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Congressman Emanuel Cleaver

Representing the 5th District of MISSOURI

The Golden Rule

Dec 9, 2016
EC from DC


The ancient Greek rhetorician, Isocrates, not to be confused with classical Greek philosopher, Socrates, taught his students the following: “Do not do to others that which angers you when they do it to you.” Confucius, the influential Chinese philosopher, is credited with having said, “What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others.” Epictetus, from the School of Stoicism said, “Do unto others whatever you would like them to do to you.” There are similar precepts found in The Book of Certitude of the Baha’i faith, The Talmud, The Koran, and The Mahabharata. Scholars and theologians have labeled these words of virtue, the Golden Rule, or ethic of reciprocity. No matter which oracle or sage first uttered these words, this powerful moral directive is exactly what the next president and congress must embrace for the sake of this country. In fact, Ronald Reagan, our 40th president, said “We might come closer to balancing the budget if all of us (congress and the president) lived closer to The Commandments and the Golden Rule.” He was right. Promulgating and practicing the Golden Rule means that we are, with great intentionality, regulating our public conduct that we may not do or say anything that we wouldn’t want done or said against us.

In considering this magnificent ideal, I have concluded that I may not have control over the economy or interest rates or gasoline prices but I have absolute control over me. Therefore, I will regulate my congressional conduct, in compliance with the Golden Rule. I will not attend any meeting in any hotel or elsewhere to plot the failure of the President-elect. I will not join others in congress to purposely cause legislative gridlock because I would not want it done to a democrat in the White House. If the president succeeds, I succeed for I am a citizen of this country. I have children and grandchildren that matter deeply to me. Therefore, it would be an act of political self-mutilation to want any president to fail. If the President-elect fails, it will negatively impact my children and my children’s children.

In disagreement with some democratic activists, with whom I share much in common, I will not seek to delegitimize the next first lady by questioning her immigration status. There is nothing, absolutely nothing or no one that can compel me to rudely disrupt the President’s State of the Union address. As a person who has delivered several thousand sermons and speeches, I am always prepared for unmannerly and uncivil interruptions, but it would certainly have an unpleasant taste. The whole world is watching the United States so we should watch what we say and what we do. As the world’s most expansive democracy, we have a responsibility to kindle a bright light for would-be and fledgling self-rule governments to mirror. 

No matter how tempting, I will not refer to the Republican Party as the Repub party. In addition to the fact that the Repub Party like the Democrat Party is grammatically incorrect, the founders of the Republican Party named itself such. Why would I call an individual political party or an organization anything different from what they prefer? If Ferdinand L. Alcindor prefers to be called Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, why would I call him Kar or any other name? Why would I use a political party’s name as an epithet other than for the purpose of being childishly negative or hostile? I would never want that done to me, therefore, I will not do it to others.

The most significant building block necessary to develop a federal government that actually inspires peace and tolerance across our bifurcated country is the practice of the Golden Rule. The wrong-headed D.C. belief that whomever holds the gold makes the rule has not proved workable and is dangerously divisive, even in the world’s greatest democracy. The main guidepost to our estranged political parties should be the Golden Rule. In fact, the Golden Rule is the Mount McKinley (highest point in the U.S.) of our remarkable republic.


Emanuel Cleaver, II
Member of Congress