(Lori Piotrowski) – This week we celebrate the 279th anniversary of George Washington’s birth. As a child, we all heard and then retold the fable of the felled cherry tree. The famous line attributed to our country’s founding father, “I cannot tell a lie,” shaped our psyche. It molded our sense of honor. Even though we now admit to telling little white lies way back then, we felt obligated to admit to the larger wrong-doings. We may even have felt a little pride at emulating Washington as we owned up to chopping down our own cherry tree.
But as I read about the State ethics panel last week and its request for additional funding, I wondered, “Whatever happened to honor?” Why should we even need a State Ethics Commission?” By extension, in Wisconsin, teachers walked out on their jobs in an effort to save what they feel is a right. What about the right of the children to their education? Doctors flocked to the capitol building to write medical excuses. How does lying fit with the Hippocratic oath? Do they find honor in avoiding or abusing their power? Is this honorable?
Sadly, power has replaced honor. People have learned that lying or cheating to improve their situation often is rewarded. But this answer is also a sad one—because it reflects on where we are as a society in 2011. And we’ve come a long way from that famous, felled cherry tree.