Editor: Trust is critically important to democracy — without it there can be no civic responsibility and indeed, no hope for the future.
How can we expect people to respect and obey laws and the overarching culture of the rule of law when they find that others are not doing the same?
Look at the daily news — coming from Main Street and Wall Street — from public officials and businesses to religious and educational organizations.
We find people at the highest levels of income and professional stature betraying the public trust and decimating their institutions. Corruption is an infectious disease, every bit as dangerous as the threats we fear from outside enemies.
What is the antidote?
We do still talk about values, but are we honoring them?
If corruption becomes our defining characteristic, trust is simply not an option. Trust must be built on a shared respect for the law that is created of, for and by the people; and as Americans we must have trust in our expressed promise of “liberty and justice for all.”
Ethical and civic behavior must be taught. It’s not a Sunday School issue — it’s an everyday public issue. It must be integrated into the curriculum in our schools and colleges. Ben Franklin said at the Constitutional Convention in 1787 that we are a republic — “if we can keep it.”
Way ahead of his time, he foresaw the possibility of the erosion of our most sacred values and institutions. I think we’re in danger of losing the republic. And if we do, we lose our most precious right — to live in freedom and assume responsibility for the public good. It’s worth working for. It’s the challenge of our lifetime.
Times-Tribune, Publication Date: May 27, 2012