THE BLOG
11/06/2013 01:23 pm ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

Each of Us Can Change

How many times have we heard people who said an unequivocal no to the question of whether or not any of us can change in a meaningful way? When asked the question, almost without exception, people assert simply that we humans do not possess the capacity for change. Animals don't change their stripes. Again and again, I've seen just the opposite. Here's one such remarkable case in point.

I remember vividly the beginning of the story. I was a student in college, visiting my parents in London. My father had a job with a large American oil company with interests in the Middle East. That part of the business was headquartered in London. No sooner had I arrived from a summer vacation than the story of the decade shook the country and eventually brought down the Tory government. It was a classic British sex scandal that titillated the Brits and fueled the media with details that even the most imaginative novel would have been challenged to provide. The attraction was turbo-charged by the central character in the story. A brilliant aristocrat educated at the finest establishment institutions, a favorite cabinet Minister who was also one of the highly respected Prime Minister's special protégés.

In the early 1960s, John Profumo was the Secretary of State for War in Harold Macmillan's Conservative government and was married to actress Valerie Hobson. In 1961, Profumo met Christine Keeler, a London call girl, at a party in the Buckinghamshire mansion owned by Lord Astor. The relationship with Keeler had lasted a few weeks when Profumo ended it. However, in 1962 details about the affair became public. What also emerged was that Keeler may have had a relationship with Yevgeny "Eugene" Ivanov, a senior naval attaché at the Soviet embassy in London. It was potentially a dangerous breach of national security at the height of the Cold War, given Profumo's position in the government. Profumo's affair quickly became a public scandal.

In 1963, Profumo told the House of Commons there was nothing improper in his relationship with Keeler. The controversy rolled on, and eventually Profumo confessed that he had misled the House and lied in his testimony. In June, he resigned his Cabinet position and Parliamentary membership.

Well, the story doesn't end there. True, the villain was banished to obscurity and many decades pass without a sign of the disgraced Profumo. He simply vanished, and no one seemed to care what happened to the sinful former Minister. That is, we didn't hear about him until late this summer when Profumo passed away of old age. Amazingly, Profumo completely altered his life after the scandal took him down. He spent his remaining years doing good, helping people with caring and compassion. He refused the limelight, he turned down interviews, never sought credit or recognition. He just spent his life doing good. In his obituary, The Telegraph wrote: "He became known, in the last 40 years of his life, as a tireless worker for charity and as a man who bore his humiliations with enormous dignity and personal integrity."

The story had a great deal of meaning to me, having been a witness to his downfall, public disgrace and humiliation. So I tip my hat to Mr. Profumo. He became a chastened and changed man for much of his adult life. So the real question for me is this. What epiphany does it take for any of us to find profound meaning in life? Surely most of us can choose the good without having to first disgrace ourselves. Doing good is such a powerful, natural part of us as humans. In these troubled times it's worthwhile to remember that any of us has the capacity to change.

Our families, our communities, our nation would be great beneficiaries if each of us took this remarkable man as an embodiment that what you choose to do now with your life matters far more than what you did yesterday, last week, last year, or thirty years ago. What is your story?

Peter Georgescu is the author of The Constant Choice. http://www.theconstantchoice.com
Follow him on Twitter: www.twitter.com/petergeorgescu