January 30, 2007
New York State new Governor, Eliot Spitzer promised that ethics would be high on his agenda. He said in his inaugural speech that one of his “overarching objectives” was to make the government “ethical and wise”
In France, Nicolas Sarkozy, the Interior Minister and Presidential candidate promises to “restore morality to public life.”
Can these promises be kept, and will they?
A friend of mine, Philippe Pidoux, an attorney, former health minister and member of the Swiss Parliament used to say: “I make very few promises, because I keep them.”
I try to abide by the same motto. We sometimes make promises that, for one circumstance or another, we can’t possibly keep. It happens. In such circumstances I try to reach the person I made a promise to and ask (or beg) to be relieved of my promise. Until now, my requests have always been granted and I think even appreciated.
There are some promises we make that we are under obligation to keep, whatever the circumstances, such as marriage vows, (unless of course “death do us part.”)
Keeping a promise can sometimes be difficult and costly. King David in the Psalms says that we are to “keep a promise, even when it hurts.”
“Empty promises” is an oxymoron. We should make every effort to honor the commitments we make. Our words have meaning and we should be accountable for what we say and promise.
Immanuel Kant’s “universal test” is applicable when it comes to promises. Could we live in a world where no promises were ever kept?
As Hannah Arendt once said:
“Promises are the uniquely human way of ordering the future, making it predictable and reliable to the extent that this is humanly possible.”