I heard the title quote while listening to the ESPN radioshow Mike & Mike a few mornings ago. The commentor, a coach, was speaking in the context of the “Johnny Football” story about the Heisman trophy winning quarterback from Texas A&M. But he was making a much larger point about the responsibility of adults (like coaches) to help young athletes develop lives of integrity. To me – it was perhaps the simplest statement I have every heard summarizing a deep philosophical approach to life. How much better would the current state of so many of the institutions around us, seemingly bogging down in corruption, if we all lived this way — matching our lives to our words.
In the philanthropy of science it would mean funding what you say you are funding. If you say you are looking to fund ideas early in their inception, fund ideas early in their inception. If you say you want to provide opportunities for young scholars to pursue alternative hypothesis, don’t fund the anointed heir of the status quo.
For those seeking funding it would mean not saying you are curing disease X when you are can barely define disease X. It would mean not saying “no one is doing (or funding) Y when there are actually lots of researchers studying Y with lots of grant dollars.
For universities it would mean that scholarship and knowledge generation and transmission are job 1 – not selling sushi and sweatshirts or providing an “experience.”
If each of us – no matter our role – tried really hard to make our words match our lives we might make progress against some really tough problems.