Women helping women live better lives.


•  Empowerment

•  Leadership

Motivational Moments

November 1, 2011

Integrity In Real Time

by V. Nona Ogunsula

It's November and we are deep in football season.  With the Indianapolis Colts struggling and star quarterback Peyton Manning injured, I thought back to their heyday when Coach Tony Dungy was at the helm. I was also reminded of a quote on Twitter that I ran across some time ago by one of my favorite NFL coaches:  


@TonyDungy: Integrity does not come in degrees - low, medium or high. You either have integrity or you do not. I read the quote and inserted the question:  "Do you have it?"   And then I hit the "Retweet" button. 

Who knew that in just a few hours my own question as well as Tony Dungy's quote would be echoing in my thoughts? Later that afternoon, I sat in Traffic Court in Washington, D.C. waiting on a Hearing for a ticket I had gotten for having my cell phone up to my ear while driving. I wasn't even talking on the dog-gone  phone. I had the phone up to my ear because I couldn't hear one of the messages. Now I'm not saying that's a good excuse for breaking the new cell phone law. It's not.  But, my behavior was instinctive I reasoned to myself...get in the car, look at my phone, and call voicemail to check new messages.  Doesn't everybody do this?

When I walked in the Hearing Room, I could not remember if the police officer that was there in the room was the officer who had written my ticket.   You see, if the officer is not present during your Hearing, you can deny the ticket (i.e., plead not guilty) and the ticket is dropped. Okay, what to do?  I smiled because I remembered Tony Dungy's quote. Hmmmm.  

The Administrative Judge called the first few people.  The Officer who wrote their ticket is not there, so of course they deny their ticket.  When it's my turn, I look at the officer who is already sitting at the Hearing Table to see if she is going to check the papers in front of her to look for my ticket.  Oh my God!  I can't believe myself, but I laugh a little under my breath because it's funny to me that I'm waiting to the last minute to decide what I am going to do. You know you want to do the right thing, but God knows I can't afford $100 ticket.

I sit down at the Hearing Table  and the Judge reads my choices. This time she includes an additional choice: "Admit with an Explanation".  I breathe a sigh of relief.  As I look in the direction of the officer, I say, "I admit with an explanation".  Then I begin, "You see, what had happen was..." (smile).  Well, I don't quite use those words, but you get the gist.  I tell the Judge that I was checking my messages and that I intended to put the phone on speaker.  By this time the officer is motioning for me to display the earpiece that she had told me to bring to court when she wrote the ticket.  I take it out and the judge admonishes me, but drops the ticket as the officer had predicted. Whew!  Thank you Jesus!

The moral of the story for me:  It's the little things, the everyday decisions where we develop personal integrity.  If you can't be truthful about the small stuff, i.e., $100, then you are more likely to lie when the stakes are worth more like $100,000 or $1,000,000. Isn't that what our parents taught us?   But guess what, it still requires constant effort.  I constantly have to remind myself to "do the right thing" or walk with integrity.  However, I am very appreciative for small reminders at the right time like Tony Dungy's quote. It also helps that his character matches his words. Tony Dung is a man of integrity. I have watched him endure a tough coaching challenge and firing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, walk gracefully through a personal family tradegy, and beccome the first African-American National Football League Coach to win a Super Bowl.  He remained humble and consistent in demeanor and lifestyle.  His message and character inspires me to strive for the same thing. How about you?