2 Replies to “Does the President Have It?”

  1. John, I submit the following.
    Dick Sumpter.

    Branding and messaging are activities that depend heavily on words. Words have meaning. Usually the meaning must be derived from context. The word “help” can mean domestic employees such as maids; it can simply mean some kind of assistance, or “Help!” can be a panicked cry of desperation. It depends on the context.

    The current political discourse has presented us with words (and phrases) to describe certain actions, which meanings are derived from context: quid pro quo was an early term. It was deemed too vague and so the words “bribery” and “extortion” were introduced. Recently, politicians have begun to refer to a person practicing them as “corrupt.” The first definition of this word is “having or showing a willingness to act dishonestly in return for money or personal gain; lacking integrity.”

    For the rest of this piece, since words have meaning, I want to explore the meaning of integrity. It comes from a Latin verb “tangere,” meaning “to touch.” It is the infinitive of “tango.” The full conjugation of the verb is: tango, tangere, tegi, tactus. In case you don’t recall your grammar lessons, an English example would be: go, to go, went, gone.

    I mention these conjugated words because they are the roots of other words related to our understanding of “integrity.” The word integrity is formed by adding “in” to tangere (to touch). In Latin, “In” frequently becomes “un.” Thus in-tangere literally means untouchable. Some of us may be old enough to remember the TV series “The Untouchables.” It was about the exploits of Elliot Ness, the incorruptible G-Man who took down Al Capone. Thus, one meaning of integrity is untouchable.
    Another word we derive from the Latin is integer. In math it means a whole number; that is, not a fraction. And the word fraction is from the Latin verb “frangere,” meaning to break into pieces or fracture.
    Integrate and integral are also formed from “in-tangere.” Integrate means to make whole. The word “intact” also derives from tangere (tactus) and means “all together.” At its root, integrity means wholeness, oneness, not fractured, not broken into pieces. It describes a person whose life is whole. It is not fragmented. A person of integrity is one with a single set of principles to live by; not one set of behaviors or values at work, another set at home, or another set on the golf course.
    A person not integral, not possessing an integrated personality becomes a moral schizophrenic, not knowing who they truly are. They are fragmented, broken people. Indeed, they are broken in pieces. Latin has a single adjective for the phrase “broken in pieces.” Ironically, it is “corruptio,” meaning corrupt. We have come full circle and most assuredly, words have meaning.

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