Webster defines courage as the mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty. Thomas Jefferson said one man with courage is a majority. Martin Luther King proved Jefferson right. So did Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi, and Abraham Lincoln.
From our view here at the FCPA Blog, we see daily examples of courage. Those who contribute posts — like all writers — are always risking professional backlash and public ridicule. But still they venture and persevere, to borrow Webster’s words.
The whistleblowers we write about didn’t back down. Institutions sometimes tried to crush them. “When you’re a whistleblower against a powerful system, the system dismisses you as a fanatic,” a contributor reminded us. Life is often hellish for a majority of one.
Compliance officers are everyday heroes. Their job performance depends on courage. Sometimes they have to say no when all their institution wants to hear is yes. To remain employed, compliance officers need the special kind of courage Winston Churchill talked about. Courage, he said, is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.
Journalists need courage. The news isn’t always what those with political or financial power say it is. Often the news is exactly what powerful people don’t want reported. That’s why journalists suffer so much for their craft. Some even die. Yet other journalists, again in Webster’s words, have the moral strength to withstand danger, fear, or difficulty. Those are the people who tell the rest of us about graft and the damage it does.
Without courageous journalists, could compliance officers and whistleblowers exist? Mike Scher, a senior editor of the FCPA Blog, told us last week after the Charlie Hebdo massacre that without a free press, compliance stops and cover ups happen. But when there is a free press, he said, in the long run enforcement and compliance triumph, even transforming giant companies like Siemens and Walmart into leaders of compliance.
Plato was right. In the end, courage is a kind of salvation.
Richard L. Cassin is the publisher and editor of the FCPA Blog. He can be contacted here.