Coleen Rowley and Tim McGuire —
Work and Conscience

Host Krista Tippett explores the practical implications of spirituality at work with Federal Bureau of Investigations special agent and whistleblower Coleen Rowley and syndicated columnist Tim McGuire.

In May 2002, Rowley wrote a now-famous 13-page letter to Robert Mueller, Director of the FBI. In it, Rowley raised serious and detailed concerns about how the FBI had handled leads prior to the September 11th attacks.

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Coleen Rowley

is Special Agent in the Minneapolis Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. (She speaks in a personal capacity and not on behalf of the FBI.)

Since September 11, 2001, she has been examining her own deepest motivations and has become a counselor and role model for others. In this program, she speaks about her personal experiences and how her conscience has developed. What might the high-profile courage of this plainspoken woman have to do with the rest of us, in other fields of work?

is a syndicated columnist, speaker, and facilitator. He's the past president of the American Society of Newspaper Editors and former Vice President and Editor of the Star Tribune in Minneapolis.

Tim McGuire connects the morality of whistleblowing with a larger movement sometimes called spirituality in the workplace. McGuire writes a weekly syndicated column, More Than Work, for United Media addressing ethics, spirituality, and values in work. He traces his interest in this field to a period in which he was searching for ways to reconcile his own values and his style of leadership.

Selected Readings

Anyway- a prayer

Read a version of the poem Coleen Rowley recited during the program and sung by Maggie and Suzzy Roche on their album Zero Church.

Six Steps to Becoming a Better "Work Prophet"

Read an extended version of the column "Six Steps to Becoming a Better 'Work Prophet'" that was read by Tim McGuire during the program.

Imagine You A Member of the F.B.I.

Read an essay, "The Feminine Touch", written by J. Edgar Hoover, in which he lauds the importance of women performing administrative functions and justifies women being excluded because of the physical rigors of being a Special Agent. An excerpt from the pamphlet rationalizes why women can't be FBI agents.

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I have listened to several of your productions online. The "Work and Conscience" was the best, most inspiring talk I've heard in years. I wish that it could be made into a video, expanded and shown on TV often! Thank you all for doing such a fine job in presenting truth and hope and, most importantly, a solution!

I was greatly inspired by the interview with Coleen Rowley. I'm the Executive Director of the Program for Torture Victims, a nonprofit organization that provides medical and psychological services to survivors of torture from more than 50 countries around the world. In some sense, all our clients are "whistle blowers:" they stood up against a repressive government or police state and said "Enough! This must stop." And they suffered horribly for exercising their conscience. What guides them and gives them strength? As one survivor explained: It is only through living for what is right that we will achieve a meaningful death."

I've listened to "Work and Conscience" twice on my computer after hearing it on my way to work. After 22 years of giving my whole self to a job with the Federal Government, I had lost my faith in government, people. I was unhappy and unfulfilled. The things that went on can't even be mentioned, and I couldn't do a thing about it. I am now a Home Health Aid and a Certified Nursing Assistant for the local Hospital in Northfield, MN and I truly found my calling. I took a huge cut in pay, but I am happy. I don't know how to work without integrity, and I am proud of this fact. We have to look deep inside of ourselves and give our all to truly make a difference. I love this program.

I enjoyed today's program. But I disagree with Mr. McGuire about faith and spirituality. All the great spiritual leaders have been connected to a religious tradition, if not organized religion. Look at Dorothy Day, D. Lama, M. Teresa, M.L. King, Gandhi, Bonhoeffer, Buber, Heschel, etc. You can't really divorce the two, even though that's popular in some circles. If you do divorce the two, the spirituality can become empty, formless, and vapid. There are exceptions such as Thoreau but those are rare. I'm biased coming from the church but no more so than one who's anti organized religion.

I love my job and am happy to say that I am able to bring my full self, good, bad, faith and all to my job and am fully accepted for who I am by my bosses, but keep in mind I work retail and the public isn't always so nice. I had had a really tough week last week. It seemed that no matter what I did I just kept getting "kicked" by someone. I listened to your show, and it really helped me to get my perspective back.

What a wonderful program on the interactions of "work and conscience" on a post-valentine morning... Last night my wife and friends saw the movie 'Mystic River and was struck by the depth of the message, and here comes your most inspiring overview of integrating work-life and one's conscience to do 'higher goods' the next day. Now that's what I call synchronicity, eh!

I 'work' as school psychologist and continue to try and 'do good' and make a positive impact. Your show will help keep me focused skillfully in that vocation and avocational pursuit.

I have, for the past 10+ years, believed in and practiced a spiritual approach to my supervision and general approach to the employees I am responsible to. Recently, the owner of the company, who PROFESSES a 'spiritual' approach, proved himself to be dishonest by his actions, that have totally disrupted the workplace—a disruption that he cannot/will not assume responsibility for. It pains me to see the impact of his behavior(s) on the employees, and, thanks to your program of this weekend, I have a new-found strength to continue dealing with the 'fallout'—since it is mine to 'handle'.

Thank you for putting together your high quality, thought-provoking, inspiring program Speaking of Faith. I teach 7th grade in a religious education program and I am continually looking for real life examples to explain, inspire, challenge and provoke feeling, thoughts, and hopefully discussion for these emerging young adults.

Listening to Colleen Rowley's interview in "Work and Conscience" seems to have the perspective of what I need to hook my students into discussing "doing the right thing." What really caught my ear was Coleen's reference to the book by Fulton Sheen, The Cross and the Beatitudes: Lessons on Love and Forgiveness. This is the book that I found and read to understand each of the Beatitudes myself and now use to explain to my students.

I find that alternate media presentations and gathering the support materials and resources (which you provide a wonderful bibliography of further reading, music, etc. from the program) makes the basics of my lessons stick in their memory and mine. I can't wait to order an audio copy of this program and listen to past audio of your programs. I'm sure I will find more inspiring material and topics!