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Andrew Gillum, one of the candidates running for governor of Florida, suspended his campaign after hurricane Michael caused widespread damage in the Florida Panhandle area of north Florida. The storm’s winds and storm surge, which caused enormous damage—reaching the top of category 4 at 155 mph—caused hundreds of thousands of people to go without electricity or access to food and water. However, Gillum did not just suspend his campaign, he demonstrated leadership and strong ethical values by joining in the relief efforts to help clear the debris and assist those in need.
Gillum’s decision, which came in the midst of a very tight gubernatorial race, caused the cancelation of several scheduled campaign appearances and his first debate with main challenger Ron DeSantis.
Gillum responded to questions about his decision by saying, “Right now I’ve got to win the restoration game and get our community recovered”. Gillum’s decision to suspend his campaign, which occurred at a critical stage in an election with extremely high stakes, was not matched by his opponent, DeSantis, who continued to campaign in Florida.
Andrew Gillum’s decision to suspend his campaign for the Florida governorship is related to the ethical topics we are studying because it demonstrates an act of ethical leadership and a concern for the greater good over his own personal political ambitions. Gillum’s actions after hurricane Michael are examples of ethical values, such as integrity and honesty, put into action.
Gillum’s choice to assist with clean-up efforts after the storm is an example of integrity because he placed more importance on his moral principles above seeking power and authority.
He demonstrated an, “Uncompromising adherence to a set or group of values”, which in this situation was helping others in need for the greater good. According to our text, reputation is a “paramount” virtue of honesty. Gillum demonstrated honesty in his actions through the virtues of: “Ren,” which our text loosely defines as “one who has humanity,” “Yi” or “what we should do according to our relationship with others,” and “Li,” or “the virtue of good manners or respect”.
Chapter one of our text defines social responsibility as an “obligation to maximize” ones positive impact on shareholders while “minimizing negative impact”. Gillum’s decision to suspend his campaign and subsequent actions in helping in clean up efforts clearly demonstrate a commitment to social responsibility. Specifically, his actions are examples of social responsibility from not only an ethical perspective, but from a philanthropic perspective—not from a monetary perspective but by his benevolent actions in “giving back” to the community at large by donating his time and efforts in a massive clean-up process.
Ethical leadership is at the core of Andrew Gillum’s example in this situation. Although it would not have necessarily been unethical to continue campaigning after hurricane Michael, it does show a contrast in priorities between the two gubernatorial candidates. It’s not that Gillum’s opponent DeSantis made an unethical decision to continue campaigning in order to try and get an edge over Gillum, it’s that Gillum made a difficult and perhaps risky choice by putting the needs of the community over his own ambitions—an extraordinarily ethical choice to do the right thing despite having no obligation to do so. Sometimes, it’s not just what you do that separates ethical leadership from one person to another, it’s also what you don’t do.
In terms of moral development, I view Andrew Gillum’s decision as being reflective of not Utilitariansim, but is also an example Virtue Ethics. His choice to help those in need was an example of choosing “the greatest good for the greatest number of people” at that moment in time. However, his motivation for doing so seems in line with a personal belief that, “what is moral in a given situation is not only what conventional morality requires but also what the mature person with a ‘good’ moral character deems appropriate”.
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