Peter’s Perspective: Letter to Mrs. Obama on the President’s Decision Not to Protect LGBT Federal Contractors

Dear Mrs. Obama,

Please have a stern talk with your husband about the importance of living by one’s values. He seems to be losing sight. Two days ago, he signaled that he will not issue an Executive Order that would protect men and women who work for Federal contractors from either being discriminated against in hiring or being fired because they are gay or lesbian.

For all of your husband’s talk about fairness, this decision flies in the face of fairness and continues to support discriminatory practices that are perpetrated on good men and women, good American citizens. For all your husband’s talk about the greatness of our nation based on enabling every American citizen who works hard and plays by the rules to get a fair deal, the President’s refusal to issue the Executive Order to make that “talk” true for millions clearly signals that “talk” is all it is. His pretext that he prefers the legislative process is hollow since we all know that there is no chance that this Congress will send the ENDA (Employment Non-Discrimination Act) to his desk.

Does he have the humility to walk this one back and the courage to walk his talk? I can only believe that if your daughters were older, and were one to come out as a lesbian, the President would issue an Executive Order barring discrimination in a heartbeat. Perhaps he might want to put himself in the shoes of the millions of parents whose kids are gay, and who want only that their kids get a fair deal.


Character: Personal Integrity and Credibility (II)

Credibility derives from the Latin verb credo, which means I believe. Our believability — or our credibility — rests in the eyes of others. It is their having faith that we will behave and speak and act in ways that adhere to the values we profess and thereby the expectations we create.

But what about those occasions when we consciously choose to ignore our principles and “make an exception to the rule”? Whether for expediency’s sake or for our own gain, believing that the ends justify the means can result in giving others reason to pause, wonder or doubt that we are who we claim to be. If our adherence to guiding principles is the bedrock of our credibility, then shedding those values — regardless of the reason — is a blow that can fracture the foundation that others rely on when choosing whether to believe, trust, join or follow us. At its most damaging, a pattern of making an exception to the rule gives others cause to say to themselves non credoI do not believe.

Consider the employer, the manager or the team leader who claims to highly value the principle of work–life balance, but who regularly texts or emails queries after hours, over the weekend or during vacation time, and expects a timely response. What message is this individual really giving about what she or he is committed to? What happens to their credibility vis-à-vis their professed principle of work–life balance?

Assess the current state of your credibility by answering two critical questions:

  • What are the promises I make about how I will conduct myself, both in private and out in the world?
  • How consistently do I live up to each one of these promises — to myself and to others? 

Excerpted and abridged from The Citizen Leader

Character: Personal Integrity and Credibility

Character is the embodiment and the expression of our guiding principles and values. It is who we are on the inside, and what we show on the outside. Our guiding principles and values are the promises we make to ourselves about how we will behave, both in private and in the world at large. When we live up to those promises — when we act consistently with what it is we say we stand for, and consistently deliver on our promises (even when no one else is looking) — we are living in personal integrity.

For most of us, our personal values don’t remain a private affair, either. We often share them with the other members of our community. We make a promise to them, and we give them the expectation that we will conduct ourselves in ways that are consistent with our promises. By living up to those promises, we build our believability – and strengthen our credibility.

Credibility derives from the Latin verb credo, which means I believe. Our believability — or our credibility — rests in the eyes of others. Our credibility manifests in others as I believe you. I believe you because your actions are consistent with your promises. Our credibility is other people placing their faith and trust in us. It is their having faith that we will continue to behave and speak and act in ways that adhere to the expectations we have created or stated.

Naturally, we all trip up on occasion and do things that are against what we say we stand for. To the degree that we have built a well of credibility in the minds of others, we can ask for forgiveness and be forgiven. But, if the pattern of our actions, behaviors and words over time start to suggest something other than what we claim about ourselves, then it’s that pattern that begins to speak the louder.

Now, none of us is perfect, and we may all momentarily step on our principles or hot headedly transgress them. That’s the cost that comes along with being human, yet a basically healthy credibility can weather the missteps.

During our lives, most of us will face many challenges that will invite us, if not require us, to lead. When we step into the role of leader, the content of our character will shape the relationships that we form with the other members of our community. The ways in which we express our character will enhance or diminish our capacity to engage their willingness and their enthusiasm to want to participate, serve, act and persevere. You have the opportunity to be of such character that your partners will not only follow your lead, but will surge out ahead of you as, together, you strive to make contributions that are meaningful to everyone.

Excerpted from The Citizen Leader