Jackie Gingrich Cushman

The question that resides in front of us today is whether the people who inhabit our government institutions are aware of their great responsibility.

Events of this past month have shone a bright light on several of our government institutions. Whether it's the actions surrounding the terrorist attacks in Benghazi on the U.S. consulate, the IRS targeting groups based on their name, the Justice Department's pursuit of Fox reporter James Rosen or the NSA's extensive collection of private citizens' personal data, our institutions appear to be more tarnished than shiny.

To remove the tarnish will require hard work and the bright light of investigative reporting to find out and openly air in the court of public opinion the facts regarding these events. Covering up and withholding information will only deepen the tarnish.

Kennedy's words of caution are as relevant today as they were in 1961, when he laid out, in that same speech, four questions, whose answers would determine whether we were successful:

"First, were we truly men of courage ... the courage to resist public pressure, as well as private greed?

"Secondly, were we truly men of judgment ... with enough wisdom to know that we did not know, and enough candor to admit it?

"Third, were we truly men of integrity -- men who never ran out on either the principles in which they believed or the people who believed in them ...

"Finally, were we truly men of dedication ... devoted solely to serving the public good and the national interest."

The tarnish will eventually be removed, but by who, this administration or the next, will be determined by who correctly answers the four questions above.

Jackie Gingrich Cushman

Jackie Gingrich Cushman is a speaker, syndicated columnist, socialpreneur, and author of "The Essential American: 25 Documents and Speeches Every American Should Own," and co-author of “The 5 Principles for a Successful Life: From Our Family to Yours”.