Servicemen and women, veterans and their families, our youth, the elderly, the underemployed, patients, clients, prisoners and others designated as potential collateral damage are among the vulnerable.
These vulnerable groups are often misused, ignored and sacrificed when their well-being, safety or other needs are weighed against prominent individuals, institutions and organizations.
Every profession has its strong protection mechanisms, both formal and informal. As a consequence, the vulnerable can be mistreated and victimized.
Those entrusted with the welfare of our vulnerable have a great responsibility. They must understand and behave according to the privilege and responsibility invested in them.
They must have sensitivity and morality. They must not ignore their charge. We are expected to do unto others, as we would have them do unto us.
The source of damage to vulnerable individuals is often the devaluation of some people as less worthy than institutions, organizations or other human beings.
If mistakes are acknowledged and corrected, such damages can be contained. Institutions are compromised when they attempt to hide negative behavior among their members.
We can best avoid such damages by hiring, electing, appointing and promoting leaders who exhibit character that will enable them to do the work, take the heat and hold all they interact with accountable.
Genuine leaders don't shy away from responsibility to anyone who might be affected by them, directly or indirectly. Leadership, empathy and compassion are assets, not liabilities.
We must understand that we are all vulnerable or potentially vulnerable.
We must ensure that our institutions, organizations and participants are aware of policies, behaviors and expected outcomes that are directed toward protecting the vulnerable.
We must make sure, to the best of our abilities, that the weak and vulnerable don't become the spoils of power.
William E. "Gene" Robertson is a Columbia resident and a professor emeritus at MU.