This I Believe

Daniel - Midlothian, Virginia
Entered on July 20, 2006
Age Group: 18 - 30
Themes: citizenship

I have always loved politics. Ever since I can remember, the election process has fascinated me. So when I was nominated from my school to attend the American Legion’s Boys’ State, a camp that simulates our government, I jumped at the chance. However, the real focus of the camp was not the government, but instead the elections. And soon after I had arrived, I was asked by another camper, Will, to run his gubernatorial campaign.

Before long though, the campiagn turned vicious. No one was safe from attacks and honesty was completely disregarded. Most of the elections were decided by secret deals. For instance, one party, led by a candidate oddly enough named F.D.R., promised to vote for Will in the primary, if we would vote for him. However, after we had voted, they refused to reciprocate the deal. This kind of dishonesty was rampant.

So I faced a tough decision. More than anything, I wanted to win. I knew that Will would make a good governor, and that we had a chance to succeed. But how far was I willing to go? The temptation to lie and attack others was agonizing. Therefore, I faced one of the biggest ethical dilemmas of my life. One night, I was sitting on my bed, thinking about this issue. Suddenly, I realized the answer. When the camp ended, when that week was over, we would all go home. Whether we had won the office or not was irrelevant. What was truly important, was that I could walk out of the program with dignity. You don’t need an office to be a leader. You need honor. My revelation was simple: popularity is fleeting, but respect is forever.

People often excuse the dishonesty and cruelty of campaigns as, “just politics”. They believe it to be natural, and sometimes, necessary. I don’t believe that this is true. If we lose our morals and our ethics, what have we descended to? Democracy stops being a respectable government, and becomes a ruthless competition. We have to hold our heads high. We have to set standards. Otherwise, who will? When the election came, Will lost. But so did F.D.R. It wasn’t because he didn’t have intelligence or charisma. It was because he didn’t have honor. People noticed this, and turned him down. Later, when walking through the hallways, I heard two campers talking about the election. One commented, “I don’t think I agreed with what that Will-guy was saying”. And the other said, “Yeah, me neither. But he was a good candidate”. And this I believe, for at least all of the “Wills” out there, is true.