My upbringing at home, at the military college I attended, as an officer in the Army and during my banking career infused in me the values I hold dear today—duty, honor, integrity, ethics. By following the meaning of those four simple words one cannot help but do what is right no matter the consequences or how difficult the path might be. The values upon which I base my life and career have always guided me through the most difficult times. Heroes whom I admire—such as Churchill, Lincoln, Jackson, Lee, Truman and Jefferson—all, at one time or another in their careers, chose the right thing, even though it was the difficult path, and in nearly every case they suffered personally for those decisions though history has proved them true.
In a letter to his son, General Robert E. Lee wrote, “Duty then is the sublimest word in the English language. You should do your duty in all things. You can never do more, you should never wish to do less.” Churchill famously said, “You have enemies, good! It means you stood for something, sometime in your life.”
Reasonable persons can legitimately disagree on issues and on different paths to resolutions of those issues, and in fact they should. That is the beauty of a democracy into which I was fortunate to be born. Our nation’s forefathers in their infinite wisdom wisely laid out a process for debate, robust conversation, checks and balances, and separation of power. But there was never disagreement over honor, integrity and ethics. I will never violate those codes, nor assume others whose views may differ from mine are acting in any way less than honorably.
Sadly, we live in a time where such assumptions can be naïve and perhaps dangerous. Personal attacks over public policy disagreements have no place in professional discourse. It is such personal attacks that are paralyzing Washington, D.C. Rather than having civil discourse on very tough issues, many now engage in the politics of personal destruction. And where that stops, God only knows. But it is hurting our ability to engage in meaningful discussion.
As long as those bankers who lead ICBA entrust me to represent the nation’s community banks, my staff and I will strive always to do the right thing for those for whom we are responsible. I will give my best effort to represent their interests as expressed by those volunteer bankers who govern this great association, no matter how difficult the path and no matter what attacks are made against the association or me personally. As my parents, my educators, my faith and most of all my community bank colleagues for whom I have the utmost respect have taught me over my lifetime and my career—it is never wrong to do the right thing. But it is almost always the most difficult path to take.