In the January 18, 2008 edition of The Wall Street Journal, the Cartoonist for Pepper…and Salt provided a very succinct tongue in cheek dichotomy faced by modern business when he said, “Raise your hands those in favor of saving their soul rather than the company.” In response to this witticism and in the hope that the alternatives are not mutually exclusive I ask, “What if we didn’t have to choose?"
In jest, it is humorous. In reality, I am appalled that there is a pervasive belief in American society that one has to give up making ethical decisions in order to survive in business.
We have failed to maintain and enliven the foundational essence of the American spirit that was historically based on the inseparable notions of free enterprise and honor. Instead, we have opted for this ‘new’ directive that mocks these sound beliefs and disarms an entire populace by creating an increasingly diverse demographic that believes that it can advance without moral guidance. The juxtaposed position of our populace into unfamiliar demographics should be a clear sign that we have erred. But, the implausible slow-moving mechanism to remove ethics in business has already blinded our ability to grasp tangible solutions for lack of foundation that could support a vision that could dare to recapture the personal responsibility associated with them. It becomes necessary to provide an avenue that not only embraces but demands economic advancement that does not tear at the ethical fiber of our nation. In the event that there is any doubt, a list of unenforced rules does not count towards proper ethics in the business community.
But how do we achieve this goal as a nation? One at a time.
In my personal pursuit of this objective, I have accepted entrance into the PhD program of Health and Public Affairs at the University of Central Florida in answer to our nation’s continuing moral dilemma. Once there, my goals are two-fold in nature and develop along the lines of short and long term goals. Through my own short term goal of advanced education, I hope to advance the development of other individuals by expanding their horizons in such a way as to allow them to take hold of opportunities that they may have otherwise missed for lack of knowledge or direction.
First and foremost, my short term personal educational goals support my desire to accommodate the additional skills and knowledge within a dynamic academic environment that will propel me to become a catalyst for change at both a personal and professional level. Secondly, my long term career goal is to utilize my education, skills and work experience to teach at advanced academic levels and to promote community activities that funnel the information to the general population where it matters most-right in the heart of the business communities.
These goals are also supported by the abundant opportunity to perform research for both the private and public sectors that will promote continued interest in advanced education, generate original thinking and produce viable options to diverse items that include localized business development that emphasizes the contributions of one to the many and globalization. Through my own education and as an example of a future outcome, it is my desire to remove the present limitations that are a product of compartmentalized government programs that prohibit access to capital and vital information to the general population as a whole and inclusively in that portion of the population who have become resigned in their fate of stagnation for lack of vision. Though I am not part of the demographic populace that believes that we can make sound business decisions without ethical guidance, I am also personally aware of the new demographic population that is facing the same fateful choices for similar reasons. What is that population? I am the educated, underemployed sector that is growing rapidly in this nation that must learn to succeed in a global economy with limited resources and even less financial support. But, it does not end there. If those who are normally able to start small businesses cannot do so, the impact of the loss of economic development can only effect those others who rely on those newly created jobs for survival or those that result from growth of existing companies through expansion. And so, the moral dilemma can only be expected to spiral downwards if the issue remains unaddressed or merely brushed over for the sake of public and community relations.
We have not been given an easy bone to chew.
But my directive as a future educator seems clear in this pursuit--allow the individual to first believe that they are able to move forward and then show them how this might be achieved through proactive awareness and action. In addition, the strategy emphasizes an atypical approach that serves as a primer for the individual advancement of ethics within our communities one person at a time through the eyes of personal responsibility. I am an ardent believer that it is a series of individuals that exact change to impact a community, not the popular notion that believes that it is the responsibility of the community. Responsible citizens make a responsible community. Further, this approach has the ability to promote incremental prosperity that can impact the entire nation instead of feeding into the defeatism that is evident in personal and societal loss. Whether driven by complacency and/or by those who have not been offered realistic alternatives that could alter that fate, it becomes irrelevant. What matters is that if we know better, doesn’t it become our responsibility to make others aware?
Beginning with myself, my goals are ultimately motivated by my desire to exact fundamental change in individuals which can cumulatively impact the economic and social environment of this nation. I do not wish to remain a part of the underemployed class. I believe that I can achieve these goals armed with the advanced education and exposure to a diverse student population that will capitalize on this information to enrich the prospects of this country even as we develop relations with others. In addition, the earned credential will eventually provide the necessary authority or platform that will carry credibility that has been tempered with the cumulative knowledge of my peers amongst those with the actual political power and prowess to exact the required changes.
Summarily, this opportunity that I have undertaken is my response to making sure that I personally am not forced to acquiesce. But of even more significance, it is my desire that I can find solutions that will help to ensure that we, as a nation, do not have to lose our ethics in order to stay afloat professionally. This path can produce the desired impetus to match my goal to not only increase knowledge but to stand at the forefront of industry armed with the ability to promote properly motivated and socially responsible change. Though I take this first step alone, I thank you for allowing me to share my goals and hope that you will be with me in prayer as I believe this is an important time for our nation. We cannot falter on the easy stuff. It just takes one person at a time…and together we can restore what we know is the true and correct option without losing our souls or our shirts.
Writer's Note: This original article has been adapted from an essay created for admissions to several PhD programs earlier in the year. I felt that the topic was worth a more public review.
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