The School of Police Supervision, at the Institute for Law Enforcement Administration, graduated its 129th class on October 25, 2019. The following is an excerpt from the address to the graduates and their friends, families, and colleagues.
Confucius knew that. In Book VIII, Chapter 3, of the Analects, he says:
A superior man, in regard to what he does not know, shows a cautious reserve. If names be not correct, language is not in accordance with the truth of things. If language be not in accordance with the truth of things, affairs cannot be carried on to success. When affairs cannot be carried on to success, proprieties and music do not flourish. When proprieties and music do not flourish, punishments will not be properly awarded. When punishments are not properly awarded, the people do not know how to move hand or foot. Therefore a superior man considers it necessary that the names he uses may be spoken appropriately, and also that what he speaks may be carried out appropriately. What the superior man requires is just that in his words there may be nothing incorrect.
This part of Confucius is often called the rectification of names. The idea is that in order to know what to do, when to do it, and how to do it, you must call things by their correct names.
That is so fundamental to what you do, what lawyers do, what judges do. Facts matter.
Think of how you go through your day. How important it is for you to know the true facts of what happened. You bring skill, expertise, and integrity into the process of gathering and understanding the facts.
That is why organizations like the Center for American and International Law and its Institute for Law Enforcement Administration matter so much. In our ongoing strategic planning for the Center, we have identified our four most important values:
Integrity, excellence, diversity, and innovation.
Integrity is at the top, even before excellence. You cannot have true excellence without integrity. And come to think of it, it is essential to diversity and innovation to have integrity. Integrity to the facts, integrity to the truth. Calling things by their right names.
It is so, so important in my view to support and celebrate civic institutions that care about facts and doing the right thing day after day. The thing that I love so much about CAIL is that it educates law enforcement administrators, lawyers, and judges not so much about lofty things, although lofty things are central to CAIL. It is instead about imparting to leaders like you the vital importance of integrity, ethics, and honor every day. It is about commending and inculcating the honesty and good faith you bring to the job every day and that you pass on to the men and women who look up to you every day.
It’s important to keep our humility. One of the many things that Mark Twain supposedly said but probably didn’t is that “It’s not the facts you don’t know that get you. It’s what you know for sure that just isn’t so.”
So it’s essential that we be modest about our own certainty about things. It’s essential that we listen to each other and that we listen with a humility that allows us to hear, actually hear and understand, what we are saying to each other. That is the best way I know to avoid error. It is also the best way I know to build community and the trust that is necessary to it. Talking and listening to each other and finding right solutions to common problems is what Confucius and Aristotle may have had in mind. And it is the core mission of the Center for American and International Law, of ILEA, and of the departments you have the privilege to serve and lead.