Character Corner: First and Always

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- Between 60 and 70 percent of high school and college students cheat, depending on an article by Martha Brockenbrough called "Cheaterpants!"

The article addressed how cheating is gaining an unfair advantage, but what I found disturbing was the brief discussion on how clever the cheaters had become. Ms. Brockenbrough notes that cheating "lightens the load," similar to driving instead of walking. While I am all for competitions and technical advances, we should be more concerned with the integrity of our society.

When we allow the opportunity to cut corners or compromise to advance our own desired outcomes, it directly opposes Integrity First and selfishly undermines our Service Before Self and Excellence In All We Do. No clever trick or creative method to gain a short-term advantage will ever replace honorable living.

I am sure the author was trying to find some virtue in the cheating student's cunning, but this is misguided. The cheater is still a cheat. Those character flaws won't stay exclusive to academic work; they will be repeated somewhere later, and the cost could be extraordinarily high -- a price we cannot afford in the Air Force. I would much rather serve alongside a servicemember who may not have aced his academics but is complete in the integrity and has solid morals and values.

These words may not always be easy; however, they are always right and tell us how we should live our lives every day -- Integrity First, Service Before Self and Excellence in All We Do.