Pleading Guilty - Jesse Jackson Jr.
February 25, 2013
On February 19, 2013, Jesse Jackson Jr. former Democratic representative from Illinois pleaded guilty to fraud in the illegal use of $750,000 of campaign funds over a period of 4 years. His wife, Sandi, pleaded guilty as well to making false income statements. Sentencing is scheduled for June 28 and July 1st for Mr. and Mrs. Jackson respectively. They will both be facing jail time.
Mr. Jackson was considered by many as one of the most prominent and promising young black politicians in the country. He was, by most accounts, a very good congressman involved with healthcare and education issues for the poor in his district. It is hard to fathom someone giving up his career and reputation for, in comparison, so little.
Mr. Jackson told the judge; “I used money I shouldn’t have used for personal purposes, I am guilty your honor, I misled the American people.”
It is inspiring to hear someone basically saying: “I did it and I am responsible.” Some will argue that he did not have much of a choice but to plead guilty. However we do not know that for a fact and I would rather think that his public admission of guilt may have come from a sense of doing what is right after having done what was unethical and illegal.
It is always very hard to admit wrongdoing on an individual level because it is humiliating and makes us vulnerable to criticism. Furthermore, admitting error is sometimes seen as a sign of weakness. Sandra Lozes expressed her views on why it is difficult to admit wrongdoing on TED Conversations: She wrote:
“Personally, to admit my mistakes and offer apologies is a gift I can give myself as well as to the person on the receiving end. We are all better off with a bit of humility and self reflection, and in the end it is these characteristics that allow us to let go of fear and defensive nature and be our authentic selves.”
For corporations and institutions, admitting error is a particularly difficult challenge. Kathryn Schultz, author of Being Wrong writes that “As a culture, we haven’t mastered the basic skill of saying ‘I was wrong.’ This is a starling deficiency, given the simplicity of the phrase, the ubiquity of error, and the tremendous public service that acknowledging it could provide.”
Doug Guthrie of George Washington University School of Business and Sudhir Venkatesh from Columbia University in their article “Creative Leadership: Humility and Being Wrong published by Forbes wrote:
“What is profoundly powerful about embracing humility and publicly acknowledging errors is the link between authenticity and the success of the individual and the organization.”
There is a French proverb that says: “Error confessed - half forgiven.” Recognizing our errors is the first step to “redemption.” Accepting responsibility for our wrongdoing can lead to the long process of rebuilding trust.
As the musician Dale Turner once said:
“It is the highest form of self-respect to admit our errors and mistakes and make amends for them.”