Dear Association Members and Friends,
“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear”.
Today is March 20, 2020. As I write this early on a Friday morning, I am sitting alone at the Office of State Inspector General in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Though one or two others will join me today, most employees of Louisiana state government are now working remotely. The AIG offices at the John Jay College in New York are also closed (along with the rest of Manhattan) and our staff is working remotely. Most, if not all of you, no matter what part of the country you are from, are experiencing similar circumstances. Restaurants are closed, grocery store shelves are emptying faster than they can be restocked, and there is increasing concern for the health of the public and the economy as we try our best to prevent the Corona Virus from spreading. These are indeed surreal – one might even say frightening – times.
Against that backdrop, the most important message I can send today is one of encouragement – a reminder of who we are and why we do what we do as members of the Inspector General profession. Noted Civil War historian Shelby Foote once observed the following about General U.S. Grant:
“Grant had what they called ‘4-o’clock-in-the-morning courage.’ That meant you could wake him up at four o’clock in the morning and tell him the enemy had turned his right flank, and he’d be as cool as a cucumber.’”
Throughout my career, I have worked with strong leaders who had that 4 a.m. courage, and unfortunately, also with some who did not and made bad decisions under duress. Though this crisis is unprecedented in modern times, Inspectors General are certainly not unfamiliar with duress.
I have observed many times during my time as AIG President that Inspectors General are “the constant,” not unlike the mast of a ship during a violent storm. We in the Inspector General community have – or do our best to have – that “4-o’clock-in-the-morning courage” that Shelby Foote described. It is not easy, but in times of crisis, our goal is to lead by example and always exercise cool, objective, professional judgment. Our calmness in the face of fear can be an inspiration to others.
All of you are a blessing and an inspiration to me, and I have never been prouder to count myself as a member of the Inspector General profession. I have no doubt that our collective “4 am courage” will help get us through this crisis, and the sun will shine very brightly on the other side. Therefore, be encouraged and take good care of yourselves and your families. This too shall pass.
Stephen B. Street, Jr., AIG National President