Way back in 2011 you asked me to share the Top Ten Life Principles I would teach my son if I were to have one at this stage of my life. What would I tell him after my six decades on the planet?
As you can tell so far, the last seven principles are important to me. But, here goes with what must be THE most important…
ACT WITH INTEGRITY
I am not sure why this Principle ended up as #8. It is the foundation from which to build the only life I think worth living, an honorable one. I first experienced the concept of integrity as a child through what your grandfather said and did. Later, I learned and lived it myself as a West Point cadet. The Academy reinforced what Grandpa had been teaching me in two ways: its Motto and Honor Code.
“Duty, Honor, Country”
My alma mater’s motto was adopted in 1898. Once established, the United States Military Academy’s mission became, in part, to educate, train and inspire character committed to the values of “Duty, Honor, Country”. Your grandfather was there in 1962 to hear GEN Douglas MacArthur accept the Sylvanus Thayer Award in a remarkable speech:
“Duty, Honor, Country. Those three hallowed words reverently dictate what you ought to be, what you can be, what you will be.”
What he shared about those three words has reverberated in the souls of countless men, whether West Pointers or not, who have chosen to live lives filled with integrity.
That night GEN MacArthur also reaffirmed the value of the twelve word Cadet Honor Code. He linked it to the very essence of the United States Military Academy and great men everywhere. Through my 47 month West Point experience, I was immersed in its character-building, honor-embedded training program. In 1976, West Point was rocked by a massive honor scandal. Sadly, some of my peers had cheated on an Electrical Engineering exam and were asked to leave. Seeing the Code violated and integrity broken by those I deeply respected was a life-changing experience. It reinforced integrity as my life’s centerpiece but revealed how fragile this rock really was.
In those experiences and the decades since here is what I have learned about honor: