A Call to Integrity

mexico-79215_640Youth are often referred to as the hope of the nation and the leaders of tomorrow, but have we ever thought of youth as those that give us a call to integrity?

During the Commission on Social Development, I participated in the event, Empowering Youth for Sustainable Development, led by the UNDP and filled with the voices and ideas of youth delegates and organizations from around the globe. One such youth delegate commented on the prevalence of corruption in many governments in his continent of Africa, albeit in varying degrees. He highlighted how the youth of his continent and throughout the world consistently cry out against this corruption. The opposite of corruption is not just good governance. That merely scratches the surface. What is being voiced is a petition for honesty, transparency, and accountability—a plea for integrity.

However, the youth delegate didn’t stop at the need for government reform, but more significantly emphasized that one must have integrity within oneself before challenging others to have integrity. Herein lies the crux of the issue: in order to create and maintain a government, a political climate, of integrity, you must begin with yourself, adhering firmly to moral and ethical principles (integrity as defined by Merriam-Webster dictionary).

A renewal of government essentially implies a renewal of culture. Where does a renewal of culture begin? It can only begin with the individual, with the transformation of each human person.  Filled with a natural optimism and hope in the future and the individual, youth inherently sense that man’s happiness and development is intrinsically linked to the moral and ethical principles upon which his life, his society, his world is built upon.

A true sustainable human development thus ought to begin by this transformation of culture voiced by youth: this appeal to create a society of moral principles that is built one honest person at a time. The debate on human development must become a “conversation about personal goods and the common good, about the relation between freedom and moral truth, about the virtues necessary to form the kind of citizens who can live their freedom in such a way as to make the machinery of {government} serve genuinely humanistic ends” (George Wiegel, Two Ideas of Freedom)

By Lenore Healy, Intern at WYA HQ, New York.