Xavier Magazine

The Ethics Guy

If you’re known as The Ethics Guy and plan to wade into a room full of bankers, Xavier’s as good a place as any to take the dive. If nothing else, at least there are priests close by to administer Last Rites.

Luckily, if you’re Bruce Weinstein—a columnist for Business Week, regular on CNN, NBC, FOX News, et al, not to mention consultant to the NFL and other big-name clients—his appearance at Xavier’s Distinguished Speakers Series on March 7 was just another gig. But an ethical gig.

The speaker series provided the venue for Weinstein’s distinctive Socratic stand-up wit, presenting a ethics primer in the form for a conversation between him and his audience.

“You wake up one morning with the flu. Raise your hand if you stay home and rest.”

A hand raises and Weinstein instantly channels his inner Phil Donahue wading into the crowd. “Why would you stay home and rest?” he asks a nicely dressed young man. “So I wouldn’t get other people sick,” he says. Seems reasonable.

“Who would stay home and work?” Ah, hah…suddenly just resting seems to have taken a back seat to a more noble alternative. But Weinstein is quick to add to his ethical conundrum. “Who would go to work and avoid socializing with people?” And to that he adds the punch line…”and who would go to work, but only socialize with people you don’t like?”

So it goes in Weinstein’s conversation (as he calls it) on ethics. Honesty, truth, respect, fairness, caring and more get a work out as he works the room. Luckily, the answers to life’s ethical questions both large and small can be subjected to the five basic questions presented in his book Ethical Intelligence: Will this cause harm? Will this make things better? Will this respect others? Is this fair? Is this caring?

And in 45 minutes a gathering of seemingly reasonable and self-evidently ethical strangers have given their own personal code a quick tune up, publically confessing to mostly minor transgressions, culminating in two people willing to admit they sometimes felt unappreciated. For that effort they were brought to the stage and given a 30-second standing ovation from the audience.

“So why should you be caring and compassionate about how you treat people? It’s the right thing to do. But it also makes you feel better.”

And for those two, the bravely underappreciated, dessert was served twice.

Ready to put your own credo to the test? Go to and prepare to squirm, maybe just a little.

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