On July 7, 1996, standing in a FBI Academy classroom, I, along with 49 other new FBI agents, took the oath of office to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic. The significance of the oath was highlighted when six short months later, on December 18, 1996, 13-year veteran FBI Special Agent Earl Edwin Pitts was arrested at the FBI Academy for conspiracy to commit espionage for the Soviet Union. He failed in terms of fidelity.
As I reflect on my career, I realize that of the three words – fidelity, bravery and integrity – the first, fidelity, is the least used. We speak of people who exhibit bravery and demonstrate integrity, but we rarely say an individual exemplifies fidelity, at least not using that word. However, while the word is unfamiliar, the meaning is not. Fidelity simply means faithfulness, devotion to duty or adherence to truth and, appropriately, each of those terms is a fundamental trait of leadership!
Earl Pitts’ sold his fidelity for $224,000 pieces of silver. In exchange he received a 27-year prison sentence and the scorn of his countrymen. As leaders we immediately understand the impact infidelity has on an individual and organization. But I challenge each of us discuss and understand the significant impact fidelity has on ourselves, our organizations, and our nation. Helen Keller said, “True happiness… is not attained through self-gratification, but through fidelity to a worthy purpose.”
What is our worthy purpose in life? Is being a leader the only thing that motivates or satisfies you? I believe that whether in the public or private sector, our actions should be guided not by self-gratification but by self-sacrifice. Whom do we put above ourselves? Whom do we serve? In what do we find joy, happiness and purpose? Fidelity requires each of us to make a commitment to be more than just the sum of the hours spent on the job, in school or on the playground.
Cicero, the famous Roman philosopher, said, “Nothing is more noble, nothing more venerable than fidelity. Faithfulness and truth are the most sacred excellences and endowments of the human mind.” Each day we have an opportunity to enrich others, enrich our country and enrich humanity by being loyal, faithful and dedicated servants to the principles of justice, equality and liberty.
Perhaps everyone should take the oath of office and demonstrate their commitment to fidelity: I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.