By Rhea Kapur (V)
On Friday, November 8, at the annual John Hanly Lecture on Ethics and Morality, Mr. Andrew Goldstein ‘92 discussed the influence of the Honor Code in his career at Pingry and beyond, and shared some ethical dilemmas he faced where the Honor Code’s principles guided him.
Established in 1999, the John Hanly Lecture Series on Ethics and Morality honors former Headmaster John Hanly’s personal commitment to instilling honorable and ethical values in students at Pingry. A diverse set of speakers have visited campus each year since the series’ inception, each of them having a unique viewpoint on ethics and moral dilemmas in the 21st century. Mr. Goldstein is no exception. After graduating from Princeton University in 1996, Mr. Goldstein returned to Pingry to teach AP Government and World Cultures, filling the role of his former teacher Mr. Joe LaValley (whom Mr. Goldstein greatly admired). Later, Mr. Goldstein joined TIME Magazine as an investigative reporter. After graduating from Yale Law School, he eventually served as Chief of the Public Corruption Unit at the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York. Recently, he was Senior Assistant Special Counsel in the Department of Justice’s Russia investigation, led by Robert S. Mueller III.
In his remarks, Mr. Goldstein shared two stories, one of which centered around his experience as an investigative reporter at TIME. While covering the Columbine High School shooting, Mr. Goldstein discovered that members of the school’s community were distraught from TIME’s recent cover photo, in which the main focus was on the shooters, not the students who were killed. They wanted reassurance that this would not happen again. Mr. Goldstein retained a neutral position, noting his lack of control over the matter, but also stated how he could not believe they would repeat such a thing.
When another cover story that focused solely on new video footage of the killers ran, Mr. Goldstein had to come to terms with the betrayal the members of the community would feel and the role he played in that betrayal. To alleviate some of the pain, Mr. Goldstein personally reached out to each person he talked to, warning them ahead of time of the cover story. He also contemplated whether he “could have pushed harder [than he did] to keep that photo off the cover,” acknowledging his personal responsibility. Mr. Goldstein’s main takeaway from this was to figure out one’s motivations – the principles upon which one bases their decisions. Getting those right, he noted, is the first step towards acting with integrity. This was a key theme of his overall talk. In his conclusion, he reminded students and faculty to “step back and look at our public discourse today… the importance of telling the truth has dropped off the list of what people think matters. As Pingry students, that should not be acceptable to you.” He encouraged the community to always “remember the values [that] were taught here” to guide their decisions in life.
The talk was well received throughout the community. Meghan Durkin (V), Secretary of the Honor Board, said that “his take on the Honor Code was very insightful, especially his remark that while it may allow for more violations, it provides students with the chance to make realistic, tough decisions.” Samantha Burak (VI) also noted how “we hear about honorable behavior in our daily lives, but this was an important reminder that the lessons of the Honor Code apply well beyond just high school. The stories that Mr. Goldstein shared with us revealed that real situations in life are not always black or white, but that we should be striving to act with personal integrity regardless.”