When I was a child, my mother said,
- “Finish a job to the end.”
- “Just because somebody’s cruel to you, don’t stoop to their level.”
- “Actions speak louder than words.”
- “Even if the price is high, do what’s right.”
With four children, she said these words so often that they’re still in my head. They’re even the basis on which I agree with President Obama’s decision to kill Osama bin Laden last week and bury him at sea.
(1) Finish a job to the end. Finding Osama bin Laden took ten years and was extraordinarily difficult, but we finished the job.
(2) Just because somebody’s cruel to you, don’t stoop to their level. It was right to treat bin Laden’s body respectfully, not to show post-mortem pictures, and to honor his professed religion with the ritual cleansing and prayers Islam requires.
(3) Actions speak louder than words. Certainly there are gaps, but many of our actions embodied our best values. For example, by risking the lives of Navy SEALS instead of using a Predator bomb, we:
- preserved the lives and homes of innocent Pakistanis;
- preserved evidence that it was Osama bin Laden whom we killed;
- may save innocent lives and bring guilty parties to justice with information we collected; and
- made possible a respectful burial for Osama bin Laden.
(4) Do what’s right, even if the price is high. Decisions surrounding Osama bin Laden’s death will be dissected, praised and criticized for decades. That’s as it should be. However, some will use his death to justify further violence and we’d be foolish not to expect such violence. The impulse for revenge and retribution is within each of us. Timothy McVeigh said he bombed the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City to avenge government actions in Waco, Texas. Racists threatened and killed thousands who stood for civil rights in the U.S. Nazis punished and killed thousands for hiding Jews or helping them escape. These examples aren’t perfectly parallel, but the truth still holds. As Mother said, “Do what’s right, even if the price is high.”
Learnings: (1) Finish each job. (2) Don’t stoop to the level of people who are cruel to you. (3) Actions speak louder than words. (4) Do what’s right.