The Character Building Project

Michael J. Kerrigan



After reading scores of books on heroism, most recently Lindberg’s, The Heroic Heart and Allison’s Heroes What They Do and Why We Need Them, I am encouraged to dive deeper into the waters of heroism. There remains a rich diet of more books to read, such as, MacFarquhar’s, strangers drowning and Zimbardo’s, The Lucifer Effect.

I am also excited to learn from several web sites dedicated to the study of heroism. Two sites of particular interest to me are: The Heroes Project and the Heroic Imagination Project.

THE HEROES PROJECT is an organization that works with the veterans, soldiers, marines, and military families and communities on all levels. Its mission is to improve the care and protection of heroes through individual support, community empowerment and systemic change. The core work of The Heroes Project includes three initiatives: Climb for heroes, Hope for heroes, Voices for heroes.… Continue reading


The first mistake I made in my study of character in America was attending a Department of Education conference on character building. Imagine my surprise when the leader of the sports workshop proposed activities that did not permit wins and losses, or balls and strikes, as “setting these boundaries would harm children’s self-esteem.” For a brief moment until sanity prevailed, I considered bringing this workshop to my golf course to insist that other guys taking my money after a round be outlawed for “setting boundaries that would harm my wallet.”

As I delved deeper into their character education practices I came across lesson plans based on “non religious ways to happiness” that included bullying prevention efforts, and activities designed to make students “feel good about themselves.” Shocked that our tax dollars are paying for these subversive efforts, I asked the leaders of the conference what they thought of having… Continue reading


This book by Scott Allison and George Goethals, two social psychologists from the Department of Psychology at the University of Richmond crafted an unusually well written book by academics but for all readers.

It is unusually well done for several reasons:
• It is a splendid read compactly covering the topic of Heroes and Villains in 207 pages.
• The book cites numerous psychological studies yet understandable to the lay reader. However, I did have issues with the chronology of foot notes
• It is readable by balancing the academic studies with references to movies (Casablanca, One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Gran Tourino); sports (Babe Didrikson Zacharias, Roberto Clemente, Jackie Robinson) the important literary works of Shakespeare (Hamlet, Julius Caesar, King Lear, Macbeth, Twelfth Night) philosophers (Socrates, Kant, Nietzsche) as well as political heroes (Washington, Lincoln, Reagan)
• It touches de riguer, the required studies, stories and authors in… Continue reading


Frederick Douglass was the most well-known Black person in America as he bravely fought for the cause of the abolishment of slavery in the United States.

As we proceed on our quest to study heroism, several questions are in need of answers. Readers have helped me identify the many types of heroes, responded to definitions of heroism and are also sharing their personal heroes with me. The next task would be reader’s help in answering the questions below.


Have our heroes vanished and why?

Have we lost our vision of the heroic ideal?

Does our culture stress the cultivation of heroic traits?

Why do we need heroes?

How do we create an environment that is hospitable to heroes?

How do we distinguish between icons and heroes?

How do we choose to honor some as heroes and others as role models?

Can everyone be a hero?

Can anyone overcome their… Continue reading


Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin

Our last post described the many types of heroes. In seeking identification of your heroes, it occurred to me further definition of heroes would be helpful. The following definitions may help you identify heroes among us.

Heroes are those who spend a lifetime in pursuit of a grand vision.


Heroes are those who have the courage to dare, to fail and to persist.


Heroes are those who have a breadth of vision that enables them to transcend their flaws.


Heroes are those who take journeys, confront the unknown, endure trials and return home transformed.


Heroes see themselves as having an obligation to accomplish good things for others.


Heroes are people who perform extraordinary deeds and provide selfless examples.


Heroes are those who at an instant in time have confronted difficulty, even death defying issues and either succeed or not but risk… Continue reading

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Mottoes & Quotes

The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.

— Mahatma Gandi

For the Visually Impaired

Courage in America has been aurally transcribed for the visually impaired, thanks to Volunteers of Vacaville, California. Tel: 704.448.6841 ext 2044.