Foto de Rosa Walpole, Ana Antunes no Salão Nobre do British Council, Lisboa
Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.
Abraham Lincoln once said that Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power. I do agree with Lincoln on this. You only need to look at what is happening in our world today to realize that the most corrupting thing in the world is power.
Nowadays, we live in a world where almost everywhere we can see people complaining about how corrupt their political systems are. These situations happen mostly because the voters trust the integrity and honesty of the people they choose to be their governors.
But how can we trust someone’s integrity if there are so many interpretations of the word integrity?
For example, being a person of integrity means, among other things, always thinking about everyone and trying one’s best to make decisions so as not to harm anyone who doesn’t have anything to do with those decisions. But for many politicians all over the world, being a person of integrity can be mean trying their best to have always more and more power and money, even if they have to short-change the taxpayers. Greed is the means to an end. People who pursue a greedy life try to inflate their egos and perceive the value of their lives by measuring it against financial gain.
Unlike many years ago when this only seemed to happen in the developing countries, today it seems to happen in most countries, whether they are democracies or not. –Amazing, don’t you think? Corruption is not only stealing money from taxpayers, corruption is also hiding important information from us, the taxpayers, such as how our taxes are used.
Corruption is a form of dishonest or unethical conduct by a person entrusted with a position of authority, often to acquire personal benefit, and integrity is the quality of being honest and having strong moral values and principles.
So, for corruption not to be the reason of our downfall, we need to make sure that honesty and moral principles, also known as integrity, are prevalent at all times and in all dealings between people, regardless of the position they hold. Integrity goes hand in hand with honesty, and for there to be honesty, people have to be accountable for their actions.
Our present difficulties are mostly of our own creation, so we need to regulate integrity in order to safeguard the rights of every single citizen and put an end to corruption which generates inequality and deprivation.
It’s my belief that integrity has to be defined by rules to prevent these situations in our government and society in general, otherwise we will eventually succumb to a financial crisis and maybe to our own downfall.
The point I want to make is that freedom and democracy are perfectly reconcilable with obedience to the rules, as long as these rules are democratically set up and they safeguard that which we honestly and conscientiously as a nation believe to be for the permanent interests of our country and all its citizens.
In many cases power doesn’t corrupt people, people corrupt power and use their privileged positions to make personal gains. Corruption is perhaps the greatest threat to our liberal societies and it is every citizen’s duty to unite against corruption. If we do, we will have more chances to put a stop to it and create a better, fairer society.
We cannot let corruption be our downfall as a nation.
So, I appeal to you – let’s not waste any more time arguing about what a good, honest citizen should be. Be one. Our nation is counting on you.
Sílvia Ramadas, Departamento de Línguas, Agrupamento de Inglês