It happens when a politician’s private choices are revealed to be different than the public philosophies espoused.
It happens every time a doctor or hospital is found to be overcharging patients in order to get more Medicaid money from the government.
It happens every time a nonprofit leader steers the organization in a direction that provides personal gain or furthers self-interest.
It happens every time entire churches are turned into political rallies as the gospel of their God is turned into a gospel of partisan politics.
It happens every time a teacher or a school district coaches students to take standardized tests so the district gets better scores.
It happens when companies pay executive salaries hundreds of times those of hourly workers even as they are eliminating the jobs of those same front-line employees.
It happens whenever financial advisors devise fraudulent tax shelters to help companies avoid paying their share of taxes.
It happens every time a magazine electronically enhances a photograph to make the subjects look better.
Too often individuals act like careless renters of the organizational integrity with which they are entrusted as employees, elected officials, or volunteer leaders. They act like impatient college students who unwilling to do the cleaning required before moving out of their summer sublet, gladly relinquish their previously paid security deposit and leave in shambles the place they never really thought of as their home.
But no security deposit is great enough to cover the increasing abuse hammering at the civic mindset essential to a successful democracy. We need ieaders to act like Owners, not renters.
As much as we are a nation of individuals, we are a nation of institutions and organizations. When individuals put self-interest before thinking of the greater good, they engage in the most selfish acts of all.
Repeated punches to the integrity of institutions no longer leave just deep bruises, but now result in broken bones and broken bonds of faith. Self-respect is degraded, institutional accountability declines, and the confidence that We the People should rightfully be able to have in the people and institutions that are part of our civic fabric is further unraveled.