Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — Half a lifetime ago, my husband Vincent and I were new Cornell University graduates, starting our adult lives together in Pennsylvania. (Yes, our eldest son and co-columnist is named after his father.)
My husband had accepted a position with General Electric’s Financial Management Program, in their multi-million dollar locomotives division. Mr. Wally Wallingford, the Manager of Finance, was one of the kindest, most delightful people I had ever met.
Mr. Wallingford shared wonderful pearls of wisdom with my husband, who was just beginning his career, that he would sometimes share with me at the end of our day. One particular pearl stood out to me back then, and it has only grown in value, now, more than twenty-five years later.
Mr. Wallingford shared the importance of financial controls and with a strong emphasis on the accountability of the individual. He said that when responsible for millions of dollars on a continual basis, “controls are put in place to help keep honest people honest.” He explained that people of bad character will always try to steal from the company, but even the most honest person might be tempted to steal “just a little” without proper controls and accountability.
While this was initially explained in the context of corporate financial management, I can’t help thinking about the importance of integrity and accountability in almost all areas of life. Without these virtues of trust in a marriage, the relationship will suffer and perish.
Children raised with no one to answer to, will ultimately stray into all kinds of trouble—socially, educationally and physically. Churches will stray into heresy and deception. Foundations, stores, hospitals---the potential list is endless for what can falter without the integrity and the accountability of individuals within the organization.
Perhaps the most heartbreaking example of a gross breakdown of these virtues is in the recent conviction of assistant coach Jerry Sandusky, of the Penn State University football team. Convicted of one of the most heinous crimes of sexual assault against multiple young boys over numerous years, Coach Sandusky was caught in the act, and accused several times — yet never held accountable for this great wickedness by those over him — especially not by the legendary head coach Joe Paterno.
During the course of the trial, I was completely horrified to learn of the absolute disregard for the lives, the safety, the protection and well being of the children who had been entrusted into Sandusky’s care through his foundation. Only the image of Penn State football mattered, and Joe Paterno was its king.
Even the university president, and the athletic director turned a blind eye and a deaf ear on this horrific situation. A cover up occurred, and countless more children (including those who never came forward) were sexually abused by Sandusky — a monstrous wolf in sheep’s clothing.
When leaders become absolutely powerful, corruption almost always occurs. When boards of accountability become ‘rubber-stamps’ for such leaders, they lose all objectivity, and are rendered ineffective.
How many children might have been rescued from a horrendous fate, had any of those in leadership walked in integrity, and held Sandusky accountable for his actions and removed him from his position?
All of us are imperfect beings with a need to be accountable to someone to help us walk in the excellence of integrity. I believe the ultimate source of accountability is God. Answering to Him will help us to examine our hearts on a regular basis.Jackie Davis is an inspirational vocalist, musician and speaker with more than 20 years of television broadcast experience. You can contact her at email@example.com