(NEW YORK) – In a nationwide address two weeks ago, the director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe alerted the American public that Russia and Iran obtained voter data to try and interfere in the 2020 presidential election:

“This data can be used by foreign actors to attempt to communicate false information to registered voters that they hope will cause confusion, sow chaos, and undermine your confidence in American democracy.”

Just as the nation witnessed in 2016, once again, foreign adversaries are seemingly looking to affect election outcomes and sow division among voters.

Mick Mulroy is an ABC News national security analyst and co-founder of the Lobo Institute. He recently wrote an essay for the philosophical journal Modern Stoicism about leaders across human cultures who have embodied ethical behavior that others are drawn to emulate. Mulroy describes why that integrity and honest leadership can help shape trust in American public institutions:

“Morals and ethics are the core of any society. They constitute a nation’s culture. They affect how we behave as neighbors or as allies, in grammar school or law school, on Wall Street or Main Street, in peace or in war. Instant connectivity and complexity arguably make moral beliefs and ethical practices more relevant than they were in the pre-Internet era. They are our bulwarks against chaos, and perhaps even social dissolution. Honesty, integrity, empathy, selflessness, moral courage, and ethical practice hold us together as a nation. They are worth sustaining and defending.”

Mulroy spoke with ABC’s Perspective podcast about the essay, election interference, and the role of moral leadership in a functioning democracy. Mulroy says the country’s divisiveness amongst its leaders increases America’s vulnerability to foreign interference:

“It is become, ‘Well, this particular group benefits me… if they benefit me, I’m not going to focus on them. I’ll focus on the ones that don’t.’ And I think by focusing on it that way, we’ve basically allowed all these countries to start doing whatever they want to do in our election.”

He says electing leaders who look beyond partisan divides leads to civility and a stronger response to foreign adversaries acting inappropriately.

“That has to be completely unacceptable regardless of which side of the political aisle. You have to demand that we do everything we can.”

Civil leadership was recently exemplified in Utah’s governor race: Democrat Chris Peters and Republican Spencer Cox, who are running against each other, appeared in a social media post together, encouraging citizens to consider what they value in their leaders when they head to the polls.

Mulroy’s argument is similar and says that civility can help to preserve the safety of American elections, and one of the most important strategies our leaders can employ is to try and unite the country:

“Everybody knows scarcer resources, climate change, overpopulation, pollution and general viruses that, you know, came out of nowhere… we can’t quite figure out how to get under control. I mean, it’s not like these are going away… they’re probably going to increase. And if we don’t trust each other, it’s going to be harder to deal with them.”

Listen to the full report and the rest of this past week’s highlights here.Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.