Friday, December 10, 2010

Moral Examples

SOURCE:  Bennett, William. “Teaching the Virtues.” Imprimis 32.2 (Febrary 2003).
KEYWORDS: sacrifice, moral example, invisible, remember, follow

You have probably seen Mrs. Beamer on television—Lisa Beamer, the wife of Todd Beamer, who was one of the heroes on Flight 93. She has said that her children will look at the picture of her husband every day, and that she will tell them daily that he is a hero and they are to try to be like him.

This reminded of a statistic I uncovered in a book that I wrote on the American family a few years back. We all know, based on countless studies as well as common sense, that if you want to raise happy and successful children, the best fomrula is a two-parent family…But the statistic I discovered when writing my book was that children who lose a father in the line of duty—because the father is a police officer or a soldier for example—are indistinguishable from children who grow up in intact two-parent families. Why is that? It is because the moral example doesn’t have to be there physically. It can be in the mind and in the heart. As a result of Lisa Beamer saying. “Be like him,” then, Todd Beamer will be in the minds and hearts of his kids.

This illustrates one of my favorite themes: the importance of things we can’t see, of non-material things. Moral examples can exist in the memory of a father or in the memory of the Founding Fathers or in the memory of any of the marvelous heroes in the long history of humankind. The historian Tacitus wrote, “The task of history is to hold our for rebrobation every evil word and deed, and to hold out for praise every great and noble word and deed.” So we don’t need courses in values. We need good courses in history.

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