Last week, The Interfaith Center held it’s annual Ethics Event with Speaker and Author Phil West. He wrote the book “Getting the Government We Deserve”, which discusses the corruption of government in Rhode Island and the United States. Other important panelists were there as well, including Ernie Almonte, Alan Hasenfeld, Arlene Violet, and Robert Weygand, who worked in government and saw the corruption at first hand. Their goal was to stop it in any way they could. I personally thought all of their talks were extremely interesting– it was like watching a television show!
I believe the key points in the panel discussion was determining whether to take the easy road or the right road. With all of their stories, it was evident that Rhode Island had been such a corrupt state throughout time, yet with hard working individuals, they changed the system. Many of the panelists discussed that they had opportunities to go along with the “tradition” (the easy road) or stand up for their beliefs, even though that may cost them their reputation for not falling under social conformity (the right road). It really shows that what goes around come around because eventually you will get caught.
I think the two people who stood out the most for me were Arlene Violet and Robert Weygand. Especially since Arlene was a nun beforehand, it was a unique transition to go into government. However, I think she brought skills to the table about values and morals from being a nun that government officials could learn from. You could definitely tell she was extremely passionate about it when she spoke and I think we need more people in government like that.
Robert Weygand’s story about working with the FBI fascinated me a lot and I was literally on the edge of my seat listening to him. During his first job, the mayor of the city asked him personally to steal money from a company through contracts and then the mayor and himself could split the difference. I think most people wouldn’t understand what they were getting themselves into and would agree to what the mayor suggested (and then later on realize it was illegal). Robert decided to go to the FBI where they wired him up a few times to catch the mayor in the act. Robert’s wise decision to do the right thing – not the easy thing – was courageous, yet worth it in the end.
I think we need more events like this where people explain real-life stories about right or wrong decisions. All I’ve been hearing is positive feedback about the overall event and having the privilege to meet them before and after was an honor.
No matter who you are, where you are from, or why you are reading this:
Bryant University Class of 2016