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Failure or Prepared for Service?


Bernard KerikThe recent fiasco surrounding the short-lived nomination of Bernard Kerik as the Secretary of Homeland Security raises some interesting questions about the qualifications of our leaders. His quick rise to the top of the list, complete with endorsements by both New York Senators (Democrats Charles Schumer and Hillary Clinton), turned into an even quicker disappointment as a litany of questionable and inexcusable activities came to light.

While this potentially damaging information should have been divulged to the White House and their background check should have uncovered it before it blew up in their face, it also leads us to discuss a very important issue. 

Is anyone without fault?  Are any qualified stone-throwers reading this article?  The fact is, we have all failed. 

A few years ago, a successful businessman and politician sat across from me and asked a monumentally important question. He was considering running for a higher public office, but had some concerns.

"I don't have a perfect past," he said.  At the time, President Clinton's misdeeds and embarrassing lies were being publicly aired. If he were to run for the office he was considering, he realized that the scrutiny would be intense. His practices were typical of many self-centered baby boomers and he believed that had reason to be concerned. 

I thought about it for moment and then looked at him directly and said, "We have all failed.  This is not the real issue.  The issue is whether or not we have learned from our failures and changed our ways.  Have your failures strengthened your character?  Have your experiences helped equip you to assume the responsibilities of the office you may seek?"

He looked at me and firmly answered, "I know I am stronger and better prepared for the challenges I will face."

I could tell by his resolve that he was not only sincere, but he had truly learned. The man was George W. Bush, President of the United States.

The thorough, and somewhat invasive, examination that precedes an appointment to office needs to be carefully considered.  How deep do we dig?  What is appropriately related to a job?  Should those considering a nominee conduct an investigation privately, or do we leave it up to political enemies or the media to engage in character assassination?

If the goal is to simply to find some fault in a person's past, then everyone will likely be disqualified -- including the most qualified candidates.  Instead, when mistakes are uncovered, we must ask, "What have you done in response to these failures?  What have you learned?"

While Kerik appears to be a poor Cabinet choice, there are many good people who refuse to allow themselves to be considered for certain offices because they do not want to hurt their family (and family members are often the ones hurt the most.) This is tragic!

Certainly we must determine if a candidate has strength, character and integrity, but there is no single person alive who has not fought personal battles, has not lost in some manner, and will not continue to fight.  We must try to determine if that individual's heartfelt desire is to walk in an upright fashion, remain consistent, and really commit to the task at hand. A good candidate will not only possess the inherent talent to perform his or her duties, but will also exude qualities learned through fiery trials, which, unfortunately, usually include failure.

History has proven that some of our greatest leaders failed miserably prior to succeeding magnificently. We must be far more concerned about finding the most qualified individuals rather than destroying reputations.  The confirmation process must consider that some of the best among us have, at some point in life, miserably failed.  The issue is whether we have learned, and will continue to learn, from our mistakes.

Author: James Robison

Word Count: 637

About the author: James Robison is the founder and president of LIFE Outreach International, an international humanitarian aid ministry; host of the television program, Life Today; and author of The Absolutes.

Media Contact: Randy Robison, randy.robison at

Photo available upon request. Reprint rights granted with attribution for complete, unedited article. Revisions allowed only with approval.