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Character Is AS Character Does

Scott on June 12, 2007 at 12:47 pm

Mayor of Los Angeles Antonio Villaraigosa announced yesterday that he and his wife are divorcing after 20 years. While he acknowledged that the split was his responsibility, he refused to divulge HOW it was his fault. The standard theory is that he was unfaithful. When asked about this, Villaraigosa said:

“Those kind of questions are inappropriate, and I won’t answer them. My family and I have the right during this difficult time to go through this process free of that kind of speculation.”

His vaguely direct answer isn’t an admission or a denial (very Clintonesque of him), nor does it seem to have quelled the rumors that have been floating around for quite awhile as to the dating habits of the L.A. Mayor.  Of course, it doesn’t help matters that it is common knowledge that he had an affair in 1994 that lead to the first split from his wife.  They later reconciled.

This seems to be a common occurance in large California cities.  A few months ago San Francisco’s mayor, Gavin Newsom, also had to come clean about an affair that he was having with his campaign manager’s wife.

I’m not posting on this to throw stones at Villaraigosa or Newsom.  Though I don’t have experience with infidelity, I do have my share of skeletons in my life that are ample proof that I am a sinful, fallen man.  But I can’t help but wonder about human character and how character should be judged-whether it should be judged by what a person does or judged by what they say.

At the end of the movie Hellboy, John Myer makes the following observation:

What makes a man a man? A friend of mine once wondered. Is it his origins? The way he comes to life? I don’t think so. It’s the choices he makes. Not how he starts things, but how he decides to end them.

Shouldn’t this apply to everyone, and especially those who claim to want to serve the public?  Shouldn’t everyone aspire to this standard, and especially those who carry the burden of leadership?

I can’t help but wonder if a man is able to violate the trust within his marriage (a trust that is one of the bedrocks the family and of society), then how much easier is it to violate the trust of a public office?  If a person isn’t able to honor the commitments they have made within their wedding vows, a commitment based on the belief that their own personal desires aren’t the most important factor in how they live their lives and raise a family, then why should they be trusted to honor their duty to act in the best interest of a city, or a state or a country?

I’m not saying that someone who is guilty of adultry can’t ever be trusted again, but I am saying that if someone has violated the most sacred trust of marriage (and even more if they have done so on more than one occasion), then shouldn’t they be required to take a step back from their leadership duties and prove themselves by submitting to others and restoring faith in their judgment and character?

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