CARLISLE, Pennsylvania – The pitter-patter of a stern man’s fingers hammering the keyboard echoes across a room lit only by the faint glow of the computer monitors around him. Stopping to take a break, the man ruffles his greying crew cut and meticulously wipes his rimmed glasses. He peers at the overhead clock. The red LED numbers grimly flicker over his head: 2:36 A.M. Sigh. The man, unbeknown to the impending consequences, starts to guide the mouse icon across the homepage of the Harvard Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. Hearing the faint sounds of feet shuffling across the War College library carpet, he stops and peers above the desk. Relief. No one can catch me. A simple combination of Ctrl+C and Ctrl+Z finally relaxes the man, easing his breath – done, he mutters.
On July 23rd, The New York Times Writer Jonathan Martin uncovered an alarming piece of information on Montana Senator John Walsh. It became apparent that Walsh blatantly plagiarized other sources for his 2007 final paper that gained him a master’s degree in strategic studies from the U.S. Army War College. “Mr. Walsh copies an entire page nearly word-for-word from a Harvard paper, and each of his six conclusions is copied from a document from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace without attribution,” writes Martin. A simple online plagiarism detection program crippled both the 53-year-old rookie Senator and a glowing opportunity for the Democratic Party in the upcoming midterm elections. This unveiling could not have come at a more critical time for Walsh who was in the midst of paving the way for a major tax-break bill aimed at bringing manufacturing jobs back to the US.
Conveniently though, in the depths of this political chaos, there are lessons to be learned by our youth:
1) Be cautious of newfound stardom and success
In a growing society of overnight YouTube sensations, “one-and-done” athletes, and SnapChat billionaires, there are individuals within Congress whose quick rise to political prominence could have only been crafted by Aaron Sorkin himself. John Walsh’s storyline is no different. A former veteran and Montana National Guard Adjutant General, Walsh brought more than enough symbolic meaning to a GI-lackluster Democratic Party that installed him within office in February. Following the Senate vacancy seat left by current U.S. Ambassador to China Max Baucus, Democrats intended to utilize Walsh’s track record to retain a blue seat within a fortified red state. Even last week, Democrats celebrated the incumbent Senator’s success in closing the polling gap against Representative Steve Daines, his Republican competitor. Now, however, many would agree that even the Washington Post writer Chris Cillizza understates the situation by claiming Walsh as having the “Worst Week in Washington.”
Undoubtedly, the merriments of Mr. Reid and Company have shifted entirely…
Senator Walsh’s political journey offers insightful advice for our youth. Indeed, mistakes in the past can come back and hurt us. Sometimes, as in the case of Mr. Walsh, they can hurt us more than we could have ever predicted. So, as our ambitious young minds gradually enter the realm of adulthood, we must remember to maintain a future outlook, always assessing the negative impacts of our actions and proceeding with both caution and morality.
2) Honesty is the Best Remedy
In an interview with the Associated Press, Walsh blames his plagiarism on his experience in Iraq: “I don’t want to blame my mistake on PTSD, but I do want to say it may have been a factor.” He adds, “My head was not in a place very conducive to a classroom and an academic environment.”
This is not the first (and certainly not the last) time a politician has ignored the simplicity of honesty.
In November of last year, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky was accused of plagiarizing a Wikipedia page when discussing the movie, “Gattaca”.
Paul, an individual who blurs the distinction between “borrowed” and “stolen,” even announced that he would “fight a duel” with anyone who accused of him of plagiarism.
Nevertheless, both Walsh and Paul fail to recognize the importance of a value supposedly instilled early on within us at the dinner table: “Come clean.”
3) Stay Humble, Stay Hopeful.
In these darkest moments, Walsh has to muster up the courage and focus for his upcoming midterm election against Republican Representative Steve Daines. Mr. Walsh, who currently trails Mr. Daines, desperately seeks a win this November, for the dismal contempt has only just begun. After August 15th, select War College faculty members will convene as an academic review board to personally assess Walsh’s situation.
Like many of us who are eagerly beginning/furthering/ending our adolescent years, all Senator Walsh can really do is stay humble… and hopeful.
Carter, Troy. “Poll: Walsh closing on Daines in U.S. Senate race.” Bozeman Daily Chronicle 21 July 2014, sec. Politics: n. pag. Print.
Cillizza, Chris. “Who had the worst week in Washington? Sen. John Walsh (D-Mont.)..” The Washington Post 24 July 2014, sec. Opinions: n. pag. Print.
Corasaniti, Nick, and Jonathan Martin. “Army War College Starts Plagiarism Inquiry of Senator Walsh’s Thesis.” The New York Times 24 July 2014, sec. Politics: n. pag. Print.
Kane, Paul , and Wesley Lowery. “Plagiarism scandal overshadows Sen. John Walsh’s moment to shine.” The Washington Post 24 July 2014, sec. Politics: n. pag. Print.
Lavender, Paige. “Rand Paul Addresses Plagiarism Claims: ‘I Gave Credit’.” The Huffington Post 30 Oct. 2013, sec. Politics: n. pag. Print.
Martin, Jonathan. “How Senator John Walsh Plagiarized a Final Paper.” The New York Times 23 July 2014, sec. Politics: n. pag. Print.
Martin, Jonathan. “Senator’s Thesis Turns Out to Be Remix of Others’ Works, Uncited.” The New York Times 23 July 2014, sec. Politics: n. pag. Print.