The Petraeus/Broadwell affair seems to have engaged our country in a cultural debate over "right and wrong" even more than the recent presidential election ultimately failed to accomplish.
In one case a candidate lost an election. In the other case, a nation lost a hero.
And in doing so in the second example, the nation's truest character may have been exposed as lost. Even while the accused general maintained his own character.
Allow me to explain.
David Petraeus and I attended the same college - The United States Military Academy at West Point. He was a couple classes ahead of me. He graduated and I transferred to a civilian university after two years of service. Like all who attend or graduate from West Point, character is paramount. Duty, honor, country were the three words that guide our lives - both then as West Point Cadets and today. Character is required by that motto.
Perfection is not required. Just character.
As I listen to talk show hosts and guests saying that Gen. Petraeus should not have been "forced" to resign his prestigious post as CIA Director because "what a person does in private has no bearing on one's public life", they fail to grasp the two key reasons why he left.
First, he chose to leave. There is no conspiracy. No Obama-controlled manipulation. David Petraeus resigned on his own initiative. He admitted he was wrong in what he did.
Second, he resigned because he DOES have character. His three-word motto of Duty-Honor-Country would not allow him to remain. He knew he HAD to leave. That's what men and women of character do when they fail.
And so many Americans say it was "only" a private matter. No, they are in error - public servants understand that their positions are so much more than a career-path or even a job. When a servant leader fails to faithfully serve, he or she loses the right to lead.
We are admonished that "the one who serves faithfully in the small things will be given much".
Though many in America refuse to see what Petraeus did by resigning (for they themselves would not blush over what he did, let alone resign), his ultimate last act of service was to do a very small thing: resign - and thus allow for himself a far greater gain in the end by being "given much".
Many in America may have forgotten how to blush (or even why to blush).
David Petraeus knows how and why to blush - and how to honorably exit.
He still leads by his example.