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  • Reverend James Squire

Honorable People Shape Us

Updated: Feb 8, 2021

Ever since I was a teenager, I have heard the expression “You can measure the character of a person by the friends that he keeps.” My experiences in life tell me that is true. Good people make good intentioned people better. It is the basic dynamic of any support group.

We have the “Swamp” in Washington with more former members of the current administration convicted of high crimes than in another other administration in the history of the Presidency.

Let me offer two optimistic examples to counter the Swamp and to demonstrate that expression from my adolescence.

I was asked to be part of an evaluation team at the Gilman School in Maryland. We spent four days there investigating all aspects of the school. I titled my report, “The Four Quarters”. I would go running every day that we were there late in the day. I would change in the locker room and then head out for the open road. There were four quarters on the bench where I changed. Those same quarters were still there at day four. I met with the senior students. I asked them about those four quarters. Their universal response was heart-warming. Gilman is a high school lacrosse powerhouse. There are expensive lacrosse sticks left all over the place.

The spokesman for the group said, “We are not perfect, but there is an unstated rule here at our school. No one touches anything that doesn’t belong to them. Nothing is ever stolen. That idea led to powerful ethical action. Those four quarters would be on that bench until the rightful owner retrieved them.

Second, honor codes had their beginning in the military academies for what should be an obvious reason. If you were on the battlefield and your life depended on your fellow soldier doing what he said he would do, you wouldn’t have time to second guess him. Likewise, the honor code of never leaving anyone behind spoke, in concrete terms, to how each soldier would conduct the business of war and underscore the importance of every human life. I would risk my life for you. There is another part to their honor codes that underscore the importance of honesty. You will not lie, cheat or steal nor WILL YOU TOLERATE ANYONE WHO DOES. People have been expelled from the service academies not because they cheated but because they knew someone who did and did not make that dishonesty known to the Honor Committee. That is hard to do, but what is harder is going to war thinking that you may have a dishonest person having your back who may or may not be good to his word.

My son attended Princeton University. Princeton has one of the first honor codes in the nation established in 1893. When you receive the “book” which describes the code and when the student signs off on it, you know that you are entering a school that prides itself on honesty. You promise not to cheat on examinations, tests, or quizzes that are conducted in your classes.

That’s the type of person we should want to be around. Too bad some Washington politicians haven’t discovered those words that were first said to me when I was a teenager!

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