Integrity and firmness is all I can promise; these, be the voyage long or short, never shall forsake me. – George Washington1
“I had misled everyone,” President Bill Clinton said, describing his actions on August 17, 1998. Americans never received an apology from Clinton for lies he told under oath about having extra-marital sex in the White House.2
“Judgment and a sense of moral proportion have always been missing elements in this Administration,” The New York Times wrote the next day, depicting Clinton’s abuse of the nation by refusing to apologize. “With his refusal to give an apology and explanation that were Presidential in scale, Mr. Clinton showed that his personality is his situation.” People doubted the integrity of a president who was unrepresentative of the Americans who elected him.3
The U.S. Army Field Leadership Field Manual trains military personnel to conduct themselves with integrity, one of seven Army values, by remaining mindful of the following:
- Separating what’s right from wrong.
- Always acting according to what you know to be right, even at personal cost.
- Saying openly that you’re acting on your understanding of right versus wrong.4
“The problem is one of moral values,” says leadership professor Peter Drucker in Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices, explaining how management ethics consist of the same conduct taught to children.5
Clinton embarrassing the country shows one consequence of selecting a commander-in-chief that is out of touch with the values that Barack Obama implied were responsible for American mistakes when addressing West Point cadets about his way forward in Afghanistan. But what politicians like Clinton and Obama fail to understand is that their misguided beliefs are unrepresentative of the values held by the people. American values – to include integrity – are second nature in individuals with leadership experience developed through service in the United States military tradition begun by the likes of George Washington.6
1. John C. Fitzpatrick, ed., The Writings of George Washington from the Original Manuscript Sources, 1745-1799, 39 vols. (Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1931-1944), 30:268.
2. Bill Clinton, My Life (New York: Knopf, 2004), 802.
3. “Betrayal and Embarrassment,” The New York Times, August 19, 1998, Editorial. Lizette Alvarez, “The Talk of Kansas Towns Turns Quickly to Integrity,” The New York Times, August 20, 1998, A21.
4. The Center for Army Leadership, Department of the Army, The US Army Leadership Field Manual 22-100 (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2004), 29.
5. Peter F. Drucker, Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices (New York: Harper & Row, 1974), 366.
6. Barack Obama, “Remarks by the President in Address to the Nation on the Way Forward in Afghanistan and Pakistan,” The White House, http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/remarks-president-address-nation-way-forward-afghanistan-and-pakistan. Daniel C. Diller and Stephen H. Wirls, “Commander in Chief,” in Guide to the Presidency, Second Edition, 2 vols., ed. Michael Nelson (Washington: CQ Press, 1996), 1:629.