There are many ways of looking at the cardinal virtue of integrity. John King, an MBA student at Loyola University, defined it as “being the same person all the time.” Robert A. Reed, CEO of Physicians Mutual Insurance, said integrity means “not straddling the fence—living a principled life consistently.” Author Charles Watson sees the virtue as a “consistency between standards espoused and actions taken.”
All point to the core truth that integrity means holding fast to the right ideas, even when it is difficult, inconvenient, or unprofitable. In looking for those exemplify it we came across the career of Dr. Helen Caldicott, a native of Australia and an instructor at Harvard Medical School.
She is among those featured in the book Hope and Heroes, by Madelaine Palko and Shannon Fitzgerald.
As a practicing pediatrician, Dr. Caldicott became aware of the harmful effects of nuclear radiation. In 1971 she learned that France was testing nuclear weapons in the South Pacific near Australia. Alarmed, she addressed a letter to a local newspaper detailing the harm the testing could cause. The mainstream media picked up the story and extensively circulated it. As a result she became an international spokesperson for the growing nuclear disarmament movement. She went even further. Combining medical knowledge with her leadership skills, she organized rallies and protests. One year later the French government abandoned further nuclear testing.
In 1980 Dr. Caldicott resigned her lucrative and prestigious position in medicine to become a full time anti-nuclear activist and educator. Her’s is a vivid case of standing by the right ideas.