Recent Character Commentaries

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The Character Question
“A good moral character is the first essential in a man.”  – George Washington After the Florida debate in January, Republican candidate Newt Gingrich called rival Mitt Romney “fundamentally dishonest.” The former House Speaker expanded his comments with conservative commentator Sean Hannity about Romney’s tenure at Boston-based venture capital group Bain Capital. Gingrich said, “We’re talking about the character, the...
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March 2, 2012
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Whatever happened to statesmanship?
England’s finest Prime Minister and Statesman Winston Churchill famously said, “A fanatic is one who can’t change his mind and won’t change the subject.” Considering the ticking clock deadline for Congress’s bipartisan supercommittee to find a path to cut at minimum $1.2 trillion from the budget over ten years, Churchill’s words seem sadly prophetic. “It wasn’t so much of a...
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November 21, 2011
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Character, Courage – Part II
“Gerald R. Ford became President not because he was popular with the American public, not because he campaigned for the job, but because of his character,” writes James Cannon inCharacter Above All, a collection of essays about presidential character and courage. “More than any other president of this century,” Cannon says, “Ford was chosen for his integrity and trustworthiness; his...
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September 26, 2011
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Character and Courage
“I’ll tell you,” Franklin Roosevelt once told a friend during the toughest years of his presidency, “at night when I lay my head on my pillow, and it is often pretty late, and I think of the things that have come before me during the day and the decisions that I have made, I say to myself — well, I...
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September 19, 2011
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Philadelphia Story
Several years ago I was in Philadelphia speaking to about 400 administrators and trustees of a large teacher pension fund. At the end of the talk, I left the group with a story that asks, in essence, if we all had to make decisions with our families looking over our shoulder, would we be comfortable, proudeven, of the decisions we make?...
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April 20, 2011
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Washington’s Rules
At the age of sixteen, George Washington copied, by hand, 110 Rules of Civility & Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation. Based on rules composed by French Jesuits in 1595, the conventions outline how we demonstrate respect for others. In a time of widespread self-interest, the rules focus on others. In his biography of Washington, historian Richard Brookhiser writes, “all modern...
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February 25, 2011
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Educating Jim
“Why do we study ethics? What does it mean to be a person of character, integrity, honor?” Those were the questions I posed to students at the beginning of a week-long class at the New Hampshire Technical Institute on ethics. “Most people want to do the right thing,” I said. “They want to be worthy of the respect and admiration...
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January 26, 2011
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No single word can adequately sum up any individual, but for Elizabeth Edwards, the former wife of presidential candidate, John Edwards, character would have to rank high on the list. Edwards died yesterday of breast cancer. In a final message to friends and colleagues, Elizabeth Edwards wrote, “I have been sustained throughout my life by three saving graces — my...
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December 8, 2010
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How Old is Wisdom?
The Wall Street Journal’s Peggy Noonan had an interesting take this weekend (July 17) on President Obama’s poll numbers and problems with the economy and other issues. “…you know what I think people miss when they look at Washington and our political leadership,” Noonan asks. “They miss old and august. They miss wise and weathered. They miss the presence of bruised...
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July 19, 2010
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Ethics in Action
Ernie Allen has spent much of his life in public service and is currently president and CEO of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. In a conversation from 1999, Ernie shared this story with me about the importance of accountability. “I have found that it is not enough just to strive to do what is right, because oftentimes, right...
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July 7, 2010

Read Some of the Most Recent Articles
The Latest... And Often Greatest
Memo to Democrats: Don’t Gloat
Note: On assignment, but I’ll be back! No high-fives. No victory laps. No champagne room. You’re not out of the woods, yet. Watching Democratic leadership...
The Bird is The Word
“A-well-a everybody’s heard about the bird! Bird bird bird, b-bird’s the word A-well-a bird, bird, bird, bird is the word . . . ”—The Trashmen,...
Stand for What’s Right!
Integrity: firm adherence to a code of moral values—uprightness. A rap star spouts antisemitic and anti-Black remarks and refuses to apologize. A basketball star apologizes...
The Lies of Alex Jones: Contemptible, Now, ACCOUNTABLE!
Returning to duty Monday, November 7! Alex Jones, the belligerent, hostile, influential media host of Infowars was held accountable for his lies concerning the murder...
Great Moments in Republican Hypocrisy
How much toxicity can American democracy take before it collapses? Here’s pro-life conservative pundit Dana Loesch speaking about the scandal surrounding former pro-football player, anti-abortion...
Yvon Chouinard’s Extraordinary Gift
With all the chaos and destruction brought about by Washington and an unprecedented hurricane, one story has received only moderate attention. Before Yvon Chouinard became...