The Efficacy and Morality of Brutal Interrogations and Use of Deadly Force

PAY ATTENTION! TAKE A POSITION! SPEAK UP! I believe we are at a moral crossroad. And we must think carefully before we decide which road to take. Since out founding the values of America were embodies in grand and lofty documents including the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, especially the Preamble and the Bill of Rights.All of us who …

Historical Context for What is Going on in Ferguson and New York City: The Kerner Report

The summers of 1964-1967 were marked by civil disorders, rioting and looting in African-American neighborhoods of major cities including Los Angeles (Watts Riot of 1965), Chicago (Division Street Riots of 1966), Newark (1967 Newark riots) and Detroit (1967 Detroit Riots) In all, these disorders resulted in millions of dollars of damage[1] and the loss of 83 lives. In response, President Lyndon Johnson …

COMMENTARY 887.1: Democracy and Respectful Discourse

On this Fourth of July, I hope you will take time to experience pride in and appreciation for the great qualities of our country. One quality of our democracy is that every citizen is a public official. Thus, the passionate advocacy of political convictions is not only a right, it’s a patriotic obligation. What worries me, however, is the tendency of many …

Memo From Michael: Secrets, Surveillance, Trust & Credibility – What’s a President to Do? Take this simple survey illuminating the complex issues involved in the apparent eavesdropping on heads of state of friendly countries.

Take the survey here. I have been disturbed about the shallowness of public discussions concerning the revelation that U.S. intelligence agencies have been and still are conducting extensive surveillance on the phones (and presumably other communications) of heads of state (and presumably other top government officials). I have heard well known and respected pundits and politicians base their opinions (often stated …

MEMO From Michael: Happy CHARACTER COUNTS! Week!

I am in Washington, D.C., looking out my hotel window at the Washington Monument, which is undergoing renovation and shrouded in scaffolding. I’m here for a meeting of the Josephson Institute’s Board of Governors. Two important things happened in Congress last night. Of course you know that both the Senate and House finally approved a budget (for a few months) …

MEMO From Michael: Violence and Mass Killings: Our New Reality?

What a sad irony that right after re-living the tragedies of the 9/11 terrorist attacks we are confronted with another senseless mass shooting, resulting in 12 deaths and eight injuries at the Washington Navy Yard. And while we are digesting that, 13 people were shot in a Chicago, apparently the result of a random shooting by a roving gang. Do …

WHAT DOES THE FLAG MEAN TO YOU? Are noble democratic ideals and aspirations embodied in our founding documents infused into the DNA of the American flag? They are for me.

June 14 – official Flag Day in the U.S. ! Do you care? What does the American flag mean to you? And, if you are not American, what does your flag stand for in your heart?I doubt that many young people have any special feelings when they stand for the National Anthem or utter the memorized but undigested words of the …

A Letter from Bogota: What Do You Think About CHARACTER COUNTS! in Colombia?

I am writing this post from Bogota, Colombia. I am halfway through a full week of high-level meetings and various presentations to educators, parents and government officials. What am I talking about? Ethics and character, of course. More specifically, I am sharing my thoughts and the Institute’s strategies and programs dealing with character development, parenting, education reform and the corruption …

COMMENTARY 800.5: The Truth About Trust

Everyone seems to understand the importance of trust. No one seems to doubt the vital role that  it plays in personal relationships, business, and politics. We want to trust the people in our lives and we want them to trust us. Trust is so hard to earn and so easy to lose. So why do so many trust seekers resort …

COMMENTARY 800.4: Eight Laws of Leadership

Take a look around. Business, education, politics. If there’s one thing we don’t have enough of, it’s good leaders – men and women who have the vision and the ability to change things for the better. Former Air Force General William Cohen wrote a fine book called The Stuff of Heroes in which he identified eight laws of leadership. Here …

Memo From Michael: Gratitude, Compassion and Civic Duty in the Wake of Sandy

The unprecedented devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy challenges us to be both more grateful for all we have and compassionate, genuinely compassionate, toward those who have suffered life-altering losses. At the same time, a very important election is coming up and it deserves your attention and participation. It’s frustrating that many of us live in solid blue or red states, …

COMMENTARY 780.5: The Truth About Trust

Everyone seems to understand the importance of trust. No one seems to doubt the vital role that  it plays in personal relationships, business and politics. We want to trust the people in our lives and we want them to trust us. Trust is so hard to earn and so easy to lose. So why do so many trust seekers resort …

COMMENTARY 777.1: Day of Gratitude

Our nation was conceived by idealistic and courageous political leaders, but it was preserved by the immense and immeasurable sacrifice of millions of soldiers who fought and died to transform the democratic principles embodied in the Declaration of Independence into a country we proudly call the United States of America.

COMMENTARY 776.5: Coaching for Character

I’ve spent lots of time with some of the world’s most successful coaches. I discovered that many of them think about character a lot, especially traits that are important to winning – like self-discipline, perseverance, resiliency, and courage. They pay less attention to virtues like honesty, integrity, responsibility, compassion, respect, and fairness – aspects of character that make a good …

OBSERVATION: One of the objectives of the Founding Fathers is captured in the expression of John Adams that the new American political system was to be based on “a government of laws, and not of men.”

In his 7th “Novanglus” letter, published in the Boston Gazette in 1774, John Adams  introduced this phrase to the American discourse. According to Quotes and Counter Quotes, the concept of “a government of laws, and not of men” reflects a political philosophy that dates back to the ancient Greeks. But the phrase itself was enshrined in history and quotation books by John Adams prior …

WORTH READING: Wow! Lots of interesting findings and facts on Religion in America

Today’s commentary looks at some of the data in a major survey conducted by the Pew Forum for Religion & American Life. The study comprehensively details the belief patterns of the 14 largest religious traditions. Below is a more complete summary of key findings I found interesting. BELIEF IN GOD. 92% believe in God or a universal spirit; only 8% say …

COMMENTARY 764.3: Eight Laws of Leadership

Take a look around. Business, education, politics. If there’s one thing we don’t have enough of, it’s good leaders – men and women who have the vision and the ability to change things for the better. Former Air Force General William Cohen wrote a fine book called The Stuff of Heroes in which he identified eight laws of leadership. Here …

QUOTES: All About Courage — 64 Great Quotes on the Nature of Courage

The Josephson institute is a nonprofit organization that depends on contributions from people like you. Please help us make a more ethical society or simply show your gratitude for whatever value you find in our work by making a tax-deductible donation at http://goo.gl/uUAix See Images of and Words of Courage here. QUOTES ON COURAGE Courage is rightly esteemed the first of human …

OBSERVATION: Courage and Integrity in Politics — Understanding that “politics is the art of the possible” is not an invitation to subordinate principles to expediency, but a reflection of the moral wisdom that the highest principle in government is to make things better.” -Michael Josephson

President Kennedy,  in Profiles in Courage, said, “A man does what he must — in spite of personal consequences, in spite of obstacles and dangers and pressures — and that is the basis of all human morality.” For a leader, doing what must be done is more than risking or sacrificing one’s life. The harder and rarer form of courage is …

WORTH READING: Political Courage and Integrity – Profiles in Courage

In 1956, Profiles in Courage, written by John F. Kennedy, the junior senator from Massachusetts. was published. The book won the Pulitzer prize for biography. There is substantial controversy as to whether Senator Kennedy, who was elected President in 1960, was the true and sole author of the book and the circumstances surrounding the winning of the Pulitzer Prize. I address …

COMMENTARY: Confessions of a Lincoln Groupie 762.2

There is something ironic about the huge frenzy of publicity on February 12 surrounding the sudden and tragic death of pop star Whitney Houston. The irony is that all this media attention obscured the fact that February 12 is the birthday of the greatest President this nation has ever had, Abraham Lincoln, the man who signed the Emancipation proclamation ending …

COMMENTARY: Stars Above and Stars Within 756.4

According to an article in The Wall Street Journal, two-thirds of the world’s population, including almost everyone in the continental United States and Europe, no longer see a starry sky where they live. The reason: City lights prevent us from seeing much more than a canopy of gray shadows. What a pity. In rural or remote areas with little or …

COMMENTARY 751.2: What Is Character?

Here’s a riddle: You can hardly ever find it anymore — especially in politics or business. Lots of schools don’t teach it anymore. We want more of it in our children and in all the adults who interact with them. We want it from our bosses and the people who fix our cars. And most of us believe we have …

COMMENTARY: Who Am I to Judge? – The Ethics of Moral Judgments 751.1

Almost every week someone indignantly attacks my integrity because I offended them with a real or perceived opinion they didn’t like. The underlying assumption is that stating an opinion on any controversial matter violates the sacred duty of neutrality. First, I’m a teacher and a commentator, not a judge or journalist. Although I strive mightily to be objective, I don’t …

COMMENTARY: Ask What Can You Do for Your Country

In 1961, President John F. Kennedy, invoked my generation to “Ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.” We are fortunate to live in a free and democratic society where millions of civilians and soldiers serve their fellow citizens. Last Friday was Veteran’s Day and the weekend provided the nation …

OBSERVATION: In a democracy, every citizen is a public official.

Former Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who was used to partisan politics and intense debates, pointed out that, “Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts.” When we instinctively choose to believe what we want to believe or construe all evidence in favor of our predispositions, we effectively disable our ability to participate in rational discourse. If