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WALL: The ethical lesson of humility
Loudoun County Virginia is booming. As one of the fastest growing counties in the country, new homes and businesses are beginning to pepper the lush farm-like landscape with more people and property. Debates over urban sprawl are plentiful (and all-too-common across the country) as efforts to balance preservation and profit heat up.
In the midst of the debates and accusations of cozy relationships, Loudoun County supervisors have now said “no” to builder donations. They have voted to bar themselves from accepting campaign contributions from builders and others with proposals before the board.
My first thought upon hearing this news was: “Wow! What a breath of fresh air.” Politicians with the wisdom and moral clarity to keep their decisions free of influence and potential corruption. It’s not only the right thing to do, but one shining example of humility. They had to humble themselves (put their own desire, self-worth, self-estimation aside) for the good of the county.
Contrary to popular belief, humility is a sign of strength, not weakness. This is something our national leaders need more of and the candidates for president should strongly embrace.
Last week, President Bush summoned a handful of conservative columnists to the Oval Office for a mostly off-the-record briefing. We discussed a range of topics, including gas prices, FISA and Iraq.
On this day, Mr. Bush (who at many times has shown acts of humility) seemed particularly feisty and had a lot to say. I got the impression that there were some simple insights the president has been itching to share with the two presumptive presidential candidates if they would simply humble themselves long enough to listen.
John McCain and Mr. Bush met at the White House earlier this year when the senator clinched the nomination. It was a brief meeting meant to show solidarity, but no one doubts that the two men see quite differently on a range of issues.
Barack Obama and Mr. Bush have not met and it’s safe to say he’s not the guy Mr. Bush is rooting for in this election. But whether there is insight to be gained from the person in the position Mr. Obama is seeking, is worth much consideration.
We all know that hindsight is 20-20 and much will be written about what went right and wrong during this presidency. But consider how much hindsight wouldn’t be needed with a little more forethought and deference. Taking the time to consider the wisdom of others through their successes and failures is the beginning of humility.
No one expects the next commander-in-chief to walk in lock-step with his predecessor, (no matter the political affiliation) but there is a wealth of wisdom that comes with passing the mantle . Wisdom that doesn’t have to wait until January 2009.
A hard-headed (and sometimes hot-tempered) John McCain has defied the White House position (and a majority of public support) with his opposition to drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). He’s now “slightly” changed his position to allow “some drilling” off the Coast of Florida and other areas in an effort to address rising gas prices. But Mr. McCain refuses to give an inch on ANWR. Sticking by one’s principles is admirable. Stubbornness is not.
Last year, Barack Obama dismissively hinted to a reporter that he would likely scrap the White House Office of Faith-Based Initiatives WHOFBI (a chime routinely sounded by liberal separation-of-church-and-state types). But last week Mr. Obama began singing a different tune and said not only would he keep the WHOFBI, but expand it. Mr. Obama wasted no time criticizing President Bush for the program he’s now embracing, undoubtedly biting the hand that fed him what those in the faith-based community champion as a success. Mr. Obama’s pride (and lack of humility) wouldn’t allow him to simply acknowledge the program’s success under President Bush.
Stubbornness, like pride and arrogance are, not ironically, the direct opposite of humility. And Proverbs 29:23 (New American Standard) warns: “A man’s pride will bring him low.”
We’ve seen that scenario play out in too many cases to name.
In biblical times, King Solomon exhibited great humility. When God asked what he wanted (with no preconditions), all King Solomon sought was wisdom - wisdom to discern between right and wrong. And God was pleased, “because you have asked for this thing and have not asked for yourself long life, nor have asked riches for yourself, nor have you asked for the life of your enemies.” Because he didn’t ask for those things, God granted him what he asked in addition to all those things - both riches and honor and long life.
About the Author
- McCain believes Iran election was rigged
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