The National Conference on Ethics in America (NCEA) hosted by the Simon Center for the Professional Military Ethic at West Point was held in Eisenhower Hall on November 15-16. The theme this year was “Developing Judgment: Bridging Theory & Practice.”
A generous endowment from the West Point Class of 1970 (“Serve with Integrity”) supported the conference that saw over 350 undergraduate, graduate, and faculty participants from over 77 domestic and international institutions. Attendees included several members of the class of 1970, cadets from each of the military service academies and ROTC, and students from civilian colleges and universities.
The purpose of this year’s NCEA was for participants to increase their moral awareness and decrease their propensity to moral disengagement so they may understand & apply practical judgment more effectively in the context of their professional service. Each year, the conference aims to develop national awareness of ethical behavior in the undergraduate community, improve collegiate codes of ethics and honor systems, and to strengthen civilian-military bonds.
The keynote speaker was Mike Buddie, Director of Athletics at USMA, who inspired attendees with his message of how he has developed good judgment throughout his professional baseball career. Other notable speakers included BG Lori Robinson ’94, GEN (R) David Perkins ’80, Class of 1966 Chair for the Professional Military Ethic, Dr. Barry Schwartz, Dr. Kenneth Sharpe, Dr. Jeffrey Peterson ’87, Dr. Pete Kilner ’90, Dr. Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, Deborah Cesarini, CSM Robert Craven, SMA (Ret) Daniel Dailey, CMDCM Karim Cole, CSM James Light, Erika Cheung, LTG Steven Gilland ’90, Dr. Celia Moore, 1LT Justin Karim ’20, Dr. John Wixted, HON Jed Rakoff, Dr. Jeff Struecker and COL James Yastrzemsky ’97.
This year’s Soldier Medal awardees were SPC Rene Rodriguez and Daniel O’Donohue. Introduced in July 1926, the Soldier’s Medal is the highest Army individual decoration honor a Soldier can receive for an act of valor in a non-combat event. Over 18,500 Soldiers have received the decoration since its inception. There are only 241 Soldiers in the Regular Army who have been awarded the Soldier’s Medal — about 1/20th of 1% of all Soldiers on active duty.
Rodriguez, a U.S. soldier in Hawaii, received the military’s highest award for valor not in combat for saving a woman’s life and repeatedly fighting off a man who was attacking her. O’Donohue received the award for saving the lives of three people drifting out to sea in Topsail Beach, North Carolina. O’Donohue sprinted down three flights of stairs and across approximately 75 meters of sand to reach the waterline and, in full knowledge of the inherent danger, dove into the dangerous surf three times to rescue a child, a woman and a man.