Category Archives: Integrity

Why We’re Not Post-Racial … yet.

by Ronald Court

A couple of Wall Street Journal articles, one from last November editorial and one today by Peggy Noonan indicate that the road we’re on to a post-racial society continues to be bumpy.
      Over time, ‘color’ will, hopefully and eventually, become a non-issue. (note: to be ‘color-blind’ is not to be ‘culture-blind.’ It is to acknowledge skin color as irrelevant in matters that count.)
      The common saying, ‘You can’t judge a book by its cover’ applies, as both Booker T. Washington and Martin Luther King, Jr. attested.
      Still, some don’t ‘get it.’
      Last November Alabama Congressman Artur Davis voted against the health-care bill. He probably expected some grief from his fellow Democrats. But he was also accused of selling out his race.
      He was the only black Member to oppose the legislation, and his vote earned him a rebuke from Jesse Jackson at a Congressional Black Caucus Foundation reception. “We even have blacks voting against the health-care bill,” said Mr. Jackson. “You can’t vote against health care and call yourself a black man.”
      When a politician’s skin color is gratuitously invoked in a debate about whether the government should have more control of health care, you have to wonder if some politicians are seriously interested in a color-blind society. Former President Jimmy Carter suggested that whites who oppose the President’s policies are racists; Mr. Jackson said blacks who oppose them are betraying their race.
      And just this past week, Shirley Sherrod was, “smeared by right-wing media, condemned by the NAACP and canned by the Obama administration” (and then offered her job back). Clearly, some folks, left and right, are simply too quick to infuse race into every issue.
      Ms. Sherrod showed real class in informing the folks at the NAACP meeting that it’s “really about those who have versus those who don’t”.
      It is a shame the media pounced on Ms. Sherrod’s out-of-context words. But perhaps even more so that the NAACP leadership and Obama administration were so quick to judge.
      It reminded me of Proverbs 15:14 “The discerning heart seeks knowledge, but the mouth of a fool feeds on folly.

“Float Like A Butterfly, Sting Like A Bee”

By Harris Sherline

“Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee,” was perhaps the most widely recognized taunt during the years that Muhammad Ali dominated the fight game. He was and is a larger than life personality, transcending even the ravages of Parkinson’s disease, which sidelined him some years ago.

But, the Muhammad Ali most people remember, especially America’s seniors, is a man who overcame every obstacle he encountered on his way to the top of his profession, exhibiting uncommon strength of both character and will as he went. He is a towering personality, still beloved by people around the world.

Without question, Muhammad Ali was the most famous African American of his time and remains among the most widely recognized faces on the planet, widely remembered as one of the greatest prize fighters of all time, if not the greatest, a three-time winner of the heavyweight world title. Famous for his prowess in the ring and his ability to promote himself, he grew up in Louisville, Kentucky, the son of a billboard sign painter and a household domestic. He was named after his father, Cassius Marcellus Clay, Sr., which Ali changed when he joined the Nation of Islam in 1964.

However, “Aligning himself with the Nation of Islam made him a lightning rod for controversy, turning the outspoken but popular champion into one of that era’s most recognized and controversial figures.”

There was a time when Ali was reviled and attacked by many of the very people who later came to admire him. During the Vietnam War, he refused to serve in the United States Army, on the grounds that he considered himself to be a conscientious objector, stating, “War is against the teachings of the Holy Qur’an. I’m not trying to dodge the draft. We are not supposed to take part in no wars unless declared by Allah or The Messenger. We don’t take part in Christian wars or wars of any unbelievers.”

I remember, at the time, most Americans thought his claim was merely a ploy to avoid serving in the military, that he was ungrateful for the opportunities and financial success he had been able to achieve in this country. But, he stood firm, not only adhering to his Muslim faith but having to deal with having his title stripped from him.

Ali said, “I’m not trying to dodge the draft. We are not supposed to take part in no wars unless declared by Allah or The Messenger. We don’t take part in Christian wars or wars of any unbelievers.” Ali also famously said in 1966: “I ain’t got no quarrel with them Viet Cong …They never called me nigger.”

When he appeared for his scheduled induction into the U.S. Armed Forces in 1967, Ali “refused three times to step forward at the call of his name. An officer warned him he was committing a felony punishable by five years in prison and a fine of $10,000. Once more, Ali refused to budge when his name was called. As a result, on that same day, the New York State Athletic Commission suspended his boxing license and stripped him of his title. Other boxing commissions followed suit.”

The jury gave Ali short shrift, finding him guilty after deliberating for only 21 minutes. He received the maximum sentence, which was upheld on appeal in New York, and the case subsequently went to the U.S. Supreme Court, where he ultimately prevailed. After not being able to fight for three-and-a-half years, he regained his title in 1974, defeating the then champion, George Foreman, in one of the biggest upsets in boxing history. Held in Zaire, Africa, the fight was billed as the “The Rumble in The Jungle,” drawing the largest audience in history at the time.

Although Ali has been faulted for many of the choices he has made during his lifetime, he is a living demonstration of the fact that “character counts,” displaying uncommon courage and strength of character by converting to the Muslim religion in the face of widespread intolerance, refusing to yield in spite of the damage to his reputation and the loss of his livelihood, and the threat of losing his freedom. He was clearly prepared to go to jail for his principles.

Today, at age 66, dealing with the ravages of Parkinson’s disease, Ali is a living example of character and grace. Notwithstanding the various shortcomings and perhaps his less than exemplary behavior at various times during his earlier life, Ali has become a model of courage and dignity for all to see and emulate. Traveling throughout the world to participate in a wide variety of events, he has become one of the most beloved figures of our time, a living example of the fact that character counts.

Blessed with a gift for words, Ali has made many quotable statements. “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee” is perhaps the best known, but others truly exemplify his great character:

Hating people because of their color is wrong. And it doesn’t matter which color does the hating. It’s just plain wrong.

I know I got it made while the masses of black people are catchin’ hell, but as long as they ain’t free, I ain’t free.

Friendship is the hardest thing in the world to explain. It’s not something you learn in school. But if you haven’t learned the meaning of friendship, you really haven’t learned anything.

I never thought of losing, but now that it’ s happened, the only thing is to do it right. That’s my obligation to all the people who believe in me. We all have to take defeats in life.

Old age is just a record of one’s whole life.

To be able to give away riches is mandatory if you wish to possess them. This is the only way that you will be truly rich.

Wars of nations are fought to change maps. But wars of poverty are fought to map change.

We have one life; it soon will be past; what we do for God is all that will last.

What keeps me going is goals.

© 2008 Harris R. Sherline, All Rights Reserved

NOTE: Read more of Harris Sherline’s commentaries on his blog at “opinionfest.com.”

It’s a Crisis of Character, not of Financial Markets

By Reggie Jones

Booker T. is said to have defined character thus: “Character is Power.”

Character is “how you behave when no one’s watching.” The present financial crisis is a wake up call to recognize the importance of character. The so-called leaders of Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac, along with their enabler politicians, are largely responsible for actions that brought us to the financial brink. Yet the media blames it on a lack of oversight and under-regulation, claiming Republicans weren’t watching the store.

But the real question is, “Why the need for oversight?” Don’t responsible people know the difference between right and wrong?

Yet, in today’s society, highly paid people, from athletes to politicians even US Presidents have engaged in illegal and immoral activities and do not hesitate to lie when caught. Oversight? Meaningless when fans and political parties stand behind them.

Finding celebrities without character all too easy, making it all the more difficult for young people to withstand pop culture pressure and develop proper character. Yet the bitter fruit of the lack of good moral character among so many is all too apparent. Skyrocketing out-of-wedlock birth rates among young and younger teens. Rising rates of sexually transmitted disease (STD). families break down.

But speak out against these trends and you are labeled as judgmental. Success is less and less defined as living a constructive, productive life, but more and more by having more ‘bling’ than the next guy.

Booker T. Washington never wallowed in self pity for lack of ‘bling,’ nor for being born a slave. Rather, he used his struggle as motivation to improve himself. He refused to hate white people, choosing to seek common ground through forgiveness. He understood and applied the wisdom of the Judeo-Christian concept of forgiveness.

He showed that character – above all – was essential to attaining success. He also defined character as having a strong faith in God, keeping your word, taking responsibility for your actions, serving your fellow man, exercising thrift in financial affairs, and following the golden rule.

If more people on Wall Street and at either end of Pennsylvania Avenue adhered to Booker T.’s ideal and model of character, our country would not be having to deal with our present moral and financial crisis.

Character & Integrity

By Ronald Court

If we want to help students develop character and become leaders of integrity, we better be clear about what that really means. Or we risk seeking objectives as vague as that judge’s description of pornography: “I can’t describe it, but I know it when I see it.”

We need good working definitions for “character” and “integrity.” After googling around a bit, here’s my take:

It takes character to do the right thing. … and
It takes integrity to do the right thing all the time.

…Even when it hurts.

Persons of integrity live by a code of moral values—and sticks to it. It doesn’t have to be complicated. The civic organization, Rotary, has a simple “4-Way Test” of all the things they think, say or do:

1. Is it the TRUTH?

2. Is it FAIR to all concerned?

3. Will it build GOODWILL and better friendships?

4. Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?”

Easy to say. Hard to do.
—-But the payoff is a life lived on purpose and with direction!

“Integrity without knowledge is weak and useless, and knowledge without integrity is dangerous and dreadful.”– Samuel Johnson

Booker T. knew that. And now, so do you.