The Character Building Project

Michael J. Kerrigan

Bob Dove During Recovery at Walter Reed Medical Center

Bob Dove During Recovery at Walter Reed Medical Center

I cannot think of a better way to celebrate Independence Day than to share the personal thoughts of a true American hero, my pal, Bob Dove.

Leading up to my favorite holiday I see there’s been another stunt of disrespect, and even burning, of the American flag going on. Honestly, I have to admit I really don’t care one bit. In the hands of a lost person, the flag is nothing more than a piece of colored cloth.

Of course many say, and continue to fight for, the fact that the flag represents all those who have given so much for our great nation. This is true to an extent, except the part we’re missing out on is the flag itself hasn’t done one damn thing. It’s the effects of the actions, sacrifices, and determination of our countrymen and women both… Continue reading


We are having a discussion in The Character Building Project blog about heroism. Readers have offered various definitions. The consensus image of a hero seems to be one who engages in a demanding and preserving adversity or struggle, endures trials, is transformed, and ultimately achieves moral success.

It is a tricky exercise to define a hero and label worthy actions as heroic, particularly in a time when the culture is so cynical about virtue and fascinated instead by celebrity status. Sadly, this is an anti-hero age. Today, our schools consciously avoid teaching about virtue, so it is not surprising that the public exhibits disdain toward magnanimous political leaders and indifference toward military sacrifices.

My earlier books: Politics with Principle and Courage in America attempted to counter this disdain and indifference. These projects inadvertently led me to discovery of many unsung exemplary people leading truly heroic lives.   I began… Continue reading

Do you want to live in a world where no one can qualify as a hero or where anyone can be a hero? I didn’t think so.


Hero of the Boston Bombing

Hero of the Boston Bombing

After reviewing the topic of heroism with a several beta readers of The Character Building Project, I have asked them the criteria we should consider in defining heroism.

A good friend, an internationally known psychiatrist suggested:

“Someone or something that is precious and vulnerable is under threat. Someone who is motivated by altruism, not by interest in acclaim, risks life, health or reputation to intervene. The intervention is effective. Qualities of honor, valor, humility and charity are displayed. Heroes have had the opportunity to act in such a way and they have taken that opportunity. Others may be capable, but have not been tested. One may, therefore, be a potential hero without displaying heroism. They would be… Continue reading

Sinking of the USS Dorchester

Sinking of the USS Dorchester

In my quest to identify heroes, readers have been bringing to my attention examples of heroism as well as helping me better understand the term and the act of heroism.

The Four Chaplains from the Dorchester are George L. Fox, Alexander D. Goode, Clark V. Poling, John P. Washington

The Four Chaplains, also sometimes referred to as the “Immortal Chaplains” or the “Dorchester Chaplains” were four United States Army chaplains who gave their lives to save other civilian and military personnel as the troop ship SS Dorchester sank on February 3, 1943, during World War II. They helped other soldiers board lifeboats and gave up their own life jackets when the supply ran out.[1] The chaplains joined arms, said prayers, and sang hymns as they went down with the ship.


The focus of The Character Building Project is expanding from profiling the heroism of our combat veterans not only their heroism on the battlefield but also in their successful recovery from their traumatic injuries. Our mission is now to the study of civilian heroes as well.

The first step in this transition was to study the work of the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission. The Commission, which has operated continuously since 1904, recognizes the outstanding acts of selfless heroism. These acts usually involve heroic efforts to save another human life. That standard is consistent with Joseph Campbell’s definition… “A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself.”

However, upon further reflection I wanted to better understand ordinary people who make themselves extraordinary but not necessarily by saving a life or giving one’s life. My current pursuit is more general and has to do with… Continue reading

1 2 3 120

Sign Up for Updates


For a limited time, grab a FREE copy of the book, Courage in America: Warriors with Character

Mottoes & Quotes

People tend to become what they think about themselves.

— William James

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.