Michael J. Kerrigan

About Michael J. Kerrigan

Michael is an advocate, author and public speaker. He has over 35 years of Washington experience working closely with the government, political, corporate, and technology sectors. He was the founder and principal of Kerrigan & Associates, Inc., a Washington-based management consulting and advocacy firm focused on creating business opportunities in the private-public sector. In 2015 he completed a career of advocacy for his clients moving to another career of character building advocacy devoted to addressing the status of character in America.

His current interests include the study of Character in America,  heroic behavior,  Post Traumatic Growth (PTG),  and character education. He  has published three character-related books:  Politics with Principle: 10 Characters with Character,  Courage in America: Warriors with Character, and Restoring Character in America.

As a former Chief Executive Officer for a Washington-based trade association and for an advocacy practice, Mr. Kerrigan has recruited and managed 50-state and federal networks of legislative consultants. He honed his public policy skills while managing these lobbying corps and worked with major public policy organizations.

In 1993, Mr. Kerrigan founded The Advocacy Group, Inc., one of the first organizations of government-relations specialists, providing advocacy services worldwide.

Prior to coming to Washington in 1978, Mr. Kerrigan was a marketing executive (1972-1978) in Manhattan and Boston with the Ogden Corporation, then a Fortune 200 company. He received his Bachelor of Science from Loyola University in 1968. Mr. Kerrigan has been a teacher, coach, congressional campaign consultant and guest lecturer. He has served as an international political liaison to the Vatican to assist in planning an international conference on disabilities. He served as an observer, investigating the war-torn regions of Northern Ireland, Latin America, and the Middle East. He also served as an ACYPL delegate to the Federal Republic of Germany.

Mr. Kerrigan  has served on several Boards of Directors, including Denver based Families of Character, Scottsdale based The Joe Foss Institute and served on the Board of Connecticut based Image Insight Inc. a radiation detection company.

Kerrigan has mentored many entrepreneurs and is involved with new ventures, start ups and emerging companies. As a “recovering lobbyists,” Mr. Kerrigan is the owner of The Character Building Project whose mission is to improve character in our nation. He and his wife Donna now live in Keswick, Virginia.


Marital Status:   Married 48 years
Spouse:     Donna Jean
Child:        Brigid Lauren Thomas
Child:        Michael Collins Kerrigan
Child:        Jack Edward Kerrigan
Grandchildren: 12
College:       Loyola University Chicago, IL.

Meet the Author

How have the characters in your cast demonstrated their character when tested in the political arena?

Politics with Principle: 10 Characters with Character Great stories in both cinema and literature share the common trait of dynamic and vivid personalities thrown into difficult situations. Our ten characters have been thrown into the often-shallow and sometimes shark-infested waters of the American politics. They demonstrate that exceptional men and women in public life are that way, in large part, because of the principles and moral values they bring — and do not betray — in their public service careers. As their personal and political roles have evolved and emerged, each enriching the other, the ten have had a positive impact on the nation’s landscape. They have successfully navigated the seas of power between the shoals of what is right and proper and what is wrong and expedient. How they act when they get into these situations reveals their true character.

The cast of characters includes five Republicans and five Democrats. They have practiced politics as United States and State Senators, Ambassadors, an Admiral, lawyers, lobbyists, and presidents of a University, and the United States Naval Academy, head of the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice. They hail from all parts of the country, from Massachusetts to California, from North Carolina to New Mexico to states of Maryland and Pennsylvania near by our nation’s capital.

The lives of these characters span 40 years of American political history. Each has been a leader at some time during this period. All value working with others of differing ideologies. They strive not only to make government work more effectively, but also to build a better country. Good character has shaped everything about their lives. As you read about each character, note the associations they formed, the peers they chose, the mentors they sought and organizations they affiliated themselves, all of which helped to define their character. Observe the role of family in the development of their character. Study the wise choices they have made in their careers.

In examining these lives, readers can get answers to these questions:

  • What motivated these characters?
  • What drove them to their successes?
  • What role did character play well?
  • How did the country benefit?

The characters in my book are: Honorable Anne K. Bingaman, Charlie Black, Esq., Honorable Thomas J. Bliley, Honorable William M. Bulger, Honorable Benjamin L. Cardin, Ambassador Richard Carlson, Paul F. Eckstein, Esq., Admiral Thomas C. Lynch (Ret.), Ambassador Charles T. Manatt, Honorable Richard J. Santorum.

What did you want to share with the reader?

In my 32 plus year lobbying career I have witnessed, first hand, well over one thousand players in political life. Determined to respond to my grandson Kaelan, my friend Mark, members of my family and the public at large and to demonstrate my belief that the media and history tend to focus on the knaves rather than the nobles in political life, I decided to seek out the ten in political life with whom I have known and have admiration and ask them questions about their family life, the impact of religion how they developed their value system, in short, to do a study of character and how it is tested and practiced in real life politics. I am interested in which virtues they see as important and how are they developed. What strength did they bring to bear when their character was tested? How did the public respond in these situations? How did they arrive to practice politics in this manner and what conclusions might we draw from their lives? In all ten cases I was pleased to find a willing participant based on their professionalism and our friendship. These are people of high achievement whether they come from the United States Senate, diplomatic corps, party chairs, state leadership, presidential campaign managers, senior military officers, heads of major federal agencies, etc. They were honest about their failings, thought processes, and perhaps more interestingly, about their successes and failures in varying situations. I found their answers to my inquiries and their personal histories fascinating. I think the reader will also find their perspectives fascinating, especially young readers who maybe looking for role models should they decide to have a career in public service.

How have your characters impacted contemporary American politics?

It is said Diogenes would carry a lantern around the assembly and market square of Athens searching for an honest man. My search took me around most of the fifty state legislatures, halls of Congress and the power corridors of Washington where I have found and known ten men and women of exemplary character. My observation was at the margins of power where I witnessed much moral bankruptcy among the political class. However, my study of ten virtuous political leaders reveals the route to genuine virtue requires a return to basic values and the cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance, that is, by constant repetition of virtuous actions. Much success of our contemporary political life depends on individuals who have taken charge of what really matters, one’s own character.

It might be noted these individuals were concerned about substantive things i.e. their own integrity and honest judgments as they faced their responsibilities. Many folks are primarily concerned with matters more superficial, such as, how their actions “seem;” what are “they” saying about me? It is a foolish, distracting preoccupation. The question should rather be “what is the right course for me?” And now I must muster the courage to act rightly no matter what the critics are saying. “To thine own self be true, and it will follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man!”*

Each of the characters has made a lasting contribution. Their family and personal histories can be traced by discovering who influenced whom. Each made a contribution to our political life while maintaining the “golden mean” of which Aristotle spoke. I have an entry for each character of the cast, including a short description of their life and work, an essential point about their character and an analysis of their legacy and contribution. I have focused less in the illusory trappings of their respective titles and offices and more on their mastery and discipline of their character amidst the temptation of power in order to demonstrate ten political lives well spent in today’s America.

In acquainting the reader with major personalities, indeed characters in contemporary American political life, I pray these biographical sketches will stimulate the reader to look further into the lives of the virtuous public servants who make our representative democracy work.

* William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act 1, scene 3.

How might power with principle fair against the politics of principal (money)?

This book is an argument for power with principle and against the politics of principal. I begin with the premise that by focusing on the nobles not the knaves will help direct our thinking toward the public good not the bad.

I have known personally all of the characters in my cast for many years. I was curious as to what kind of noble people survive and prosper in political life? How did they become the type of people they are in spite of their success? What virtues have they practiced and how did they avoid vice. By answering these questions I intend to point in the right direction young entrants to political life.

My personal interviews provide the values research and a vehicle for how they accomplished success while maintaining their moral compass amidst the temptations of politics. The story is focused more on virtue rather than vice, on values rather than the lack of values and how the values of successful leaders help shape our politics. My thesis has to do with the politics of the possible when our leaders practice virtuous habits.

I prefer to offer an edifying story rather than playing the blame game and offering a gotcha narrative of knaves. This book is written because I believe our country need a shared concept of how virtue is actually practice in political life. This is a personal call to affect changes in public life.

My characters enter political life by some measure by choice or design and a large part of their actions are of their own making. I am presenting my narrative as part of our actual history in a way that is compatible with a classical tradition of virtue. This narrative is in the Homeric tradition in which the telling of their stories my subjects will help educate political aspirants about virtue in American politics. I have indeed found ten virtuous men/women in American politics. The vocabulary of this story is moral and calls for a return to honor, duty, integrity and accountability to politics. The vocabulary of the environmental political movement too is moral, offering earth as the new deity the ethics of the environmentalist calls to live in harmony with nature not virtue. Perhaps if a moral vocabulary becomes more prevalent in politics we can reignite the confidence of our citizens in the political process. As you will see I am more concerned about the moral climate of politics than the politics of climate change.



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