Somehow I think it all goes back to how you were raised. If you were raised in a family where doing what is right was given great value, then likely you find doing what is right and honorable as natural as I do.
My mother was a great Southern lady. She would give you anything that you needed as long as you truly needed it. She believed in treating people right, and expected me to do the same. In the same breath she believed in standing up for what was right. She did not want to be mistreated or see anyone else mistreated.
I guess what was taught in the home was reinforced in church and eventually in Boy Scouts. At an early age I figured out that you never ask your team of people to do anything that you are not willing to do yourself.
My family, church, and Boy Scouts taught me that I have a responsibility to help those who cannot help themselves. Learning that the world beyond you is more important than you, is one of the first steps to learning to do what is right and honorable.
At a fairly young age I was shipped off to a McCallie School, a military school in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Not only was McCallie a military school, it was a strong Christian school with a Presbyterian heritage. "Truth, Honor, & Duty" was the school motto. After four years of early morning motivational speeches, a lot of that managed to sink into my character.
After McCallie, I went off to Harvard College where "Veritas." Latin for "Truth" is on the school shield. I think there are times when you can slip through college without a challenge to your beliefs. That did not happen in the years between 1967-1971. We were in the midst of the Vietnam War, and what we were told by our government was often not the truth. It did take us a while to figure that out.
My moment of truth came one April evening in 1969 when some roommates and I who were on our way for burgers at the Bartley Burger Cottage were caught in a line of charging state troopers.
I got clubbed and chased back to our dorm at Quincy House where we were tear-gassed and got to hear the ominous sound of pump shotguns being loaded. We were just college students, and we found out that was all it took to be clubbed.
I think it changed a lot of our thinking. While there were some who ended up believing that there was no good government, I somehow did not end up that way, but I certainly learned that with power comes great responsibility and most people cannot handle it.
Using the police against unarmed and even innocent students galvanized the university community. The university was shut down, and I think a lot of people learned that might does not automatically mean everything is right.
The truth ended up being the big winner, and many of us came away from those events more loyal to the truth than any political power.
If you fast forward from that time to near the present, you have covered thirty eight years of living the lessons learned in the first twenty two years of life.
Beyond all I have learned that money is not worth pursuing when it requires me to abandon my values.
I have been asked a couple of times in my life to do things which would have let down people who had put their trust in me. I have declined the offers even though potentially they might have been very rewarding financially.
At one time I had to stand up and point out something which was fundamentally wrong. It ended up costing me my job, but I did what was right. It might have been suicidal from the beginning, but I did the honorable thing.
A few years ago I was in a business deal with a friend, my friend did something very dishonorable and backed out of the written contract. I could have held him to the contract, but I chose the path that treated him as a friend and not as a business partner. It cost me a lot of money, but I sleep at night. It was the honorable thing to do.
As I move towards the final chapters of life, I see nothing which would cause me to abandon a life lived with honor and with a goal of always doing the right thing.
It has got me this far, and I still sleep well at night.