President-Elect Barack Obama and Senator John McCain
(November 2008)

Now that the longest campaign in U.S. presidential history is history, it is appropriate to take moment to praise President-Elect Barack Obama and Senator John McCain for subjecting themselves to the almost unimaginable rigors of the cross-country, many months long ordeal that we require of aspirants to the oval office.

They do this for us, you know. It is fashionable to accuse our public servants, and especially, in recent years, our presidents, of sinister motives for seeking high-ranking jobs, but this fashion is, by turns, ignorant, mean-spirited, and foolish. The hours are long, the abuse is intense, the money is not especially impressive. Running for POTUS, and even worse, getting elected, guarantees life in a fishbowl, with little sleep, limited family time, and about as much relaxation as extended root-canal work. And yet public servants, always derided as “politicians” but in fact people just like you and me, do it. Why?

They do it for the riches you say? Nonsense. Virtually all presidential candidates are rich to start with. The power? It sounds good, but in fact the job of President has more responsibility and accountability than power. The perks? Yes, it’s a nice white house, and sure, you are well taken care of and you get a plane. You also have no privacy to speak of, and a travel schedule that would kill most of us. If I travel seven times a month I’m miserable. It is not unusual for a U.S. President to travel that much or more in a week…every week.

They do it for us. The worst president this country ever had, whoever that may be, was a patriot and a courageous citizen, and a man who wanted the best for America. Some were wrong and some were misguided, and some let the job and the stress and the critics warp their judgement. But every single one made a great sacrifice to take the job. And in return we call them names, mock them in jokes and cartoons, call them socialists or nut-cases or incompetents or morons when in truth we know we could no more do the job ourselves than fly.

The fact is, almost nobody is ready to be President. It is a job that cannot be done perfectly, and sometimes can barely be done at all. It takes courage to seek such a job; more courage—and luck—to do it for four years. But somebody has to take it.

Barack Obama and John McCain gave us a choice between two honorable men. They didn’t always meet their own high standards of conduct while giving us that choice, but never mind: we got what we needed. Before the criticism and name-calling starts anew, let us pause to say thank-you, Mr. President Elect, Senator McCain, and yes, President Bush…for putting yourself where most of us would never dare, and taking on a task that is at best overwhelming, and at worst, killing.

Agree with them disagree with them, like them or hate them…they all deserve our respect and admiration. They are all Ethics Heroes.

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