Throughout history there have been examples of leaders who have done the right thing at the right time for the right reason regardless of the impact on them personally. The story of Schindler’s List is an example.
Concurrently there been devastating examples of people who have done nothing or perhaps did the wrong thing for the wrong reasons at the wrong time such as perhaps a 2016 Olympic swimmer.
Whenever an individual leader loses his or her moral compass, the greater good of the society is in jeopardy. Those in a position to make very tough decisions who choose personal gain over selfless sacrifice will be condemned in history. They will lose the trust of those they lead and influence.
Leadership is about personal and moral courage. Merely being elected to office or appointed to a prominent position is not leadership. Leadership is about making the tough choices when those choices are painful.
When I took my oath of office as a United States Marine, I was asked if I had any moral hesitation or moral purpose of evasion to honor my oath. The question was clear. It was concise. It was understood. There was no doubt in my mind of what was expected of me when I took that oath freely and without any purpose of evasion.
James Comey took the same oath and had an historic opportunity to set an lead when the FBI investigated the Hillary Clinton security breaches. He failed. He failed to hold a public figure of prominence to the same standards to which anyone else in government service was held. In failing to have moral courage, he set the political elite apart from the governed. He actions have perhaps driven a spike into the very heart of our Constitution.
During the Nixon Watergate scandal, Elliott Richardson defied then-President Nixon when Nixon ordered him to fire a special prosecutor. Elliott Richardson’s actions and the actions of so many other patriots of the time brought about the resignation of a president who lied. The president committed a crime and was forced out of office. The nation was angered and our Republic survived.
Almost immediately, President Ford pardoned Richard Nixon to prevent the nation from going through what he perceived to be a divisive trial. Ford, a decent and well respected individual, made a decision that cost him a second term and relegated him to the history books as the only president who had never been elected.
Society judged Ford for his failure to hold Richard Nixon accountable to the Justice system.
There may have been great reasons why Ford did what he did but society decided that they would hold Ford accountable at the ballot box even if Ford did not hold Nixon accountable to the courts. But Ford hung tough believing that Nixon’s resignation was disgrace enough for the NATION. For Ford, it was not about Nixon but about the Nation. He was willing to sacrifice a second term for the good of the Republic.
Leadership is not easy. Justice may not come to the courageous leader in their lifetime. The great leader accepts that risk with dignity and respect of self-confidence in their core values.
Difficult decisions require that the leader put their own personal agenda on hold and to serve with selfless sacrifice for the greater good.
Unfortunately when a society’s moral compass become so distorted that that which is right is unclear and that which is wrong is portrayed as being right, there can only be losers which results in the ultimate demise of a society.
In a similar vein, 50 Republican national security members under President Bush and former Republican presidents signed a letter saying that Donald Trump was not fit to be president.
I can only presume that in a nation in which we are a two-party system that these 50 national security advisers understood that their decision might well elect Hillary Clinton and by default are in effect saying that they absurdly believe Hillary Clinton is morally qualified to be president despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary?
Our nation is one in which we must all act according to our own conscience. But a conscience requires us to have a moral compass and a moral code. I failed to see the logic of how one can condemn one presidential candidate without commenting on the unfathomable character flaws of Hillary Clinton. My perception would be different if there were viable third parties in our nation but there are not.
The actions of the 50 should have been neither about Trump or Clinton but about our Republic. They squandered that opportunity for reasons only they know.
I know many people on that list and I am baffled and I am concerned. The very fabric of our culture is at stake and those in authority are squandering their moment in history to stand firm and to restore of semblance of decency and standards to our people.
This is not about Donald Trump. This is not about Hillary Clinton. This is about the great experiment that is known as our Republic.
There is an old expression that we use in the military that’s very appropriate right now.
Lead, follow, or get the hell out of the way!
Col. Frank Ryan, CPA, USMCR (Ret) and served in Iraq and briefly in Afghanistan and specializes in corporate restructuring and lectures on ethics for the state CPA societies. He has served on numerous boards of publicly traded and non-profit organizations. He can be reached at [email protected] and twitter at @fryan1951.