“We must never regard as ‘normal’ the regular and casual undermining of our democratic norms and ideals,” he said. “We must never meekly accept the daily sundering of our country—the personal attacks, the threats against principles, freedoms, and institutions, the flagrant disregard for truth or decency, the reckless provocations, most often for the pettiest and most personal reasons, reasons having nothing whatsoever to do with the fortunes of the people that we have all been elected to serve. … They are not normal.” -Arizona Senator Jeff Flake
It’s not often that Congress is associated with exceptional political courage and moral clarity. That’s one reason why the evening newscasts led with the “profile in courage” moment of Arizona Senator Jeff Flake’s speech on the Senate floor yesterday.
“Reckless, outrageous, and undignified behavior has become excused and countenanced as ‘telling it like it is,’ when it is actually just reckless, outrageous, and undignified,” Flake said on the Senate floor. “And when such behavior emanates from the top of our government, it is something else: It is dangerous to a democracy. Such behavior does not project strength—because our strength comes from our values. It instead projects a corruption of the spirit, and weakness.”
The speech was widely seen as a challenge to other Republicans to speak out against the excesses of the Trump White House. But a political analysis of Flake’s speech is too narrow a lens. It is a challenge to all of us whether in the political arena, or in business, the nonprofit sector, philanthropy, the arts, or any other field. One lesson of history that repeats over and over again it is that silence serves the powerful, but never the public interest.
Have you spoken truth to power?