The Power of Integrity

By Jim Carlone
Faculty Advisor to the Senate

This January marks the 105th anniversary of the Honor Code at McCallie.

In January 1906, the two McCallie founders decided that they wanted an Honor Code at their brand new school similar to the one at the University of Virginia, where James Park McCallie had attended. For them, personal honor was absolutely crucial for the development of a McCallie man.

For over 10 decades, the Honor Code has been part of the very core of our school. It is, in fact, one of our oldest traditions. Our alumni always comment that the three things they remember most fondly about their time at McCallie are the friendships with fellow students, the relationships they formed with their teachers, and the Honor Code.

I challenge each and every one of us to do our part to make McCallie extraordinary in this area. You’ve heard me say many times that just because we have an honor code in place does not make us honorable people. Signing the Book of Honor does not make us honorable people.

There will always be another test, another homework, another paper to pull up your grade. But you will NOT have too many chances to earn back someone’s trust if you have lost it.

Acting with honor and integrity is a choice we have to make every single day. Both students and adults alike. And it is not always an easy choice to make, because there are definitely consequences when we make mistakes. There are a thousand scenarios you could find yourself in every single day where you have to make a decision about whether or not to act honorably, and it would be very easy or tempting to make a bad choice: you get swamped with work, you run out of time, you’re worried about your grade, you don’t want to fail a quiz that you didn’t study for, you’ve got to turn in that paper before you get a late penalty, you don’t want to ask your teacher for help or for an extension, you don’t want to get the marks or the demerits.

It is all about choices.

But even though you might not believe it, it is always better to take a late penalty or to get an “F” on a quiz or a test or to take the demerits or turn the paper in late than to commit an honor violation. You always have a choice to do the right thing. It may not be the easy thing to do or the popular thing to do, but you can always choose to maintain your integrity. Never be afraid to ask a teacher for help, or for more time, to come clean, or to stand up for what you know is right – no matter what the consequences.

Even though grades are important, they are not nearly as important as your integrity. You can always improve your grades. There will always be another test, another homework, another paper to pull up your grade. But you will NOT have too many chances to earn back someone’s trust if you have lost it. This is true everywhere – whether you are in high school, college or you are an adult in your professional life.

In the long run, very few people truly care what grades you got in high school. But they will care immensely if they feel they can’t trust you. Never underestimate the power your integrity can hold.

Please understand, I am not perfect; none of us is perfect. It’s not about never making a mistake. It’s about making good choices – difficult choices perhaps – but good choices because they make us better people. People we can be proud of, in a school we can be proud of.

I’d like to close my portion of the presentation with this Bible verse from Zechariah 8:16: “These are the things you are to do: Speak the truth to each other, and render true and sound judgment in your courts; do not plot evil against your neighbor, and do not love to swear falsely. I hate all this, declares the Lord.”

When you act with integrity, you are not just respecting our Honor Code, you are honoring yourselves and God as well. Good luck this year, do your best, and please let me know if there is anything I can do to help you.

Jim Carlone is a 1988 graduate of McCallie School and a graduate of Kenyon College. He was named the 2002 Kio-Kio Distinguished Teacher and has been a long-time advisor to the student Senate.

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