In the introduction preceding George Will’s speech, “Virtues Versus Values,” it forewarns, “He does not explicitly define ‘values’ and ‘virtues,’ so an important part of understanding this speech is to figure out what are the differences between them” (376). So, I grabbed my dictionary, as I so often do, and looked up each of these words in turn. I learned that values are priorities or intentions, a noun, while virtues are internal goodness and acts, a verb. Armed with this new understanding, I read Will’s speech, which he gave at the graduation ceremonies at Lafayette College in Eaton, Pennsylvania. As I read, there were a couple different things he said that I believe did clearly define and explain the very real, very important difference between values and virtues. The first of these was, “Unlike virtues, everyone has lots of values; everyone has as many as he or she chooses. Hitler had scads of values. George Washington had virtues” (378). My immediate thought was, enough said. A little further on, Will further clarifies this by saying, “Values… are mere choices. In contrast, virtues are habits, difficult to develop and therefore not accessible to all” (379).
I realize that Will gave this speech with political undertones, coming from a Democratic point of view; however, I believe that anyone could learn a good lesson from this, about themselves and the direction they are going in. Values are not a bad thing to have by any means, but virtues are what will take you the distance. I am grateful to have learned this at a most crucial time in my educational journey.