by Peggy Kerns
Rushworth Kidder, a respected ethicist and author, died March 5. Sadly, an ethical voice is silenced.
Dr. Kidder –Rush, to most folks–founded the Institute for Global Ethics in 1990 following a successful career as a journalist with the Christian Science Monitor, where he served as a foreign correspondent, editor and senior columnist. He authored 12 books and hundreds of articles and columns. His 1994 book, Shared Values for a Troubled World: Conversations with Men and Women of Conscience, was praised by Bill Moyers, television commentator, who said, "Only Rush Kidder would have made this odyssey, and only Rush Kidder could have returned with such a valuable cargo of insights."
I first learned of Kidder in 1999, when NCSL hired me to create an ethics center at NCSL. To help me get started, I went to Columbus to hear Rushworth Kidder speak at an event sponsored by the Ohio Ethics Commission. Kidder's one hour speech was incredible. He challenged us to think about our ethical and moral values and how we apply them to our lives. He said something I'll never forget–people who have well-defined values may agonize over choices that may be easy for others. I wrote down his quote, "Sound values raise tough choices, and tough choices are never easy."
The following year I took his 3-day training in Ethical Fitness© at the Institute for Global Ethics in Camden, ME. With the institute's help, I adapted its training for legislators and legislative staff.
My copy of his 1995 book, How Good People Make Tough Choices is dog-eared and underlined. The institute's concepts of right-versus-right dilemma paradigms, where people's ethical dilemmas result from a clash of values and a practical approach to solving them are applicable and relative to the public policy world. Kidder believed there are five core ethical values that show up in any human culture, regardless of race, age, religious affiliation, gender, or nationality. He said:
...[W]e [should] strive always to be:
- Honest and truthful in all our dealings
- Responsible and accountable in every transaction
- Fair and equitable in each relationship
- Respectful and mindful of the dignity of every individual
- Compassionate and caring in each situation.
Though Kidder will be solely missed, his Institute for Global Ethics will survive. This is his legacy.