In observing Presidents' Day, we celebrate two men best known for their honesty in communicating with the public -- Abraham Lincoln, dubbed "Honest Abe" after paying off his debts when a store he owned went bankrupt, and George Washington, who according to legend confessed that he "could not tell a lie" after chopping down the family cherry tree.
In honor of George and Abe, the Idea Grove today unveiled its Top 10 Moments in Honesty for 2005 - which serve to prove that honesty, indeed, is still the best policy when dealing with the public.
And the winners are...
1. Nelson Mandela's Brave Stance on AIDS. In announcing that his son, Makgatho, died of AIDS, Mandela challenged convention in South Africa, where AIDS remains a shameful stigma. He said such honesty is "the only way of making an ordinary illness ordinary instead of following those who are not well-informed."
2. Armstrong Williams Exposed. Give credit to Greg Toppo of USA Today for exposing Williams as well as Ketchum, the PR firm that paid the commentator $240,000 to promote the Bush Administration's "No Child Left Behind" law on his TV and radio shows.
3. Teri Hatcher's "Has Been" Speech. The actress showed endearing humility during her Golden Globe acceptance when she said she "couldn't have been more of a has-been" before landing her comeback role in "Desperate Housewives."
4. Condoleeza Rice Admits "Bad Decisions." Rice's candor during confirmation hearings was refreshing for a presidential administration that has been reluctant to concede mistakes.
5. Jose Canseco's Steroid Squealing. After being deceived for so long, fans are ready to hear the truth about steroids in baseball - even from an imperfect messenger like Canseco.
6. Splenda "Made from Sugar" - with a Dash of Chlorine. Sugar farmers launched a guerilla campaign to counter Johnson & Johnson's $40 million in annual advertising hyping the artificial sweetener as "made from sugar." Guess that sounds better than "made in a laboratory."
7. Gavin DeGraw's Honest Anthem. In crooning that he doesn't "want to be anything other than what (he's) been trying to be lately," the New York singer-songwriter has created a soulful anthem for being true to oneself.
8. Journalists Show Their Truthful Colors. Despite negative stereotypes, a nationwide study cited by Editor and Publisher showed that journalists, on average, are more ethical than all other professional groups, with the exception of doctors, seminarians and medical students.
9. Reebok Says "I Am What I Am." Yes, it's only an advertising slogan -- but Reebok's $50 million marketing campaign, which launches Feb. 20, will encourage personal integrity through celebrity pitchmen such as Jay Z, Andy Roddick and Lucy Liu. (Popeye was inexplicably excluded.)
10. Harvard President's Candid Remarks on Gender (Before He Took Them Back.) Lawrence Summers should have stopped when he was behind.
Scott Baradell is CEO of the unified PR and marketing agency Idea Grove, one of the top 25 technology PR firms in the United States. His first book,
Trust Signals, is scheduled for publication in 2021.