Josie Walden had been designated a high achiever ever since she began her career at Quality Fabrics. She quickly rose in the manufacturing facility where she worked. In twelve years, she rose to being the plant manager at the largest plant in the company. What once was a low performing facility turned into the company’s best facility in just one year.
Josie’s dedication to the company came at a price. Her long hours had taken a toll on her marriage. She and her husband divorced. Josie was now a single mom with two teenage boys. Her unmarried sister came to live with her and became like a surrogate mom to the two boys.
A big change came when the CEO of the company asked her to come to the corporate headquarters to take on a new role. He wanted her to get experience in marketing and finance. Clearly she was being prepared for a high-level senior executive position.
But things took an unexpected turn when the CEO asked her to get an MBA at one of the nation’s top business schools. The CEO had arranged for everything to be covered. That’s when Josie had to reveal something that had haunted her for a long while. She had never actually received her undergraduate degree. She had failed a course in her last semester. She was heavily in debt at the time and could not afford to return to campus for another semester. And the course she needed would not be available until the spring semester. That would have meant waiting another year to get her degree. Her student loan obligation would need to be paid, and she had no income.
Josie had hoped the CEO would understand her predicament, but hopes turned to disappointment when her employment was terminated. While the CEO was sympathetic, he was unwilling to go against corporate policies—despite Josie’s years of excellent performance and even though the company was also somewhat at fault for failing to verify her degree.
Was justice done here? We often think of justice as a matter for the courts, but what about in the rest of our lives—with issues that don’t rise to the level of legal review? What principles should guide our thinking about justice? What agreements could we reach as a society about principles of justice that could apply to us all? How might we develop and reach such agreements?
Just imagine what it might look like for us to reach commonly recognized principles of justice across our society. Just imagine how an expansive vision of justice could impact the lives of every citizen. Just imagine how shared principles of justice could make all of us “owners” of what is meant by a just society.
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“Change your opinions, keep to your principles; change your leaves, keep intact your roots.” — Victor Hugo (novelist and author of Les Miserables)
This is part of our “Just Imagine” series of occasional posts, inviting you to join us in imagining positive possibilities for a citizen-centered democracy. The story above is based on a real situation, with some details changed to protect confidentiality.