Guest Columnist

Does character count? Let's vote on it

A Marion woman votes at a satellite voting station under the bleachers at Linn-Mar Stadium in Marion. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
A Marion woman votes at a satellite voting station under the bleachers at Linn-Mar Stadium in Marion. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

What’s the most difficult job in America?

A Character Counts instructor.

Character Counts is a program that teaches young people about “core ethical values” — traits that each student and citizen should possess to guide their attitudes and behaviors.

These values are:

• Trustworthiness

• Respect

• Responsibility

• Fairness

• Caring

• Citizenship.

Imagine being a 12-year-old who is told that character counts, that your life and the life of those around you depend on how people treat each other.

You hear the words and feel good about them. You take them to heart and commit to living up to them.

Then you leave school and turn on the TV or radio, scour social media, and witness how so-called role models talk and behave.

What does that 12-year-old see? They see an appalling lack of character from some of our most prominent political leaders. The Judge Kavanaugh hearings were a recent example. People elected to represent us were displaying the worst of behaviors — behaviors described as “pathetic” and “despicable” by the very leaders engaged in this monumental embarrassment!

More recently, we had the President of the United States, in a shameful and disgusting tweet, referring to a woman as a “horseface.”

The lack of character goes beyond national political leaders. We also see a disturbing lack of civility in state government. Additionally, we find unacceptable behavior in other sectors — the faith community, in business and media, in entertainment, in sport, in academia, etc.

So other than lament this state of affairs, what can we do?

For young people:

Believe the message — character does count. Accept the reality that some role models are NOT people of character. Learn from their bad example. Treat others the way you want to be treated. Don’t be tolerant or silent — speak out when you see unacceptable behavior.

Look for good examples. When you find them, listen and learn. Try to be like them.

For adults:

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Remember that children are watching. Tomorrow’s leaders learn, not from what we tell them to do, but by watching what they see us doing and saying.

And, let’s use the ballot box to reflect how we feel.

I feel like we’ve lost our way, that the United States of America and a united Iowa have become a divided nation and state driven by self interest and an us vs. them mind-set.

I’m tired of the hypocrisy from Republican office holders who say:

— Greater civility is needed but who practice politics that divide and disrespect us.

— They look out for taxpayers, but bill them for millions of dollars in costs related to avoidable lawsuits.

— That education is their first priority but who fail to adequately fund schools or support teachers.

— That older citizens are valued but who avoid dealing with issues that would improve their lives.

— That people with disabilities matter but who allow Medicaid managed care programs to fail to meet their needs.

— They want to better fund services to those who need them but who support tax cuts and giveaways that reduce that funding.

— Government is too big and intrusive but who vote to dictate to others how to live and how to die.

The list could go on and on.

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Character is on the ballot this fall. I hope you’ll join me in voting for candidates who will genuinely care about the people they serve, and will look out for the interests of all vs. some.

It’s litmus test time. Vote. Let’s find out what kind of state and nation we want to be.

• John Hale is co-owner of The Hale Group, an Ankeny-based consulting, advocacy and communication firm. Comments: hale_johnd@msn.com

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We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

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