Thursday, February 25, 2010

OPINION: We Want Leaders with Character, Good Ethics and Self-Control

The Right Emphasis
By Doug May

On Feb. 16, before the adjournment of the special session in Santa Fe, the Senate voted 25 to 17 to deny the confirmation of the Governor’s appointment to the Environmental Improvement Board (EIB).
What is interesting are the reasons given for rejecting Neri Holguin’s appointment. Sen. Bernadette Sanchez, D-Albuquerque said, “I would hate to have someone serving on any board that is managing the campaigns of certain legislators.”
Holguin had managed the 2008 primary campaigns of three Democrats, two of whom defeated incumbent Democrats. Sen. Sanchez in explaining her vote against Holguin reveals an ethical standard, that is, if you are going to be active in promoting candidates for office you shouldn’t serve in a position where your decisions might favor one of your candidates. There could easily be a conflict of loyalties.
Sen. Sanchez acted on the basis of her personal values. She was not forced by any rules or regulations to take that position. She voluntarily acted on her own ethical standard. It is a good standard and it illustrates how personal ethics work. Personal ethics are standards that a person voluntarily adopts to guide his or her actions.
Not everyone agreed with Sen. Sanchez’s ethics. Sen. Gerald Ortiz Pino, D-Albuquerque said, “We’ve sat here and confirmed lobbyist after lobbyist. For us to suddenly develop scruples over someone’s potential conflict of interest is disingenuous and hypocritical.”
Each person has different ethical standards. We all should take some time to openly discuss ethics in the hope that we will adopt for ourselves ever higher standards. Individuals can have ethical principals as well as organizations. If one’s company or organization voluntarily adopts certain ethical standards then those standards become rules that the members of that organization should follow when representing that organization. Where high ethical values exist there is less need for laws and regulations.
Good ethics are important, but there is still another element, self-control. Just because a person has good ethics, it doesn’t mean that person will always act accordingly. We all still have our own passions and desires that conflict with our best intentions. It would have been difficult for Sen. Sanchez to vote against the appointment of Holguin if she had helped Sanchez get elected. These personal situations challenge one’s character. In the end it is people with character, that is good ethics and self-control, that are needed in leadership positions.
Many centuries ago a king had an affair with the wife of an army officer who was on active duty. When the king discovered that she was pregnant he devised a plan to make it look as if her husband was the father. The king called the officer back from his unit on the pretext of getting first hand information on progress of the campaign. The king invited the officer to dine with him. After a big meal and several drinks the king told him to go home to his wife before returning to his unit. But the officers said that he could not do that since his men were living in tents in the field of battle. There was no regulation preventing the man from going home to be with his wife. In fact, the king had told him to do so. However, the officer had a sense of duty and loyalty to his men. As long as they were on duty, he considered himself to be on duty. He would not neglect his duty. Some lesser men would say he was foolish. Character often appears that way.
On Monday, February 22nd we remembered George Washing-ton’s birthday. He was a man of principles, a leader with strong character.

Doug May is a retired Lutheran pastor and his views do not necessarily represent the Mountain Mail.

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