Why I do research on corruption & integrity, in two photos

rfk
Hanging on my door since 1998

Photo #1: Body Shop advert, circa 1997/1998

I cut this ad out of a magazine when I was doing my PhD back in the late 1990s. Both JFK and RFK were heroes for my parents, but the reason I was drawn to this was for the text rather than just the subject.

You make the men of power; use your vote wisely. 

The problem of power is how to get men of power to live for the public rather than off the public. 

I was at the beginning of my research career, and this summed up – far more eloquently than I could have done – why I was drawn to trying to better understand the (political) dynamics of corruption and how to improve ways of reducing it.

I hung this on the door of my office at the University of Durham as a grad student and then in Birmingham as a lecturer, where it remains. My father-in-law took pity on it at one point and laminated it for me, so it doesn’t suffer any more wear and tear.

I hung it there for myself, but also for the absolutely incredible students I’ve been fortunate enough to teach, in the hope that it might inspire them too.

Twenty years on, gender dynamics may have changed (‘Um…women of power? Hello?’, my 11-year old daughter said), but sadly, the message – and the inspiration – remain as relevant as ever.

dad

 

Photo #2: My Dad, August 2007

This photo is from a news article about the ‘call for civility‘ in local politics in my hometown.

With his flair for understated drama, and his deeply held beliefs in democracy and integrity, my dad is holding the flag that was draped over his father’s casket as a veteran of World War II. He was speaking in front of a Town Hall meeting, bringing together local citizens with local officials. It was a time of really divisive local politics, and he called on town selectmen to behave with greater civility and with greater honour in their democratic duties.

For my father, public service remains an honour and a responsibility of citizenship, and these were messages shared again and again in our home when we were growing up. I can honestly say I wouldn’t be who I am, let alone doing what I do, without this.

I’m doing my best to share these messages with my own children, which – it has to be said – isn’t always easy to do right now amid the noise and hostility in public life they see happening in so many places.

But if you look carefully, everywhere there are heroes. And here are two of mine.

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