Archive for May, 2010

 

Virtue in High Places:Senator Norris of Nebraska

May 11th, 2010
Jim Thomas

In 1932 Franklin D. Roosevelt, then the Democratic Nominee for President, paid the following tribute to George Norris, Republican senator from Nebraska:

 History asks, “Did the man have integrity?  Did the man have unselfishness? Did the man have consistency?”  There are few statesmen in America today who so definitely and clearly measure up to an affirmative answer to those three questions, as does George W. Norris.  John F. Kennedy, in his book Profiles in Courage, offered a similar appraisal.  He designated Norris on of the six greatest senators in American History.  Their praise was well placed

 A man of mild manners and disarming honesty, Norris never hesitated to disagree with anyone, from Presidents on down.  On public questions that made a difference, his firm stands were unmistakable.  They are a matter of record.  For instance, he voted to reduce the tariff on sugar with full knowledge Nebraska was a major sugar beet state.  He filibustered against the Armed Ship Bill Act of 1917 amidst the patriotic furor of World War I.  In later years, he supported the Catholic Democrat, Al Smith, for President when opposition to Smith in Nebraska bordered on the fanatical.

 It is the manner in which he exercised authority, however, that wins our everlasting respect.  Especially in today’s political world, one soaked in money, pervaded by millionaire lobbyists, and beset by incessant campaigning, as if grubbing for votes is the same as administering a government.

 Norris declined to control, much less influence, one jot of political patronage. He refused to write letters of endorsement for constituents seeking public jobs.  Extreme, you say.  Think about it.

 He belonged to no church and made no appeals to the Almighty on grounds his religion was the “The doctrine of the brotherhood of man.”  On more than one occasion, he offered to resign, stating that his views were not always those of the people of Nebraska.

He even offended home state pride by spending his summer vacation in the rival State of Wisconsin.  In Washington, he was rarely seen at social function, and no one ever recalled seeing him in formal attire.  He favored quiet evening at home, where he read and studied extensively, emerging often as the recognized authority on pending legislation. 

 From the start of his career as a country lawyer back in Nebraska, to its end as a United States Senator; Norris remained intact, unimpaired, and incorruptible.  The title of his biography by Neuberger and Kahn reads, Integrity.



Upright Conduct in the Florida Citrus Groves

May 4th, 2010
Jim Thomas

Though much in the news points to the contrary, all is not rotten in America.  This country is full of good citizens.  Noble and generous, they continue to push when others call for retreat.  Each day people of every rank and calling are conducting their lives, professional practices, enterprises, and organizations with unblemished integrity.  They embody the better elements of our nature.  They need make no apologies and can call their souls their own.

 A case in point is set in the groves of the Florida citrus belt, as reported in The Rotarian magazine.  Franklin Ward was a citrus-nurseryman at Avon Park Florida.  For decades, Though much in the news points to the contrary, all is not rotten in America.  This country is full of good citizens.  Noble and generous, they continue to push when others call for retreat.  Each day people of every rank and calling are conducting their lives, professional practices, enterprises, and organizations with unblemished integrity.  They embody the better elements of our nature.  They need make no apologies and can call their souls their own.

 his family owned and operated Ward Groves.  It was a beautiful productive grove set in the heart of the citrus belt.  Like his father before him, Ward was active in various programs for prevention of citrus disease.  Ward groves marketed its nursery stock “Disease Free.” 

 Then disaster struck.  His young grapefruit and orange trees began dying.  The diagnosis was citrus canker—a deadly, highly contagious bacterial disease.  The one known remedy at the time was destruction of the groves. 

 From the debacle decimating his enterprise, Franklin Ward neither veered nor hesitated.  In the presence of officials from the Florida Department of Agriculture, and while graciously facing a camera-carrying media that had daily trampled his property, he himself held the torch and set fire to Ward Groves.  He went a step further.  Using an excellent set of business records, working day and night and driving himself to near exhaustion, he tracked down the half million seedlings, buds and unbudded stems sold and transported to other nurseries.  His efforts paid off. He succeeded in checking the spread of citrus canker.

 For his unassailable integrity, Ward paid a high price.  Three years later, someone asked him about his future.  He replied, “It is still uncertain.”

 Virtue does not come on the cheap.  Always, it is concerned with what is harder.  Holding fast to the right principles can cause the loss of a friend, a contract, a customer, a client.  It can stunt career advancement, induce grief, and render one unpopular, to say nothing of sleepless nights and the abnegation of one’s sense of security.  Moreover, you will not find it in the gene pool.  Human virtue is non-hereditary.  It must be acquired