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Moral exemplars are people in society who live according to certain principles of their own making or that tally with a unified code of conduct associated with a particular group—such as utilitarianism. They are considered icons due to the fact that their actions seem to be guided by virtues such as honesty, truth and honour (Power Moral 287). From this, it can be said that a morally exemplary life is the kind of living that showcases a wholesome complement of moral values. This kind of lifestyle stands to be emulated by other members of society because it is considered generally good for the majority of the people.
However, leading a morally exemplary life does not denote that the person in question is flawless. The icon—as they are later on considered—remains subject to making mistakes like all other persons because man is to err. The mistakes do not vitiate their overall lifestyle because the virtues that they hold go to the root of some of the greatest deeds the exemplars do (Matsuba and Walker 415). The virtuous deeds make them stand out from the crowd.
All elected officials must strive to lead morally exemplary lives because of the positions they hold in society. They stand as leaders whom the people have chosen. The reasons why people elect certain individuals into places of authority and ignore others are wide and diverse. The popularity of elected officials is not the only consideration people bear in mind when exercising their democratic right to vote a leader of their choice. The personalities of the officials also matter. For example, a person who has been implicated in corruption dealings is less likely to be voted into a position of authority than one who has not.
The reasons why elected officials should lead to morally exemplary lives shall now be examined under three main heads.
Nature of Business
The officials are elected by the citizenry to hold public offices. The services they render are for the people who voted them into their respective offices. A holder of public office must be loyal to his country and to its citizens. Loyalty entails true faith and allegiance to the nation—its laws and its people. The requirement forms the foundation of patriotism, and without it; a leader will fail in discharging his duties. The official capacity of an elected leader requires that he shall not fail the test of loyalty and should he do so he will be liable to be tried for the offence of treason.
Duty and selfless service are other virtues that an elected official ought to have before he can begin a business in his official capacity. Together with loyalty, these principles are foundational to the Seven Army Values (Center of Military 1). Duty entails accountability of actions carried out by the official and those of officers junior to him and to whom he has delegated authority. Accountability is closely tied to transparency—the principle that is paramount for all public officials. Selfless services refer to the act of placing the welfare of the society before one’s own. It is an act of honour. It is a common feature of most paragons in the world today: Nelson Mandela, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark.
Elected officials hold positions in society because they commanded the most votes as compared to their opponents during the election. They were chosen by the majority of the people because they possessed certain attributes that the electorates approved of. Once the officials accept their position, they throw themselves into the limelight where their every action is scrutinized. They stand to be criticized for their actions and omissions. For this reason, they cannot afford to deviate from what society holds to be moral.
Another reason why elected officials ought to lead an exemplary life is that they stand in leadership positions and should, therefore, serve as an example to others. Their actions are emulated by those to whom they have delegated power and other members of the public. For this reason, they need to conduct themselves with decorum; lest they are marked as deviants of societal morals. Respect, honour and integrity are amongst the minimum standards of conduct expected of a leader.
The ability to reach one’s greatest potential is not wholly dependant on the person. The society in which they live has a lot to do with an individual’s overall self-actualization. For example, a person gets to realize his measure of personal courage—the ability to face fear and danger—after being faced with a situation that is totally independent of his own making. Courage could be moral or physical. It is only the society that brings out the best in us through exposure and the revelation of the opportunity for self-actualization.
From the ongoing, it is evident that an elected leader cannot purport to act independently of the morals of a society. The services he renders, the very nature of his office and the expectations of the members of the society—especially those who voted him into power—require the elected official to lead a morally exemplary life. Even before he can hold the said office, there are already pre-determined codes of conduct that ought to guide the official in executing his duties. The same morals are what hold the thread of society together. If he needs to actualize his true potential, the elected leader should lead a morally exemplary life.
United States Army. “Corps of Discovery: The Seven Army Values”. United States Army. 2011 Web.
Matsuba, Kyle and Walker Lebron. “Extra Ordinary Moral Commitment: Young Adults Involved in Social Organizations.” Journal of Personality (2004): 413-436. Print.
Power, Clark. Moral Education: A Handbook, Connecticut. USA: Greenwood Publishing Group Inc., 2008. Print.