader but simply being a good example is the best. For myself, I have chosen to be active in my Air Force Academy Association of Graduates and to focus on my alma mater’s Honor Code which states that “We will not lie, cheat, or steal, nor tolerate among us anyone who does.” I am concerned that these very rigid standards have not been enforced sufficiently in recent year and I am trying to change that.

The reason I have chosen this approach is that I believe integrity is important for everyone but it is even more important in the military because a lack of integrity can cause soldiers to die. Therefore, we should expect our military leaders, especially our officers, and especially our Academy graduates to be exemplary performers in the field of integrity.

Finally, it is important for all of us to be “our brother’s keeper” and to help our friends maintain high standards of integrity. I would admonish you, in addition to maintaining these high standards yourself; you should not ever hesitate to remind your associates (nicely of course) to also embody these high standards.

I hope this is the kind of advice that Bob was looking for in my comments. To use a military analogy; integrity is part of your duty and “You should do your duty in all things; you can never do more; you should never wish to do less.” (General Robert E. Lee)


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