Always Tell the Truth

6, 7, 8

This lesson provides an example of a politician known for his honesty. Students identify why they depend on politicians to be honest, and discuss why it is difficult for politicians to be honest.

PrintOne 20-minute class period

The learner will:

  • discuss the meaning of a humorous quote about honesty.
  • define civic virtue.
  • state why people depend on honesty in government and politics.


  1. Anticipatory Set

    "Always tell the truth. Then you'll never have to remember what you said the last time." Write this quote on the board for the students to read. Ask them what it means. Ask them to think of examples of when someone might need to remember what they said last time.

  2. Tell the students that a politician, Sam Rayburn, said the above quote. Give a little background about Sam Rayburn. (He was a Texas politician and Speaker of the House of Representatives from 1940 to 1960. He was known for his fairness and integrity, and he was a champion for the poor. He could not be bribed by lobbyists trying to buy his vote.)

  3. Discuss whether it is ironic or fitting that Sam Rayburn made the above comment (fitting). Why? (Because he was an honest man who recognized that dishonest people made mistakes because they couldn't remember what lie they said before. He didn't have trouble remembering what he said because he depended on his true beliefs for recalling information, not his memory.)

  4. Discuss what honesty means in a political context -- Why do we want our polititions to be honest?

  5. Remind the students that this government was formed to give the voting people the decision-making power. "We the people" rule this country. TheFounding Fathers' intent was to not allow a "ruler" to have too much power. If politicians say they will do something and we vote for them because of that, it is important for them to follow through so they are doing what the voters want.

  6. Lead the students to recognize that we trust our representatives to keep their promises and mean what they say because it supports civic virtue [positive behavior that supports group well-being]and the success of the community.

    Use the photo example of these Flint, Michigan politicians taking an oath to be honest:

    These politicians had to take an oath to tell the truth. Why is it necessary for these politician, representing Flint, MI, to travel to our nation’s capital in Washington D.C. to prove their trustworthiness? Discuss the events in Flint that resulted from politicians letting their constituents down.

    What should their next steps be in rebuilding their reputations as trustworthy representatives.  

  7. Ask the learners why they think it is difficult for politicians to follow through on campaign promises. Is it always a matter of dishonesty if they don't? Discuss.

Cross Curriculum 

This character education mini-lesson is not intended to be a service learning lesson or to meet the K-12 Service-Learning Standards for Quality Practice. The character education units will be most effective when taught in conjunction with a student-designed service project that provides a real world setting in which students can develop and practice good character and leadership skills. For ideas and suggestions for organizing service events go to

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 01. Define Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark MS.3 Identify the philanthropic ideas embedded in a nation's founding documents.
      2. Benchmark MS.4 Give examples of how individuals have helped others.
    2. Standard DP 02. Roles of Government, Business, and Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark MS.1 Describe how different needs are met in different ways by government, business, civil society, and family.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 01. Self, citizenship, and society
      1. Benchmark MS.4 Describe the characteristics of someone who helps others.
    2. Standard PCS 05. Philanthropy and Government
      1. Benchmark MS.2 Define civic virtue.
      2. Benchmark MS.4 Identify individual sovereignty as a basic concept in government.
      3. Benchmark MS.6 Describe how the founding documents and fundamental democratic principles encourage citizens to act philanthropically.