Consciously modeling himself after Cincinnatus, who left his plough to save the Roman army and returned to his farm as soon as the enemy was defeated, Washington demonstrated his own republican virtue by withdrawing completely from public life after the war. The Founders were able to debate with great intelligence the form of government our new nation would have because they had been schooled in the history of the Greek city states and the Roman republic and empire. It was their thorough knowledge of ancient history, and their shared belief in civic duties and responsibilities arising from human nature as Cicero describes it, that led the Founders to choose the ancient Roman republican form of government as the model for the new "republic" of the United States of America. The Great Seal of the United States, printed on the back of our dollar bill, expressed well the Founders' moral and historical self-consciousness. "He favors beginnings" ("Annuit coeptis") and "A new order of the ages" ("Novus ordo seclorum") point to the innovation of the American Founding. But the phrases are in Latin, not English, taken from the works of Vergil, Rome's greatest poet. The Founders went forward by looking back.

Were it not for the common learning and values supplied by the classical "core curriculum" shared by all the delegates to the Constitutional Convention, Federalists and anti-Federalists alike, we would not have our Constitution. Try to imagine what would happen today if all of our governmental institutions were destroyed, and the Constitution were lost as a result of some national catastrophe. Does the kind of education we offer today in our high schools and colleges prepare people to answer, in concrete terms, the question of what kind of government a new, more just America should have?

"As all the ages of the world have not produced a greater statesman and philosopher united than Cicero," John Adams wrote, "his authority should have great weight."  The classical republican concept of civic virtue is embodied in the ideal of a statesman who is also a philosopher, willing to serve his or her fellow citizens out of sense of duty and patriotism, and who strives to lead a life of honor, not of shame. George Washington, for example, shared his age's belief in Roman republican virtue, and had very clear ideas about what it meant to lead an "honorable" life, and to be a "just and dutiful statesman."  Even if such leaders are rare in history, they play a crucial role in the founding and refounding of nations and represent an ideal against which public officials can measure themselves.

As their writings clearly show, especially the correspondence between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, the Founders cherished education because the classical authors they studied in high school and college shaped and molded their lives. Cicero was John Adams' personal model. Jefferson read Homer in Greek all his life. We now live in different times. The "invisible hand" of the market seems to have made civic virtue a thing of the past. Some wonder if it really matters that we have "the best Congress money can buy."  But the growing gap between the rich and poor, between gated communities and ugly inner cities and rural slums, between the haves and the have-nots, will destroy our democracy. We;re going to need civic virtue again. Our brief study last summer of the classical and Renaissance origins of the American Founding showed us that civic virtue can be taught.

Our Founders learned it in school. We teachers should remember this lesson when we enter our classrooms to prepare the next generation of leaders.

Focus on Business Ethics

What is Ethical? An American View by Ronald Berenbeim

Ethical speculation is inherently antagonistic to culture. Arguably, rules of conduct and the methods for deriving them ought to be or are immune to the distortions of culture. Go to article

Business Chair Inaugurated at the University of Southern New Hampshire

Business Ethics and The Classics
Remarks by Mary Papoutsy presented at the Papoutsy Endowed Chair in Business Ethics Inaugural Dinner and Reception, April 2002
Go to article

Measuring Opacity,
by Christos and Mary Papoutsy

What does corruption in business and government cost the average citizen in Greece and other countries? The Opacity Index provides some answers. Go to article

Institutionalizing Ethics in a Global Economy, by Ken Goodpaster

The Caux Round Table is a group of 25-50 business leaders from around the world, including especially Japan, Europe and North America. About seven years ago, this group embraced a set of ethical principles for guiding international business organizations. Go to article

Are Business Practices in Greece Corrupt? by Christos and Mary Papoutsy

With the increasing globalization and interdependency of businesses around the world, multinational corporations must confront diverse cultural practices and business climates. Increasingly, the challenges stem from cultural clashes and unethical business practices. Go to article