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\”Duty\” – Word of the Week

Definition of the word of the week (DUTY): Moral obligation

The famous advice columnist, Ann Landers, once described maturity in this way, “Be able to stick with a job until it is finished. Be able to bear an injustice without having to get even. Be able to carry money without spending it. Do your duty without being supervised.” I would add “Do your duty simply because it is the right thing to do.”

To develop character in our children, we need to set high expectations of personal responsibility. That is, we should expect them to fulfill their obligations and, of course, we need to demonstrate this virtue. To do otherwise would be hypocritical. In an academic setting, fulfilling our duty applies to academic, disciplinary, extracurricular and personal obligations. We expect students to be on time for class, do their homework and act like ladies and gentlemen. When students fall short, they must be held accountable and parents play a key role in this aspect of character development. Parents who focus on getting their son or daughter out of trouble instead of making them pay the consequences for their actions are doing a disservice to their children, to our community, and to America. This is a team effort and like all teams, everyone needs to do their part.

Some people see duty as an externally-derived onerous task. Instead, we should see duty as an internal compass for finding meaning in our lives. In its highest sense, duty is not what someone tells us to do. Rather, duty is what we know that we should do. A few weeks ago, some of our cadets were doing an all-night roadmarch. After about 10 hours, they had covered a little over 18 miles. On the last leg of the journey, a couple of them caught a ride in a car instead of walking the remaining distance. Later, they tried to justify their actions to an old retiree and expected him to understand. They seemed shocked when he told them that he would have crawled the rest of the way before he would have caught a ride. You see, they took a moral (and physical) shortcut and chose the easy way out. Doing one’s duty is seldom easy.

President Theodore Roosevelt once warned us, “The things that will destroy America are prosperity-at-any-price, peace-at-any-price, safety-first instead of duty-first, the love of soft living, and the get-rich-quick theory of life.” Is your behavior fulfilling President Roosevelt’s warning or, to paraphrase General Douglas Macarthur, are you willing to do your duty as God has given you the light to see that duty?

The following quotations are intended to assist in explaining and exemplifying the word of the week:

Like the old soldier of the ballad, I now close my military career and just fade away, an old soldier who tried to do his duty as God gave him the light to see that duty. Goodbye. Douglas Macarthur

All the great things are simple, and many can be expressed in a single word: freedom, justice, honor, duty, mercy, hope. Winston Churchill

Ever since I was a child I have had this instinctive urge for expansion and growth. To me, the function and duty of a quality human being is the sincere and honest development of one’s potential. Bruce Lee

The duty of helping one’s self in the highest sense involves the helping of one’s neighbors. Samuel Smiles

Let us have faith that right makes might, and in that faith let us dare to do our duty as we understand it. Abraham Lincoln

The brave man inattentive to his duty is worth little more to his country than the coward who deserts in the hour of danger. Andrew Jackson

Duty cannot exist without faith. Benjamin Disraeli

Man is obviously made for thinking. Therein lies all his dignity and his merit; and his whole duty is to think as he ought. Blaise Pascal

I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish small tasks as if they were great and noble. Helen Keller

Our duty is to be useful, not according to our desires, but according to our powers. Henri Amiel, poet

How can we know ourselves? Never by reflection, but only through action. Begin at once to do your duty and immediately you will know what is inside you. Von Goethe

Non-cooperation with evil is as much a duty as is cooperation with good. Mahatma Gandhi

There is no duty we so much underrate as the duty of being happy. Robert Louis Stevenson

The line of life is a ragged diagonal between duty and desire. William Alger

LTC Patrick Beer, the Dean of Students and Commandant of Cadets at Georgia Military College, prepares this study guide each week as part of the institution’s character education program. He welcomes comments and suggestions from readers. He can be contacted by phone, 478-445-2710 or by email, pbeer@gmc.cc.ga.us