Where is our Moral Compass?

Posted by Brent Treash
Opinion Editorial from President Jake B. Schrum as featured in the Bristol Herald Courier and Roanoke Times.

Typically, it is more customary for me to write about the importance of a faith-based, liberal arts education and its impact on making a difference in our world.  I’ll admit that I believe that a deep and informed faith coupled with a desire to obtain knowledge in the search for truth is the best combination for a person to lead a rich and full life.

While I still fully believe this, in thinking about America recently and its future, I ask this question - what has happened to our moral compass?

This is not about Republicans or Democrats, President Donald Trump or any other recent President, conservatives or liberals.  It’s about whether America and Americans can and should, still be seen as the most consistently moral and compassionate people on the planet.  If we are, and if we still deserve this attribute, then we are certainly sending mixed signals to our fellow human beings around the globe.

I believe there are many well-meaning people from all parts of the planet who truly wonder if America, and some of its citizens have lost their moral compass. 

Is it because they see the way we treat our friends around the globe?  Is it based on the way we treat each other at home, work and play? Some societies are judged simply by the way they treat their children.  Are we a community of liars and those who make swift decisions?  Whatever the reason, America appears to be losing its moral footing. As a former college president once told me, “What do we become if we establish a nation of intellectual giants, but become moral pygmies?”

Perhaps I am writing about a faith-based liberal arts education. Because this type of education encourages us to explore the facts about how humankind and this planet have survived for thousands of years, and it also suggests that an omnipotent God calls us to be kind, compassionate and moral. Graduates from these institutions understand diplomacy, truth, respect and honor, good vs. evil, servant leadership, volunteering and a commitment to their community to improve our time here on earth. Many of us know that we’re here to serve and impact the common good with our gifts. We need each other and we need to hold each other accountable to do the right thing. Let’s use that moral compass.

Wouldn’t that be a better path to make America great again?

Jake B. Schrum, a college and university administrator for more than four decades, is a nationally recognized leader in higher education and an outspoken proponent of liberal arts education. Since August 2013, he has served as president of Emory & Henry College, Southwest Virginia’s oldest higher education institution. He previously served as president of Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas for 13 years and as president of Texas Wesleyan University in Ft. Worth for nine years.

President Schrum received his B.A. from Southwestern. He earned his M.Div. from Yale Divinity School. He completed the Institute for Educational Management at Harvard University and was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Southwestern.

He has served as national board chair for The Council for the Advancement and Support of Education and for the Educational and Institutional Insurance Administrators, as well as chair for the Associated Colleges of the South, Independent Colleges and Universities of Texas, and Council of Independent Colleges in Virginia. He has served on the boards of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, the American Council on Education, the Council for Independent Colleges, the Association of Governing Boards’ Council of Presidents, and Agnes Scott College.

  • Jake B. Schrum, President of Emory & Henry College
    Jake B. Schrum, President of Emory & Henry College

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