A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Lauren and Rob Hudson: Positive messages for America’s youth — about importance of integrity

Columns for families based on the book “It Can Be Done” @studentsleadusa

A person with integrity has strong moral principles and core values to help to guide their life. Independence means thinking for oneself without craving validation from others. Integrity and independence can go hand in hand, leading to an exceptional life.

Integrity and independence help us to steer clear of behaviors which land us in places we aren’t quite ready to tackle just yet. For example, a person still growing up would have an exceedingly difficult time raising a family of their own.

Think of integrity and independence as part of a steady journey to happiness. If we make big mistakes when we’re young, we will probably start the journey near the back of the pack. On the other hand, we can start at the front of the pack by avoiding risky behaviors, such as substance abuse, teen pregnancy, and other unhealthy activities. Without these negative actions holding us back, we can move up by forming positive character habits like reliability, punctuality, and ethical behaviors.

A person who starts in last place can finish the journey, but that person will have to work a lot harder to cross the finish line. The person who starts in first place has an easier go of it. We may not be able to control exactly how fast we go, but we can control our integrity and independence. Nobody was born with poor character or behaviors.

Even the most independent people struggle with outside influences which can lead to wrong turns. Here’s a good rule – choose friends, even if they’re not “cool,” who care about their futures and avoid risky behaviors. The decades to come are far more important than a few days of dangerous fun now. Some of our nation’s wealthiest and successful people were anything but “popular” in middle school or high school. Instead, they had good character traits far more important than popularity.

We should chart our own paths, the ones right for us and our futures. We should forge our identities with integrity and independence. Everyone’s life takes bad turns, but our strong identities can help turn a roadblock into a slight detour, quickly steering us back on course. Our strength to overcome difficulties will be an early sign of how character will serve as the foundation for our future.

President Theodore Roosevelt said “Character, in the long run, is the decisive factor in the life of an individual and of nations alike.” A free country like ours can’t be exceptional without millions of solid relationships. Without integrity, our bad decisions would leave us to focus on survival, not on being exceptional. Most Americans make responsible decisions every day, following their productive dreams, not the crowd.

The bottom line is that we own our decisions and character. They are ours and ours alone. Our successful journey to happiness can be easier and shorter. Why not start and finish in front, leading the pack in an exceptional direction?

Join us next week when we explore the common ground of honesty. Frost Brown Todd Member LLC Rob Hudson is a Past Chair of the Northern Kentucky Chamber and a recipient of its Frontiersman Award. 2018 Independent Author of the Year Lauren Hudson is a Singletary Scholar at the University of Kentucky.

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