Today I issue a call to entrepreneurs, business leaders, managers and workers everywhere to behave honorably in business and in life. I issue a call to conduct our business activities professionally and with integrity. I issue a call for superior ethical behavior by one and all.
Every day I note with sadness the tales of fellow Americans, great and small, who have chosen to lie, cheat, betray, deceive or harm someone -- a client, a vendor, investor or even a family member. As the sordid stories unfold, we witness the destruction and loss of relationships, corporations and personal lives.
Employees lose jobs, leaders go to jail, families are crushed, lives are broken and misery rules.
No institution is safe from a lapse in the moral code of conduct. Private enterprise is not alone. Government officials at all levels are regrettably the focus of attention because of poor behavior. Church and school leaders are not exempt from breaking laws.
I am just an average citizen who believes we can all do better and be better to the point that our lives are happier and more fulfilling. Don't consider me prudish or naive. I know full well the urge to be selfish, seeking only my own pleasure and personal gain.
My first significant test of ethical behavior came as a second-grade pupil. It was a test I failed and will never forget. I needed praise. I wanted my admired teacher to heap attention on me. I am sure, as I look back, that my teacher did her best to spread kindness and approval equally across all her numerous charges.
However, Jimmy seemed to receive an inordinate amount of affection from Mrs. Gibson. He was a very fine artist who could draw horses, people and incredible mountains. We all stood in awe of his masterpieces.
Hoping to be just as beloved as he, I decided in my heart I could surpass Jimmy if I were to draw something even more excellent.
One large obstacle blocked my plan: I couldn't even draw stick figures well. What to do? One day, as I rummaged through my parents' drawer, I found the most amazing ink drawing of a famous building. An uncle who attended a college art class had created it. If I could not draw a picture myself, perhaps I could use this one instead.
The next morning I went to school with deceit in my heart and my uncle's drawing under my arm. When the moment arrived, I happily showed Mrs. Gibson the fine work I had created the night before. I waited for a big hug and her smile of approval for my masterful achievement. It didn't come.
Instead, I received a lukewarm pat on the head and a look of doubt. Where was the love? Where was the marching band and parade to honor my excellence?
Somehow I knew I had blown it. I felt embarrassment beyond human pain. I prayed to God each night for the rest of the school year that my teacher wouldn't know I was a fraud, a terrible liar.
Such powerful lessons in moral behavior stay in our hearts forever as profound reminders not to repeat the same mistakes. I thank my parents, church leaders and teachers for lessons on personal standards of behavior. These principles have served me well.
I am sure you have your own stories to tell. No one is perfect or immune from personal tests of integrity. I will continue, as you will, the rest of my life to make choices that will be right or wrong, pure or tainted.
I have made a personal commitment to finish my earthly life doing good and avoiding what's wrong. I have concluded it's much easier and happier if I do so, for me and everyone around me.
Come on, America. We can do better. Let us commit to a higher standard of ethical behavior. Let us be a people known by the world for our good hearts, not for our bad behavior.
Do you have an integrity story to tell? You can reach me at www.AlanEHall.com or @AskAlanEHall.