My Turn: It’s primary season, so what’s important to you?

For the Monitor
Published: 3/21/2019 12:15:02 AM

What’s the most important thing? The question makes me think of the kind of quiz I used to get years ago from my daughter Brinkley. She was always trying to pin me down about some favorite thing. What’s your favorite color? What’s your favorite book, movie, symphony, place to go? And of course, who is your favorite daughter? Without question, her most persistent question. She never could accept that I have two favorite daughters.

What’s the most important thing? That is a different kind of question than your favorite thing. A tone of seriousness should be wrapped tight around it in any consideration of an answer. There is really no need for it to be the favorite, because even though you determine the importance that doesn’t mean you have to like it. Favorites can change with the whim of a performance or skill in the game. But the most important thing calls for a more secure foundation; it can’t be about wind direction or pop chart or the latest poll.

Now that fun has been removed from consideration, I ask again, what’s the most important thing?

For sure, the answer is going to be different for everyone. But as presidential candidates spend more time in our New Hampshire neighborhood, we should all be clear in how we would answer the question. We also need to be clear about how we want those candidates to answer the question.

Things being things, I don’t believe there can be one thing that fits as most important for all. But that shouldn’t stop the exercise of whittling, considering, being sure in the casting away of chaff. The most important thing can’t be frivolous. It must go right to the very core of everything. There is a need for clarity and responsibility in the discernment process. Ice cream, movies, cookies and cheesecakes are not eligible for consideration. Red Sox? Patriots? Let’s be serious and kick it up a few notches. We are talking possible president here.

Values, beliefs, mantras – these are where to begin the search for the most important thing. And to be fair, I will go first and share my choice.

It would have to be integrity.

Think about it for a minute. There is so much wrapped up in that single word. Integrity is not something you just walk into. You don’t have it at birth. It doesn’t drop from the sky like winter or sprout like green spring. No one can give it to you, and you can’t buy it.

Integrity is something earned and that evolved over time. It is the sum total of a person’s actions through life. They either add up or they don’t. People either come to trust you, or they don’t. They know they can believe what you say, or they know they can’t. There is no margin of blur or leaf to obscure, or tweet to misdirect. Integrity is bound to truth and decency like light to a sun.

There can be no better measure of a person. Giving it further weight is the fact that integrity is equally available to all and has nothing to do with wealth, or education, or ethnicity, or gender. And if you think you can fake it, well, that just shows your lack of it.

So, to the candidates looking for my vote, it is a very simple path. To be under consideration starts with one basic question, the most important thing: “Are you a person of integrity?” It is a measure of a candidate that somehow got lost last time around, and its absence has left a hole in our nation’s character that should be an embarrassment to everyone who calls himself or herself “American.”

What’s the most important thing? If you’re having trouble homing in on what it is for you, feel free to borrow mine, if you like. But there are others that carry equal weight. The most important thing is to define it and to begin using it as your measure of a candidate.

(John Gfroerer of Concord owns a video production company based at the Capitol Center for the Arts.)


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