John P. Pelissero, Ph.D
Tasos Katopodis/Pool Photo via AP
This article was originally published in The San Francisco Chronicle on January 25, 2021.
John Pelissero (@1pel) is a senior scholar in government ethics at Santa Clara University’s Markkula Center for Applied Ethics and a professor emeritus of political science from Loyola University Chicago. Views are his own.
Joseph R. Biden delivered his inaugural address as the 46th president of the United States with a theme of unity. He called upon Americans to put aside an “uncivil war” and to find common ground for the public good. His speech was imbued with references to ethical principles, such as justice, fairness, truth and the common good. The words of this new leader are a welcome change after four years of trampling on the ethical foundations of our democracy.
Biden seeks to restore the soul of the nation and stated that his whole soul is committed to finding unity in our democracy. He asks all to put aside personal interest and unite around the common good for the future of our country. In doing so, Biden offers a vision for our country that traces its ethical roots to Aristotle and the desired outcomes for a political community. Serving the common good — the public interest — is the most basic goal of democracy. And Biden’s call to action for that ethical purpose is intended to achieve unity by focusing on the moral objective of achieving the common good.