"Acts of conscience often originate with a single person, but their power is in motivating larger numbers of individuals to act. Efforts to change the world are often hindered by constraints of time, talent, resources, even imagination. Acts of conscience can overcome them all.
"I initially thought acts of conscience were mostly political in nature, and rare, and that like exotic birds I might get a glimpse of them if I searched long and stared hard enough. I wanted to collect as many as possible and describe their features for others. I found instead that they are ubiquitous. They are not confined to political affairs or legendary leaders. They do not revolve only around people featured in history books. They can be found in religion, business, sports, art, and every other field of human endeavor. Acts of conscience are as much the province of laundry workers, photographers, jockeys, and painters as of presidents and popes. What is rare is a day whose national and local news doesn't turn on some issue of conscience. I thought the task would require the equivalent of a microscope to dissect and study what I assumed was hard to find and see. What I really needed was a telescope to reveal the dazzling array of stars that surrounds us.
"At first I saw acts of conscience as something separate from the familiar panoply of activities that create change: legislation, political leadership, philanthropy, community-based activism, and community wealth creation. But I realized they are essential precursors, that is, they are what precipitates each of the efforts listed above, what creates both the energy and the climate for achieving change. There is no way to separate acts of conscience from the ongoing effort to improve the social conditions in which people live. Social change is uncertain, hardscrabble work. To the extent it grows from the mixed soil of concern, compassion, and courage to act, acts of conscience are the water that brings it to life.
"Finally, I believe that the lessons to be mined from acts of conscience were timeless and, like morality, were fixed points, anchored in values that do not change. While that may be true, their application is constantly changing, and indeed what keeps acts of conscience alive and relevant is the moral entrepreneurs who introduce conscience-based moralities into new environments, industries, communities, and professions, whether that be entertainment, hospitality or high tech. If it weren't for moral entrepreneurs creating modern-day applications, the principles of conscience would be relegated to history books and Bibles. There would be no bridge between their being taught and their being lived.
"At the center of any exploration of conscience, at the heart of it, is a deeply personal journey. It is a journey that can be mapped only by listening to your own inner voice above and beyond those of others, by staying true to something that at its core can be called self.”