On March 15th, 2011 The Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum in Grand Rapids, Michigan held their first annual Panel Discussion on "Ethics in Our World: Symposium Exploring Ethics in America". Elaine Didier, Director of the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum and Library hosted the symposium. Victoria Vuletich, Chair A.B.A. Center for Professional Responsibility's Continuing Legal Education Committee served as the panel moderator. The three member panel was composed of various leaders in their related fields, bringing different insights regarding the current status of ethics in America.
Steve Ford, son of Gerald & Betty Ford, offered opening remarks from an "insider's view of his father’s values". Ford spoke on how his father was a man whose strong ethics and sense of right and wrong allowed him to do the unpopular, but right thing. Ford offered President Gerald R. Ford's pardoning of Richard Nixon as an example of how his father demonstrated his willingness to possibly sacrifice a second term. President Ford believed the pardon would move to "heal the nation" and allow for the focus of the country to be shifted to more pressing issues of the day, the Vietnam War and downtrodden stock market.
Brigadier General Michael McDaniel’s, former Deputy Assistant Director of the U.S. Department of Defense, spoke of the obligation public servants have upon being sworn in to their office to promote the general welfare and at the same time protecting self interests of the individual. McDaniel outlined the dynamics and tension between self and collective interests, citing the Westboro Baptist Church's protests at fallen soldiers funerals as an example.
Terri Lynn Land, former Michigan Secretary of State, focused on ethics in the political arena. Land specifically worked for campaign finance reform and also worked to create legislation which would have provided more transparency during her time in office. Land also referred to her office making polling places more accessible to handicapped citizens. Though it was an expensive and thus somewhat unpopular choice, she believed it was "the right thing to do".
Bruce A. Courtrade, Vice President of Commissioners for the State Bar of Michigan, argued for the relationship between a struggling economy and a perceived decline in ethics. Michigan, being the only state in the last census to lose population has been forced into the practice of "unhiring employees". This increased competition to gain and retain clients has led to a "win at all cost mentality", which in turn Courtrade believed has led to ethical crises (i.e. Enron's and Wall Street).
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