GAP President Louis Clark recently authored the following entry on the blog of The Kindle Project, a Santa Fe-based grant-making entity which is a fiscally sponsored project of the Common Counsel Foundation. The Kindle Project's mission is to cultivate possibilities and support people and projects addressing a broad range of issues and avenues of change.
GAP’s Jesselyn Radack interviews SEC whistleblower Gary Aguirre on the American Whistleblower Tour.In today’s world, it’s difficult for David to triumph over Goliath. Hollywood loves to rewrite history by mythologizing heroes who are remembered as being single-handedly responsible for changing it. Essentially, the “power of one” storyline is more memorable than the “it takes a village” approach.
The truth of the matter lies elsewhere, as both are required to make progress. It takes courageous visionaries and legions of supporters to disrupt the status quo, build a movement, and implement enduring change.
The whistleblower phenomenon itself is a microcosm of societal evolution, where a problematic issue is raised, and measures taken to solve it. Typically, a whistleblower takes a moral stand: refusing to go along with a crooked scheme, follow illegal orders, remain silent in the face of specific public health dangers, etc. The question becomes whether this courageous person will drown beneath the waves they created. The answer rests with all of us. When confronted with evil, what do good people do? Whistleblowers either sow the seeds of their own destruction or become catalysts for reform. How society and individuals respond to truth-tellers make us either accomplices to wrongdoing or citizen activists on the right side of history.
Thirty-five years ago, as a young lawyer with a seemingly irrelevant divinity degree and church ordination, I met my first whistleblowing client. A computer wizard and quality assurance specialist, he had exposed defects in the Pentagon’s Worldwide Command and Control Intercomputer Network. He had lost his job, career, and 65 pounds that he could ill-afford. The computer network eventually crashed and was abandoned as dysfunctional. But the whistleblower was professionally overtaken by the hornet’s nest he had kicked, and I lost my first case.