Of the things we think, say or do:

Is it the truth?

Is it fair to all concerned?

Will it build good will and better

friendships?

Will it be beneficial to all concerned?

The quote above is known world-wide as the Four Way Test and is one of the most widely printed and quoted statements of business ethics. It was written by Herbert Taylor, a Rotarian, and was adopted by Rotary International as its creed in 1943 and has been translated into more than 100 languages. At weekly Rotary meetings held around the world, members stand and recite out loud the succinct four-step statement of how to conduct their actions in the upcoming week.

In his column in Friday’s Bulletin, Gene Deason wrote of the traditions and memories the Christmas season conjures up. The fellowship with family and friends, and the celebrations and rituals we share, may change over the years, but they continue to contribute to the fabric of our lives. Once again, as we begin to celebrate the Christmas season and we sing and pray for peace on earth and good will toward men, we are caught in the midst of another contentious and mean-spirited political campaign. It seems to me it is an appropriate time to inject the issue of ethics in the debate.

Leo Morris is the editorial page editor at the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel and he was in Fort Worth recently participating in Ethics Match. In its third year, the program allows students from 18 Texas independent colleges to display their reasoning skills while debating hot issues in business ethics. Morris said in a guide for how to argue with the editorial page: A debate involves two parties. In order for us to move forward — for little truths to lead to the Ultimate Truth — all of us have to be participating in the same conversation, accepting the same definitions, and observing the same rules. A vigorous debate, joined by people with passionately held opinions, can help clarify issues and focus attention on areas of agreement. And once we agree on something, it can help us move forward by showing us what we can build on. I am sorry, but I don’t see that happening today with the American political dialog. When I tune into a talk radio or television broadcast, which I rarely do, and hear someone ratcheting on about how much they hate Hillary and illegal immigrants, I get angry and cannot find the dial or remote fast enough.

In a recent column, Garrison Keillor wrote about the driveway philosophers. He said his male role models didn’t raise their voices. They stood with their backs to a pickup and looked across the field and murmured things like — “How’s that car of yours running?” They wonder which candidate knows about gas mileage, and who has a normal relationship with their children. According to Keillor, they constitute a large, invisible block of voters who look at candidates and get an intuitive sense of who is real and who is not.

This morning marks the beginning of Advent — the period preceding and leading up to the Christmas season. Even as the Christmas season has become more secular — some even use the word Christmas synonymously with gift giving — Advent still brings joy from the observance of ancient customs. It is a time of church going and for spiritual reflection as well as of cheer and anticipation.

Candace Cooksey Fulton shared with me a clipping from the San Angelo Standard-Times in which a West Texas lawman, the late Bill C. Cooksey, told of one of the most important lessons he learned in his career. It was late one Saturday night or early Sunday morning and it had been a particularly eventful one of breaking up fights and busting drunks. The captain asked Cooksey what he was doing the next day. When he said he was thinking about just sleeping in the captain said — you get up and you go to church, and be around good folks every chance you get, or you’ll end up like the people you’ve been fighting all night. It was an important lesson and is one of the reasons Rotarians stand up and recite out loud the Four Way Test at every club meeting.

Robert Brincefield is publisher of the Brownwood Bulletin. His column appears on Sunday. He may be reached by e-mail at bob.brincefield@brownwoodbulletin.com.