Most people who know me call me by the shortened form of my name. Although my birth certificate reads, Stanley Lee Seymour, most people call me Stan. An etymological search of Stan reveals that it is Old English in origin and means rocky meadow or from the stony field.
Etymology, however, had nothing to do with the selection of my name. Because my last name starts with an S, Mom and Dad thought it would be trendy for the first name of each of their children to start with an S. My older brother’s name is Steve and my younger brother’s name is Brad.
Before he was born Brad’s name was going to be Stuart, but Mom was already having trouble calling Steve, Stan and Stan, Steve, so Stuart became Brad.
I think recent events show the power of a name. Due to the bankruptcy of 2001, the name Enron is associated with corporate greed. More recently, investment scams have come to be associated with the name Madoff.
Within the last couple of days, a new association has been given to the name Schettino. Captain Franceso Schettino has been accussed of dereliction of duty and cowardice. If he was an officer in the United States military, he would be court-martialed.
In each of these examples, the absence of character was present. For every ounce of character that Captain Schettio lacked, a pound of it was present in the cockpit of another captain.
The name Chesley Burnett Sullenberger III or “Sully” is associated with courage and integrity. When faced with tragedy, he made a quick assessment; and, he landed his jet on the waters of the Hudson River. His heroic efforts made him a household name.
Even though he attended the Air Force Academy, his actions remind me of the Army Cadet Prayer: Make us to choose the harder right instead of the easier wrong, and never to be content with a half truth when the whole can be won.
The disciplined life that Sully developed as a cadet, was on display on that cold January day of 2009. Each of our military academies provide a daily regimen that builds the type of character and integrity that defines Captain Sullenberger.
The absence of character and the decline of morals was the focus of study by the Institue for American Values: If a central task of every generation is moral transmission, religion is a primary force in American life — historically, it has probably been the primary force — that transmits from one generation to another the moral understandings that are essential to liberal democratic institutions. Religion is especially suited to this task because it focuses our minds and hearts on obligations to each other that arise out of our shared createdness. By elevating our sights toward others and toward ultimate concerns, religious institutions help us turn away from self-centeredness . . .
I’ve been told that character is an Old English word that comes from the print shop and means the mark left behind. Schettino or Sullenberger, what mark defines your name?
Here’s a thought to keep you thinking: A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold (Proverbs 22:1).