My Personal Code


At the beginning of this month — April Fool’s Day, in fact — the New York Times called for readers to submit responses to an op-ed piece they called “A Code to Live By: What is Yours?”

Here is the explanation: “We invite readers to step back from day-to-day events and consider: What is your guiding philosophy or the personal code you live by? How does it play out in your life?… Submissions should be no more than 200 words.”

After pondering my own personal code, I decided to give it a shot. I figured that if my submission did not pass muster with the “Gray Lady” — Hey, it never has before! — I could serve it up as a blog post.  Gray Lady took a pass.  So, in 198 words, my code…

5 Words with Bird (Of Uncertain Species)

My high school years began in 1968 at a small Maine boarding school.  In addition to the requisite coat of arms in distinctive blue and gold with an odd-looking bird of uncertain species at the top, the school shield featured five words underneath:


While we tackled the 3 Rs in the classroom and each other on the gridiron — Back then it was a boys’ school. – the faculty appeared, to us anyway, as obsessed with finding as many opportunities as possible to opine on these five words:

–        “Honesty is when your words match you deeds; integrity is when your deeds match your words.”

–        “Leadership is a behavior, not a position.”

–        “Curiosity means owning your own learning.”

–        “True Concern demands a supportive and challenging environment.”

Although I did not know of her in 1968, a Maya Angelou quote sums up why Courage is listed first on the shield: “Courage is the most important of all the virtues because without courage, you cannot practice any of the other virtues.”

During my four high school years, those words became my lifelong code. Last year, I celebrated my fortieth year on the faculty.

Malcolm Gauld
Bath, Maine