I spent a few days in Washington, D.C. this week. On Wednesday morning, I went for a jog around the National Mall, and then just before 1 p.m., I stopped at a Starbucks for lunch and free wireless access. A few minutes later, Twitter began moving reports about the shooting at the Holocaust Museum, which I had run past less than an hour earlier.
The tragedy struck me hard because I had been so close to the museum that day. I listened as media commentators tried to make sense of a senseless act, and it reminded me of other unfortunate events we’ve experienced in our country -- segregation, prejudice, hatred and injustice.
Those that try to make the wrong act at the museum make sense – give it to much credence – it was simply wrong. The words of the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. came to my mind, “The time is always right to do what is right.”
The security guard who died heroically in the line of duty, Stephen Tyrone Johns, did what was right. The person who pulled the trigger did what was wrong. There is no other way to explain what happened – it’s simply wrong versus right.
In “5 Principles for a Successful Life: From Our Family to Yours,” co-authored with my father Newt Gingrich, principle five is Be True to Yourself, which includes discovering who you are, using your strengths, doing the right thing, and being authentic.
In retrospect – maybe we should have highlighted ‘doing the right thing’ first.
There are two parts to doing the right thing. The first is living with truth and honesty in your actions. This is a challenge in itself, but the second part is even harder: extending yourself to do what you know should be done. It is taking that extra step to ensure you do what is right.
Authenticity means knowing who you are and striving to be that person in every situation while, at the same time, treating others with respect. Authenticity is hard to achieve – you must be brutally honest in exposing your weaknesses, failings, and faults in addition to your strengths and achievements. Allowing yourself to be vulnerable requires great strength.
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