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“Character” – Word of the Week

Definition of the word of the week (CHARACTER): Moral or ethical strength

The start of a new school year brings the promise of challenges and opportunities to many students. Parents, teachers and community leaders are anxious to ensure that our children get a complete education. That is, we want to develop their intellects and raise the quality of their character. The former is achieved through both innovative and time-tested teaching in and out of the classroom. The latter, however, is more challenging but the need is clearly obvious.

Because they do not know better, too many students have embraced the ideology of relativism. Instead of pondering the various ethical theories and agonizing over the right thing to do and thereby forging their characters on the anvil of adversity, many students and adults take the easy way out and claim that each person determines what is right and wrong. Like 7-UP soda calling itself the “Un-Cola”, relativism is a “Un-Theory”. It is like claiming that mathematics does not exist because we are too lazy to think through the tough problems.

I recently read a story about a mother of a track star who discovered that her daughter had been drinking alcohol. Underage drinking was against the team’s zero tolerance policy and would result in the daughter’s disqualification from the state track meet. However, the mother insisted that her daughter report herself to her coach. How many students would have the strength of character to do that?

The mother was then aghast to learn that when the daughter told her coach what happened, the coach looked the other way and wanted to wait until after the state track meet to deal with the matter. At this point, hadn’t the mother and daughter done enough? Relatively, perhaps. Absolutely, NO.

The mother then took the matter to the principal who subsequently referred the matter to the school board. The daughter was suspended from the team, the coach was fired and the school lost the track meet. Was the price too high? Initially, the daughter thought so but after she had a child of her own, she realized that one’s actions, not words, manifest character and a parent worthy of the title should set the example.

A critical component of teaching character is to model character. How many of us would have had the courage to take such a stand?

The following quotations are intended to assist in explaining and exemplifying the word of the week:

Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired, and success achieved. Helen Keller

You cannot dream yourself into a character; you must hammer and forge yourself one. James A. Froude

Moral cowardice that keeps us from speaking our minds is as dangerous to this country as irresponsible talk. The right way is not always the popular and easy way. Standing for right when it is unpopular is a true test of moral character. Margaret Chase Smith

To arrive at a just estimate of a renowned man’s character one must judge it by the standards of his time, not ours. Mark Twain

Judge of your natural character by what you do in your dreams. Ralph Waldo Emerson

People seem not to see that their opinion of the world is also a confession of character. Ralph Waldo Emerson

Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give
him power. Abraham Lincoln

A person reveals his character by nothing so clearly as the joke he resents. George Lichtenberg

When the character of a man is not clear to you, look at his friends. Japanese Proverb

Hard work spotlights the character of people: some turn up their sleeves, some turn up their noses, and some don’t turn up at all. Sam Ewing

You can tell the character of every man when you see how he receives praise. Seneca

Put more trust in nobility of character than in an oath. Solon

But rules cannot substitute for character. Alan Greenspan

Character, in the long run, is the decisive factor in the life of an individual and of nations alike. Theodore Roosevelt

The true test of civilization is not the census, nor the size of cities, nor the crops – no, but the kind of man the country turns out. Ralph Waldo Emerson

The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically… Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education. Martin Luther King Jr.

Character is that which reveals moral purpose, exposing the class of things a man chooses and avoids. Aristotle

Fame is a vapor, popularity an accident, riches take wing, and only character endures. Horace Greeley

If we want our children to possess the traits of character we most admire, we need to teach them what those traits are and why they deserve both admiration and allegiance. Children must learn to identify the forms and content of those traits. William J. Bennett

Character is much easier kept than recovered. Thomas Paine

Character is simply habit long continued. Plutarch

One can acquire everything in solitude — except character. Henri Stendahl

If a man has any greatness in him, it comes to light, not in one flamboyant hour, but in the ledger of his daily work. Beryl Markham

You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

LTC Patrick Beer, the Dean of Students and Commandant of Cadets at Georgia Military College, prepares this study guide each week as part of the institution’s character education program. He welcomes comments and suggestions from readers. He can be contacted by phone, 478-445-2710 or by email, pbeer@gmc.cc.ga.us