|The sight of the retired Democratic senator and former Republican governor bantering and complimenting one another cast a special glow of goodwill over CBA's inaugural Business Ethics Conference. The conference was funded by Richard Leighton (B.S. Accountancy 1949) and his wife Grace, who have created a college endowment for this annual series. "Business Ethics, Government Policy, and the Media," this year's topic, featured keynote addresses by Simon (who has served on the faculty of Southern Illinois University since 1997) and Edgar (who recently joined the University of Illinois Institute of Government and Public Affairs as a Distinguished Fellow), followed by a panel discussion on ethics. Around 400 members of the business and university communities gathered for the luncheon event, organized and hosted by John Kindt, professor of business administration, with the assistance of the offices of development and alumni affairs.|
Simon, a forty-three year veteran of local and national politics who retired as U.S. Senator from Illinois in 1997, focused his address on how the ethical attitudes of legislators have changed, both in the state and national capitols. He noted that, while the blatant influence-peddling that flourished in earlier political generations has all but vanished, in its place has arisen a new, subtler kind of corruption that reflects the steadily growing pressure financial and otherwise from corporate lobbies and special interest groups. He went on to discuss the implications of ethics in business, noting that "a business leader who has enough vision to realize business isn't going to thrive if the community and the country don't thrive that business leader will do well with their company."
He posed the rhetorical questions: "What kind of a world do I want? What am I willing to do to get that?" concluding: "That's what ethics ultimately is all about."
Jim Edgar retired from public life in 1999 after thirty years of service crowned by his two-term governorship of Illinois. He noted in his talk that it is "extremely important that there is trust in politics and in business. . . . The laws since Watergate have not changed the public's attitude. The trust is not there." And yet, "There is more legal honesty in government today than when I started." For Edgar, the essence of ethics and trust is accountability. Being answerable to the people of the State of Illinois was an ideal for which he strove continually during his eight years in office (he was thirty-eighth governor of Illinois, 1991_99). "Public officials are going to have to recognize that they have to do short term things that are not very popular, but have long-term benefits. . . . What is called for is a commitment on the part of individuals to do what they believe is right."
|"There is an arrogance in
power," he observed, with startling candor. "If you're going to go up the ladder, make sure you
have somebody with you who isn't always going to tell you what
you want to hear." Acknowledging the popular suggestion that
government be run more like business, Edgar drew a very interesting
and acute distinction between the functions of each. "The
bottom line in business is to make money," he said. "In government the
bottom line is service. There are many things government can learn
from business. But at the end of the day they serve
two different functions."
The addresses by Simon and Edgar were followed by a panel discussion, in which members contributed perspectives on ethics and implications for doing business. Moderated by Earl Grinols, professor of economics, the panel was composed of: Richard Cline (LAS '57), chairman, Hussmann International, and former chairman and CEO, NICOR and Jewel Companies; Robert Fazzini, president, Busey Bank, Bloomington Loan Office; Steve Silver, partner, Arthur Andersen, Chicago; and William Murphy, associate chancellor for public affairs, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.