February 13, 2006
Perdue urges students to find moral compass
BY Alfred Charles
In an age in which some of the country’s biggest companies have been rocked by fraud and corporate malfeasance, Gov. Sonny Perdue urged Goizueta Business School students to be ethical leaders who build trust and inspire others.
You have to maintain your moral compass to keep it
pointing due north,” he said Feb. 8 to an audience of about
60 people that included President Jim Wagner. “If you do, it
will serve you well.”
The governor’s hour-long session was part of
the business school’s ongoing series of speeches in which some
of the state’s biggest movers and shakers share their lessons
for success with tomorrow’s corporate leaders.
The corporate chiefs of The Home Depot, UPS, Cox Enterprises
and Procter & Gamble have agreed to participate in the program.
The next meeting is scheduled for Feb. 15 and will feature Michael
the CEO of UPS.
Perdue said it was his first time visiting Goizueta.
He began his talk by praising Wagner and his effort to bolster Emory’s
reputation for academic and research excellence.
I’m a big fan of your president,” Perdue
But then the governor, who is up for reelection in
the fall, launched into the central theme of his talk, which revolved
doing the right
thing in their professional lives.
He told the audience that they should ask themselves
regularly, what is the right thing to do?
Your imbedded consciousness will be true to you if
you are true to it,” he said, adding that, as future business
leaders, the students will use spreadsheets and calculators when
making decisions. “But a moral compass is your tool to make
the right decision.”
The thrust of Perdue’s remarks were being made
even as a jury in Houston was in its seventh day of a trial that
is preoccupied with alleged wrongdoing by senior corporate executives
who ran Enron.
The energy firm was forced to file for bankruptcy in
December 2001 after it collapsed under the weight of accusations
inflated profits and insider trading.
Perdue, who mentioned the company by name, said the
former Texas firm should serve as a lesson to those who look to use
and trickery while
trying to advance their careers.
As we’re seeing in courtrooms, unethical leadership
is found out sooner or later,” the governor said.
His speech was delivered in a relaxed tone and spiced,
at times, with humor. Perdue shared anecdotes with the students about
honing a finely
tuned moral sense and acquiring a reputation for honesty.
Your reputation for keeping your word is a valuable
commodity,” he said.
The governor has completed many chapters in the story
of his professional life. He is a veterinarian by trade and has served
in the U.S.
Air Force. Perdue
had been a business owner and state legislator before claiming the governor’s
mansion three years ago, becoming the first Republican to serve as the
state’s chief executive in more than a century.
He said his most important lessons about how to govern
came while raising his four children.
Parenting is leadership,” Perdue said.
Part of being an effective leader is listening to the
disparate voices that make up Georgia’s population, the governor
I am not confined to a single channel of info,” Perdue
To illustrate the point, the governor said he routinely
holds “Saturday with Sonny,” an event in which ordinary
citizens get an audience with the governor at the state Capitol.
During a recent session, Perdue said a group of teachers
from Griffin presented an idea in which educators can establish a
bank of comp
time to give
to their colleagues who want days off from work to spend with a spouse
home briefly while serving in war zones. (Last year a committee studying
Emory’s employee benefits package recommended a similar idea
for the University.)
The governor said his administration hopes to soon
announce its support of the plan, which must still be endorsed by
Georgia, and perhaps state lawmakers.
After his remarks, Perdue took questions from the audience,
including one comment from someone who thanked him for allowing Coretta
lie in state
at the Capitol, the first woman and the first African-American woman
granted such an honor.
It was a gut moral compass decision,” he said. “It
was the right thing to do and an opportunity for Georgia to show
For more information about the business school’s
speaker’s program, visit: