Teddy Roosevelt was a man who had a reputation for being frank and direct. In 1900, a year before he entered the White House, he wrote these words:
“No community is healthy where it is ever necessary to distinguish one politician [from] his fellows because ‘he is honest’ . . . [Moreover, it is not] enough that a public official should be honest. No amount of honesty will avail if he is not also brave and wise. The weakling and the coward cannot be saved by honesty alone . . .”
Leadership requires two virtues that seem very simple until they become very inconvenient: honesty and courage. All of you have earned the right to be here today by winning the trust of the people of Philadelphia. But along with that honor comes a duty of humility, integrity and public service. So let’s settle our hearts for just a moment in prayer.
God of justice and mercy, thank you for the gift of life, and the opportunity to serve the people of our city. Help us to act with character and conviction; help us to listen with understanding and good will; help us to speak with charity and restraint. Give us a spirit of service. Remind us that we are stewards of your authority. Guide us to be the leaders your people need. Help us see the humanity and dignity of those who disagree with us, and to treat all persons, no matter how weak or poor, with the reverence your creation deserves. And finally Father, renew us with the strength of your presence and the joy of helping to build a community worthy of the human person. We ask this as your sons and daughters, confident in your goodness and love. Amen.
From “Invocation Delivered at Philadelphia City Council Meeting,” by Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., October 20, 2011.