The person who has never made a mistake has yet to be born. A person of character takes responsibility, and tries to set things right, when he or she recognizes the mistake.
Robert E. Lee told his soldiers that the failure of Pickett’s Charge was “all my fault,” and Winston Churchill resigned as First Lord of the Admiralty after the disastrous failure of the Gallipoli offensive.
Those who lack character must, on the other hand, insist that wrong is right regardless of the harm this insistence costs the organization to which they owe fiduciary responsibility. When Penn State’s trustees granted emeritus status to two of their colleagues in July, they reaffirmed the terrible judgment these individuals (and they themselves by obvious implication) exercised in November 2011. These individuals did not leave the board under honorable circumstances. We alumni fired one, would have fired the other had he run for re-election, and would fire most of the people who voted them emeritus statues were it within our power.
Trustee Kenneth Frazier, meanwhile, lost control of his temper to the extent that he directed a racial slur against an alumnus who challenged the quality of the Freeh Report. Frazier played a major role in hiring the Freeh Group, and he affirmed the report’s findings of guilt without apparently bothering to read it. A criticism of Freeh’s work was therefore an implicit criticism of Frazier, who apparently cannot tolerate the mere suggestion that he might have made a mistake.
William A. Levinson