The Character Building Project

Michael J. Kerrigan

While General Douglas MacArthur was stationed in Australia and acting as Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in the Southwest Pacific Area, he penned this prayer for his only son, Arthur.

Build me a son, O Lord, who will be strong enough to know when he is weak and brave enough to face himself when he is afraid; one who will be proud and unbending in honest defeat, and humble and gentle in victory.

Build me a son whose wishes will not take the place of deeds; a son who will know Thee—and that to know himself is the foundation stone of knowledge.

Lead him, I pray, not in the path of ease and comfort, but under the stress and spur of difficulties and challenge. Here let him learn to stand up in the storm; here let him learn compassion for those who fail.

Build me a son whose heart will… Continue reading

Michael D. Matthews Ph.D.

Head Strong

The mission of the United States Military Academy (West Point) is “to educate, train, and inspire the Corps of Cadets so that each graduate is a commissioned leader of character committed to the values of Duty, Honor, Country, and prepared for a career of professional excellence and service to the nation as an officer in the United States Army.”

This mission statement, with its emphasis on character as a fundamental component of leadership, may seem quaint to those outside the military. But given the dauntingly challenging task of leading soldiers in combat, it is no surprise to anyone with military experience that West Point — and the nation’s other service academies — include character development as a core part of its leader development strategy. As I have written previously, high technical competence cannot make up for questionable character when leading others in dangerous… Continue reading

I have just ordered Strangers in a Strange Land by Archbishop Chaput after reading Father CJ McCloskey’s review in Catholic City. The following line from the Archbishop’s book caught my attention…  “Christians have many good reasons for hope. Optimism is another matter. Optimism assumes that, sooner or later, things will naturally turn out for the better. Hope has no such illusions.”

In his review, Father McCloskey’s  correctly (in my opinion) assesses the current state of our culture, Catholic or otherwise…  “we live in a society in moral free fall, facing critical challenges to right living and the pursuit of justice in such areas as economics, education, the handing on of the faith, marriage, sexual behavior and “gender identity,” the decline of family and community, and, of course, glaring human life issues like abortion and euthanasia” is reason not to be optimistic.”

Understanding the difference between optimism and… Continue reading


This review is from: The Undoing Project: A Friendship That Changed Our Minds 

Not since reading The Black Swan, Tuxedo Park and The Inevitable have I thought more about the implications of The Undoing Project. Like many of my friends, I enjoyed reading The Big Short, Moneyball, Liars Poker and several others of Michael Lewis books. However, The Undoing Project was the most challenging of all his books I’ve read. I found Lewis general focus on decision-making theory rewarding and riveting and specifically relevant to my study of character building.

The book is especially entertaining as Lewis describes the relationship of its two heroes: Israeli psychologists Daniel Kaheneman and Amos Tversky as well as their original studies undoing our assumptions about the decision-making process. The Undoing Project is about a compelling collaboration between these two men and how their work created the field of behavioral economics, revolutionized… Continue reading

Readers of the Character Building Project will enjoy the excellent article, which follows. Not only does it connect present day character education with the values of our country’s founders but also is based on research-based approaches to character.

Perhaps the authors in their next article might cite the work of four education achievers: Mike Matthews, the research scientist at West Point who brought Angela Duckworth to study why some cadets are eagles and others turkeys; but also the vision of positive youth development (PYD) of Rich Lerner best summarized in his 5C’s- character, competence, confidence, connection, and caring the 38 years of research by Paul Stoltz, foremost expert on resilience and finally, and Gary Comer College Prep H.S. Chicago’s most successful charter school in sending graduates on to college, led by Greg Mooney. College counselors should grasp the importance of character attributes and do well to study the work of… Continue reading

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Mottoes & Quotes

The final forming of a person’s character lies in their own hands.

— Anne Frank

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.