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ON WE GO! - February 27, 2018

Submitted on February 27, 2019

Sometimes it is tempting to be judgmental about college students, while forgetting that during the college years they must deal with many new and challenging experiences. So, just as an example, I thought that I would share an experience from my own college days.

One hot, Sunday afternoon in 1977, I was driving to the grocery store in a small town near my college. Proceeding down the town’s main artery, I approached an intersection, over the center of which hung a traffic light.  As I came closer the green light turned yellow, and, thinking that I had plenty of time to make it through the yellow light, I kept driving. But, just as I was almost through the intersection I saw the reflection of red on my windshield. Almost instantaneously, I glanced to the side, and who should be sitting there but a highway patrol. I was not speeding, and had entered the intersection under a yellow light, so I was not especially worried. Yet, my heart jumped a bit when I looked in my rear view mirror and saw a blue light headed my way. Approaching the store’s parking lot I pulled in, and alongside me pulled the patrolman.

With it being such a hot day, he simply motioned for me to get into his cruiser. Unlike my car, he had air-conditioning, and it was cool in more ways than one when I opened his car door and got in. His first remark to me was, “Did you not see that light turn red?” I explained that the light had only turned red as I was leaving the intersection, and that it was yellow when I entered. As I recall, he mumbled slightly and said that may have been the case, but that directly across the intersection there had been another automobile, and that as a law enforcement officer he had to wonder what that driver may have thought if he had not followed and pulled me over. Perhaps it was a reasonable query to him, but it was not to me.

Irritated, but trying to be respectful, I responded to the officer in the following manner: “To the best of my knowledge, I did not break any law.  As for the person sitting across the intersection, I would think that your decision should not be based on what someone else may think, but on what is the right thing to do in order to be responsible and fair.” I said it politely, and it made complete sense to me, but he did not receive it well --- as you can only imagine! Saying nothing, he merely glared at me, pulled out his booklet, and wrote me a warning ticket. I told him that I did not think that even a warning ticket was fair or necessary, but he simply handed me the ticket, wished me a good day, and invited me to leave.

It was a lesson learned by a young college student. I had been taught to be honest and fair, and I lived up to those standards that day. But through the experience I also learned that ethical principles need to be accompanied by thoughtful conversation, and sometimes tempered with skilled negotiation.


On We Go!


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