Spiritually Speaking: Jim Lehrer: To live a life of integrity – Wicked Local Sharon

The integrity of men is to be measured by their conduct, not by their professions. Junius, 1769

Sometimes when a good man or a good woman leaves this earth, attention must be paid.

He was not a media celebrity, so when he died last week, his passing was reported but not as a big story. Think page three of the newspaper, below the fold. He was not particularly good looking or photogenic, a seeming requirement for todays well-coiffed news anchors. He didnt hob knob with political or cultural bigwigs or command a multimillion-dollar salary as do so many of the self-important media talking heads the public worships these days: Maddow, Hannity, Ingraham, Cooper, Cuomo, Morning Joe.

For 36 years he reported the news on the least flashy of TV networks, on a channel known more for animal shows and Downton Abbey and Mister Rodgers, the Public Broadcasting System, and so his ratings were never sky high, nor his audience huge. He was married to the same woman for almost 60 years and served in the Marines with distinction. His first big story was the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963, which he witnessed and reported on firsthand. His biggest claim to fame was being the moderator for more Presidential candidate debates than any other journalist.

His name was Jim Lehrer, and you are forgiven if that doesnt ring a bell but, he will be missed, at least by this news junkie and journalist. Not for anything in particular he wrote nor for any one story he reported. No. It was how he carried himself, how he lived, how he practiced his craft, that I remember. How the words he spoke matched the life he lived, and how when you watched him deliver the news or interview a politician or stay calm and focused while his more famous peers yelled and preened before the cameras: you knew he never saw himself as more important than the story itself.

In a word, he had integrity.

Thats the human virtue of trying to live by a code of right and wrong, guided by an inner moral compass that directs a person and provides a framework to live a good life, in the deepest sense. Being honest. Making a promise and keeping a promise. Talking the talk and walking the walk. Leading by example. Remembering life is not just about you, what you think or desire or need; life is, instead, about others, serving them. Doing a job well, whatever the task might be.

Integrity is a virtue that some of us actually still look for in others, especially from the people like Lehrer who lead us, who report the news, make the laws, govern us, run our businesses, bring us joy in the arts or on the playing field. The women and men who have the power and authority to shape events in this world.

Like a President. Like a news anchor or reporter. Like a star athlete. We also need to experience integrity in regular life: from the accountant who does our taxes and the teacher who teaches our kids and the coach who guides our sons and daughters and the preacher who speaks from the pulpit. We need to be able to trust them and to believe what they say.

Lehrer actually had nine principles he tried to live by; Lehrers Rules, he called them. A sample: Do nothing I cannot defend. Assume there is at least one other side to a story. Assume the viewer is as smart and caring and as good a person as I am. No one should be allowed to attack another anonymously. And my favorite? I am not in the entertainment business.

Lehrers death and the loss of that voice reminded me that, yes, Im still actually crazy enough to expect integrity from others and from myself too. I want to live in a community and nation and world where the ones who lead and serve us are the best and the brightest, not the least and the lowest. Not leaders who bully their way into power, and survive by threats and cruelty. Not those leaders who rise to the top just because they are rich. Not the ones who have the best spin doctors to shape their public persona. Not the leaders who lead for ego or self-aggrandizement.

Give us leaders, give us neighbors, with integrity. They who know what the right thing is to do and then try their best to do just that. So, thanks Jim Lehrer, for your integrity and for reminding us what that rare virtue looks like in a life well lived.

And thats the news.

The Rev. John F. Hudson is senior pastor of the Pilgrim Church, United Church of Christ, in Sherborn (pilgrimsherborn.org). If you have a word or idea youd like defined in a future column or have comments, please send them to pastorjohn@pilgrimsherborn.org or in care of the Dover-Sherborn Press (Dover-Sherborn@wickedlocal.com).

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Spiritually Speaking: Jim Lehrer: To live a life of integrity - Wicked Local Sharon

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