The United States is currently experiencing a time when ethics are at a low point, said William J. Bennett. The effects of this change can be seen in both the corporate world as well as in the rest of society.
Bennett, one of America’s most important, influential and respected voices on cultural, political and educational issues, spoke Monday night about the loss of ethics that has resulted from the corporate scandals that are currently plaguing the U.S. corporate world.
Bennett was the Secretary of Education under President Ronald Reagan and director for the Office of National Drug Control Policy under President George Bush Sr.
Bennett said the outcome of these scandals on the economy was larger than people might have imagined.
“The scale of some of these things was truly, truly staggering,” said Bennett.
The conduct of these corporate leaders was unacceptable, Bennett said. He added that he was glad these individuals were being brought to justice.
Bennett said the solution for these scandals involves the implementation of four basic principles.
“The first thing would be to put these people in prison for a long time,” said Bennett. “Second, shame them so it would make others see that this is not the right course of action to follow. Third, disclosure would be important so that it would let the general public know what is going on with the company financially. The final principle is educational awareness for students at the university level.”
Bennett said that even though there are some corporate leaders who are corrupt, there are other leaders who are honest.
“There are good and honorable people that exist in the corporate world,” said Bennett. “The majority of (corporate leaders) that I have worked with have been honest.”
Aside from the corporate level, Bennett said we are at a time in history when our youth is growing up without any values or anchors of ethics in their lives.
Bennett gave an example of this when he recounted a story he had been told by a judge who questioned a young man at a deposition.
“The judge said to me, ‘Didn’t anyone teach you the difference between right and wrong?’, and some young people would look up to me and say ‘No sir, no one ever did,'” Bennett said.
In concluding his lecture, Bennett said that this would not be the end of scandals among corporate leaders.
“I have many friends that tell me that there will be much more of this corruption coming from the corporate leaders of the United States,” said Bennett.
Bennett studied philosophy at William College and University of Texas and has also earned a law degree from Harvard.