“Guilty, Your Honor”

Published: December 2, 2011

By Jim Lichtman
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I’ve written about Major John Baldwin, (Ret.) before. A vascular surgeon who served with distinction in Viet Nam and several hospitals after the war, John’s ‘moment of principle’ was featured in my book, “What Do You Stand For?” John has since become a valued friend and supporter of this writer.

Commenting on ethics in general and Joe Paterno in particular, John included a personal story of honesty and accountability.

“How many times do we have to be shown that the cover-up is FAR WORSE than the crime?  The longer it goes, the greater the ultimate damage.

“Forty years ago I was stopped for ‘weaving’ in my car and was given a DUI for 0.08. In court, six weeks later, the judge, standing before me and about 12 others I recognized from my night in jail, said, ‘How do you plead?’

“ ‘Guilty, your honor,’ I replied.

“He was shocked, turned to the court clerk and asked, ‘Has this man ever been arrested before?’  ‘NO’ was the reply.  Turning to the full courtroom with the other 12 and their parents and lawyers, he said, ‘Let this be a lesson. This man has told the truth. His sentence will be two days of community service, no fine and nothing will be on his record. Let the rest of you take note.’

“I enjoyed emptying desk-side paper trash at the welfare building and on my second day, one lady asked my supervisor, ‘Will John be here permanently?  He is a wonderful person.’

“I learned a lot from that episode, and son William used it quite well when he had taken things from a parked car at age 16 three years ago. Of the four boys, he was the only one who admitted guilt, and as a consequence he went on to get his high school diploma, whereas the others went to juvenile jail.

“Me, I never drove after drinking after that, and realized that cover-ups and lying only get you deeper into the hole.”

John’s actions regarding his DUI may not rise to the level of reporting child-abuse, but the principle remains the same, Be Responsible: think before you act, consider the possible consequences on all people affected by your actions; be accountable, “take your medicine”; accept responsibility for the consequences of your choices; be reliable; set a good example; don’t blame others for your mistakes or take credit for other’s achievements; exercise self-control; be disciplined.

Thanks, John.



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