Public figures from Arnold Schwarzenegger to LeBron James to Newt Gingrich to Oprah are apologizing. So many mea culpas create an opportunity to better define forgiveness.
More public figures these days seem comfortable in offering apologies, either for their own misdeeds or on behalf of an entire group. But while owning up to past wrongs may be more common, what of forgiveness from those wronged?
Few Japanese, for example, have yet to forgive the Tokyo Electric Power Co. for not better preparing for the March 11 tsunami that knocked out the Fukushima Daiichi power plant. Yet the TEPCO president, Masataka Shimizu, has made many personal apologies to refugees from that nuclear disaster. And he promises to make amends and improve safety in other plants.
Former Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak, who was ousted Feb. 11, reportedly plans to apologize for his actions. He may claim only that he took “bad advice” from aides in suppressing dissent. Such a limited admission of responsibility probably won’t qualify for leniency in Egyptian eyes.
BP chief executive Robert Dudley recently said he was sorry for the giant oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico last year. He also detailed the steps aimed at earning back the trust of government and the rest of the oil industry, such as tougher rules on drilling. Critics and many victims still aren’t satisfied.