Ethical Heroes

Published: July 21, 2008

By Jim Lichtman
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In 2002 Time magazine selected three women of “ordinary demeanor,” and extraordinary personal integrity to become the magazine’s Persons of the Year.

Cynthia Cooper was the internal auditor who exposed what has grown to $11 billion in fraud at WorldCom.  Coleen Rowley was the FBI attorney who wrote a memo to Director Robert Mueller “about how the bureau brushed off pleas from her Minneapolis field office about [now indicted 9/11 co-conspirator] Zacarias Moussaoui.”  And Sherron Watkins was the Enron vice-president who warned Chairman Ken Lay about the faulty accounting methods at the energy giant.

What makes these women special is not only their strong sense of integrity, but their determination to uncover the truth in spite of the professional and personal consequences.  Taking action within three very visible and, at the time, highly respected organizations made their achievements ethically significant.

But there are other ethical heroes – individuals who practice a similar integrity and commitment to excellence that go above and beyond.

This is why, once a month, I choose to highlight an individual or group, who accomplishes the extraordinary every day in ways that do not get much media attention.

In March, I highlighted Colman McCarthy, former Washington Post writer who teaches peace studies in Washington, DC area high-schools.

Beverly Torok was the New Jersey High-School swim coach who believed in teaching her students to live their lives beyond the letter of the rules and win or lose on their own merits.

John McCarthy, Colman’s son, took his skills as a minor league pitcher in the Baltimore Oriole organization to teach inner-city kids discipline, humor and honor.

David Krieger, founder the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, actively works with national and international leaders as well as a growing group of citizens to help put an end to nuclear arms in our lifetime.

I talk about individuals like these so that all of us can read and learn about others who demonstrate ethical values in their lives.  They may not receive national recognition, but they serve as examples to us all to strive to live up to be the best we can be.


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