One of my favorite movies is She Wore a Yellow Ribbon with John Wayne. In it, Wayne, playing a captain of cavalry says to a young officer, “never apologize, son-its a sign of weakness”.
Apparently many of the candidates running for President seem to think that this Hollywood bit of machismo is now a required characteristic of a successful candidate. Several of them, including Donald Trump, Carly Fiorina. Mike Huckabee and Ted Cruz have refused to apologize for offensive and patently false statements. Hillary Clinton had to be cajoled to apologize for a foolish remark regarding her mail server. Apparently, those who support these candidates approve of the “no apology” model, because their poll numbers do not fall when they refuse to apologize.
The truth is, the refusal to apologize for a false or offensive statement is both cowardly and weak. It shows that the person is incapable of reflection, growth and change. It shows that at worst they are morally stunted and at best, shallow. My teacher Rabbi David Hartman has taught that the ability to change is the hallmark of the human being, that which distinguishes us from the rest of creation. He has also taught that the ability to change is both the most difficult and morally noble act a person can undertake. Saying “I’m sorry” is not a sign of weakness, it is a sign of strength.