INTEGRITY IN OUR ELECTION
The Children Know
by James F. Bracher 10-06-04
What horrible lessons are we teaching the next generation
about freedom and democracy in the ways we allow our
candidates for public office to treat one another?
When children hurl insults at one another, they are
given “time outs” and told to think about
their destructive behaviors and apologize for their
immaturity. In contrast, some candidates for elected
offices, across this nation, all the way to those pursuing
the presidency, are cheered when they castigate competitors,
while denigrating members of opponents’ families,
including spouses, children and even parents. Criticizing
competitors unfairly and disparaging those with whom
we disagree propels a culture toward destructive battle
lines. Those who engage in this personal attack approach
are seeking the voting public’s sanction for
their vile rhetoric. These architects of anger are
able to fuel their relationship-eroding behaviors by
stirring up those who vote to accept their self-serving
and righteous condemnations of those who see issues
differently. This venom will poison the body politic
and destroy the democratic organism that is the promise
of America, where fair play and civility are supposed
to reign supreme.
If automobile manufacturers slammed their competitors
in the way political parties are enabling candidates
to behave, by doling out millions of dollars to create
vicious attacks on those who offer a different promise
and program, then the buying public would react in
disbelief. Chances are that the “attacking vehicle
manufacturer” would receive sanctions from the
public, and suffer reduced sales. If the medical community
allowed or encouraged its professionals to disparage
peers through personal attacks, patients would be immobilized.
Their anxiety would cause them to ask who they might
trust to care for their health needs. Doctors are obligated
to make the commitment to honor their profession, monitor
their own standards, and are encouraged, when called
for, to solicit second opinions, seeking the additional
expertise of colleagues. If other professions are behaving
in mature ways, then politicians, who are asking for
us to vote them in so they can accept the mantle of
responsibility for sustaining our freedoms – they
should behave with the same nobility.
What is wrong with recognizing that a competitor
is doing a good job? What is so harmful about acknowledging
that someone else has a good idea? One would assume
that when the future leadership of the world is at
stake that neither candidate would be so awful, ignorant,
incompetent, nor unscrupulous that society would
collapse with their selection. Why not praise the
competitor? Other professionals operate that way
because they recognize the contributions of those
whose skills lie in their fields of endeavor.
On those occasions when career changes have required
relocations for our family from Illinois to Missouri,
then to Connecticut, Indiana and California – one
experience was consistent. Every physician, dentist,
insurance agent, real estate broker, automobile dealer,
banker and others who provided services to our family – every
time, praised those who had previously been helpful
to us. In some cases, different services were required.
There were needs for new medicines, replacement fillings,
different property and health “coverage’s,” modifications
of financial services, and on and on. In no case was
the previous provider ridiculed, criticized and attacked.
So, what gives candidates the right to be cruel and
vicious? The answer is public silence, interpreted
as acceptance by abusive politicians, complemented
by applauding masses rallying around the “wrestling-mania
culture” that cheers the verbal violence and
screams for even more superficial personal attacks – providing
little substance, but appearing to be both legitimate
and important by raising the meaningless noise levels
to a counter-productive crescendo.
What might candidates do to change this drift away from
being civil, meaning being both courteous and polite?
My recommendation is that those powerful adults, who
want to be elected, should take the time to live by the
Eight Attributes of an Integrity-Centered organization.
Children, who were as young as eight years old, and as
old as seventeen, sat down with me in April of 2004 and
delineated what the Eight Attributes (constructive behavior
concepts) meant to them. They spoke with conviction that
everyone should be kind - not cruel or sarcastic. Individuals
should be thoughtful - not judging; patient - not rude,
allowing others to finish their thoughts. These young
people remind us that we should work hard to be helpful
- not harmful; remembering that we are, all of us, more
alike than different. Is political responsibility really
any different? After all, if one has to reach the position
through behaving in dirty and dishonest ways, how much
of the taint and the stench remain on the person and
the office after elected?
Taking a few minutes to read what the children say
can teach us a way to look freshly at how all adults,
including those seeking public office, need to behave,
all the time. When the voting public refuses to support
candidates who choose not to conduct their campaigns
along constructive behaviors outlined by the Eight
Attributes, politicians will modify their approaches.
When a disappointed public stops sending in contributions
to “un-civil” campaigns,
and ceases to vote for those who operate in vicious
ways, the situation will improve. The alternative was
addressed a few years ago in our weekly Integrity
Matters newspaper column:
Why have political campaigns become so dirty? Why do
we put up with politicians who seek to destroy opponents?
Because a significant segment of our society enjoys
wallowing in filth. We are witness to a proliferation
of smut and violence in many segments: television,
movies, comedy, music and writing.
Political activities reflect a world that worships
conquerors vanquishing opponents. The positive difference
in modern times may be that we no longer literally
kill those whom we defeat. We humiliate them, embarrass
their families and hire "dirty trick" specialists
to distribute disinformation (lies) about their records.
When we choose to reward dignity with respect and
social service with loyalty and honor, we will
likely attract a higher caliber process. Until
then, you might as well take your gas mask to
the voting booth and elect the lesser-smelling
To initiate some change, consider this: rate your
candidates on how well they exhibit the “constructive” behaviors.
On a scale of 1 to 10; 1 being low and 10 being high – how
is the candidate behaving? If he or she is not exhibiting
the right behavior, let them know and demand INTEGRITY
IN OUR ELECTION PROCESS. To get started, review the
straight-forward language used by young people, and
think about the styles of those who want you to vote
for them. If they are not exhibiting the socially-constructive
actions outlined by these Eight
Attributes, then you
will know what to do about it. No response on your
part is an endorsement for more of the same. And, we
all know this is not the kind of society we should
bestow upon current and future generations.
Boys and Girls Clubs
of Monterey County, California applying
Eight Attributes of an Integrity-Centered Company
by James F. Bracher© - April 2, 2004
Do the leaders of your organization exhibit congruence
between what they say and what they do, as well as
what they say about what they did? Do leaders exhibit
the right behavior?
- Respect yourself and others
- Be an example of courage (fair, firm, consistent and kind)
- Care about other people around you
- What people do when no one is watching
Do you have confidence that your leaders would
never engage in or sanction misrepresentation?
- Listen openly
- Be honest and tell the truth
- Respond with care
Is appropriate information about your organization
- Know and understand the rules
- Help others to make use of all that our Club has to offer
Are you able to correct a customer problem? Do
you have confidence that your actions will be supported?
- Use common sense to do the right thing
- Know that you have the right to do something, to take action
- Explain when actions have been taken that might not fit with our
- Listen, think and learn from what has been done right, and what
has been done wrong
Does your company pride itself on timely fulfillment
of all commitments?
- Be on time, every time
- Be prepared: Think, Plan, Do --- in that order
- Look for ways to help one another --- and then pitch in!
- Leave things better than you find them
- Be a good citizen
When individuals, including senior executives, under-perform
repeatedly, are they given due process and then,
if necessary, replaced?]
- Live up to promises
- Understand and follow the rules
- Respect others: their rights, their property, their feelings
- Own-up to your own actions -- what has been done right, and what
has been done wrong
Boys and Girls Clubs of Monterey
I will treat other people with courtesy and
respect at all times.
I will be accountable for my own actions.
I will do my part to take good care of my Club.
I will be considerate of those around me.
I will obey the rules.
As a Boys & Girls Club member,
I will do my best to be a good citizen at all
Does your organization reach out to those in need?
- Give to others with no strings attached -- don't expect to get anything
- Make sure the right tools, materials and help are available at our
- Share the story of how we help others at our Club
Does your organization demonstrate care and concern
for all stakeholders?
- Be kind - not cruel or sarcastic
- Be thoughtful - not judging (listen and learn about others)
- Be patient - not rude (allow others to finish their thoughts)
- Be helpful - not harmful
- Remember that we are more alike than different
- Accept differences
- Work with others
Young people know what is right and so do we. It is
time for those in politics to act like integrity-centered
children and exhibit the Eight
Attributes. Do your
part and tell those who ask for your support that integrity
(really) matters and you are demanding it of them.
James F. Bracher
Bracher Center for Integrity in Leadership
1400 Munras Avenue
Monterey, California 93940
James F. (Jim) Bracher created the Bracher
Center for Integrity in Leadership in 2002, as an extension
of his 33 years advising individuals and organizations.
Those who have sought Jim's counsel include entrepreneurs,
corporate executives, and individuals addressing succession
concerns. Jim's leadership development firm, Dimension
Five Consultants, Inc., of which he is Founder and
Chairman, is located in Monterey, California, and was
established in 1980.
Prior to Dimension Five, Jim, an ordained clergyman,
served ten years as a chaplain, associate minister,
and senior pastor. His assignments were Saint Louis
Country Day School in Ladue, Missouri; Second Congregational
Church in Greenwich, Connecticut; First Congregational
Church in Terre Haute, Indiana; and Community Church
of the Monterey Peninsula in Carmel, California.
The motivation for the Bracher Center grew from suggestions
of clients. They realized that Dimension Five was
collecting data concerning effective and integrity-centered
leadership that would enable leaders to gain insight
into their own operational effectiveness as well
as that of their organizations. Jim also saw a
need for a Resources section on the website focused
on learning, study, and knowledge concerning the
role of integrity in effective leadership. The
Bracher Center shares insights that have been gained
by Dimension Five in consultation with 8,000 leaders.
Jim's education includes a Bachelor of Arts, Elmhurst
College; and a Master of Divinity, Eden Theological
Seminary. He has continued his education at Whittier
College, Hebrew Union University, Oxford University
and the Hudson Institute.
His work has been featured on network television, in
national newspapers and business journals. He is
the originator of the "Talking with Leaders" symposia.
Jim's professional experience includes advisory councils
and boards of directors. Along with his advisors
and faculty at the Bracher Center, he restores
integrity through insight.
Co-author of the book Integrity
Matters with Daniel
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