Saturday, February 19, 2011

Honest Presidents

President's Day is now supposed to honor all the past presidents of the United States of America, but it was originally a merger of Washington and Lincoln's birthdays.
When I was a kid everyone knew the story of George Washington confessing to his father that he chopped down a cherry tree and saying, "I cannot tell a lie." However now we know that story was a fictional morality tale originally written by a man named Mason Weems around 1800.
We also heard the story of Abraham Lincoln walking a long distance to return a few coins to someone. That's probably true and is only one reason Lincoln became known as "Honest Abe."
Honest writers and teachers must be sure the historical information they give is as accurate as possible, even if it is intended to teach a moral lesson. I certainly understand why stories like the one I mentioned about Washington are no longer taught in schools, but it's too bad honesty is no longer considered as important as it used to be in our society.
Far too many people in modern America think it's okay to fudge the truth "just a little" if it's in the interests of the speaker to do so. Parents may ask their kids to tell a caller they're not at home when they are, or give the kids answers for their homework. But a little falsehood opens the door for more and those same kids will later feel no guilt about lying to their parents about where they're going.
And the same thing applies to doing things that are illegal. Many people think nothing of breaking speed laws if they feel safe doing so, and I've heard respectable folks brag about managing to get money they weren't entitled to.
Integrity isn't just about speaking the truth, it's about being the truth. A person with integrity is honest even when he or she can't be caught and does what is right even when nobody else is watching.
Maybe we should use President's Day to teach kids about Honest Abe as well as teaching them honesty by our own examples every day.

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