The Character Building Project

Michael J. Kerrigan

Note: Mike Matthews, Professor at West Point, Author of Headstrong and friend of the character building project has permitted us to share the article below which was just featured in Psychology Today. Mike’s article is very timely in light of our discussion of leadership and character.

“Dr. Matthews enjoying the sights of Mount Everest Base Camp”

Recently, along with two of my West Point colleagues, I was invited to spend two days with one of the National Basketball Association’s (NBA) most successful franchises. The general manager (GM) and his associates had read about my research on grit and its role in peak performance, and wanted to learn more. My first reaction to this invitation was one of surprise. It seemed to me that, almost by definition, any basketball player that excels enough to be on the roster of an NBA team must be very high indeed in grit. I accepted… Continue reading

Many remember well Doctor Martin Luther King Jr’s. “I Have A Dream” speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on 23 August 1963. One wonder’s whether our nation today has come closer to his vision of judging our fellow citizens not by the color of one’s skin but by the content of one’s character.

In my first book, Politics with Principle: Ten Characters with Character I profiled ten politicians who not only were real characters but also possessed character. Understanding a series of personality traits they possessed, I could see what they had in common was they are all character-based leaders.

In my second book, Courage in America: Warriors with Character, Rich Tedesci, a psychologist at UNC Charlotte, helped me better understand the patience, perseverance, grit and other character traits the seven warriors I profiled in this book, either innately possessed our developed in response to traumatic injuries.… Continue reading

The last several posts summarized a character summit held at the Union League Club in Philadelphia. This post cites a research paper published by Richard Bollinger* of the Templeton Foundation and his colleague, Sarah Clement**, one of the meeting participants. Here is the abstract of the paper.

Adolescent character development is a high priority for educators, policymakers, and front-line youth workers. To meet this growing demand, and as exemplified in the five articles in this special section, character development scholars are drawing from a range of academic disciplines to push beyond the traditional boundaries of the science of character development. These articles highlight important trends in character research, including the codevelopment of a subset of character strengths, the articulation of developmental trajectories of character, the use of advanced methodological approaches, and the implications for education. Studies such as these are critically important for establishing the research base that will… Continue reading


The final section of this summary of the Union League Club meeting outlines key next steps and future directions for launching a character-related platform hosting commercial products and services. Three main points for next steps were presented, including defining the product/service, researching possible funding streams and, finally, presenting the idea in a “road show” in order to raise funding.


Defining the product or service. The first step is to define a marketable product or service. It was suggested that a viable product will be comprised of two elements. The first element supports development of the core components of character. This product may include establishing an agreed-on method of character assessment and supporting best practices based on integrated research.


The second element is providing a service that individualizes the product to meet to the needs of different populations. Going directly to clients represents a key advantage for this… Continue reading


There was broad consensus at the Philadelphia meeting that we need increased communication about character. The goal to create a cohesive campaign promoting character development will require that key supporters, including researchers and practitioners, stop working in silos and transparently communicate. The multidisciplinary nature of character development points to the need for a common language and foundation for measuring the basis of change.


A viable commercial product will reflect understanding of how to apply character research to educational and developmental settings, and will involve the contribution from a range of fields such as psychology, sociology, education, and economics. This coalescing of disciplines includes promoting a holistic, contextualized perspective of character and the identification of universals in character virtue development. A commercial product reflecting this holism will be one that is useful across various contexts.


Understanding how character develops also requires attention to the experiences of young people… 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.