Michael J. Kerrigan


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Yesterday’s post generated at least one encouraging response to my decade of trying to improve character in America… from my best friend!

Here follow excerpts of his encouragement…

While you could have relaxed and focused on “unsuccessfully competing with me in golf,” what you accomplished was much more noble and lasting, and says something about your character.  None of us thought the subject matter would make you the next David Baldacci, but you gave it your best shot, while most would have walked away.  You learned a lot about how to publish a book, supporting wounded vets, folks making character commitments, and you undoubtedly gave meaningful advice and guidance to countless individuals that took away a nugget of your experience to apply to their own situation.

My remaining posts are not meant to be whining or sour grapes about the lack of success in publishing books about… Continue reading

I could not think of a more uplifting message to share with the readers of the Character Building Project during the Christmas season than the following address of my friend and neighbor, David Rathburn, the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Grove City College. While currently undergoing the traumatic challenges of stage three cancer, David has kept the faith that he learned many years ago from his parents and his college community.

When I was a student here I didn’t have very much money, so I found numerous jobs to allow me to buy gas and late night food at Pizza Villa – a place long since closed that few around here probably remember it right by the Guthrie Theater.

I shoveled snow (and we had a lot of it in the late 70’s), I wrote sports stories about Grove City athletics for the Butler Eagle and Sharon Herald,… Continue reading


The point made by Dean Stam* of The Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy is compelling. That is, character and leadership are not isomorphic and history and the contemporary national and world landscape are replete with examples of the fact that good character may exist in the absence of conventional conceptions of leadership and, as well, there is certainly a plethora of leaders who show little evidence of possessing admirable attributes of character.

As Mike Matthews has been studying for more than a decade at West Point, the challenge for educators is learning how to produce individuals who reflect desirable attributes of both character and leadership. Mike has certainly been the nation’s (and perhaps the world’s) leader in this scientific quest, and he has made considerable progress in identifying the character virtues co-varying with features of desirable and effective leadership. Moreover, through his being a champion and intellectual… Continue reading

One of the more influential readers of my posts recently stated, “There have been many effective leaders of relatively low character, and high character people who were not effective leaders.” He also stated “ Leadership as I see it, comprises a set of skills that can be learned at most any time.”

In my view, character can also be learned but slowly and carefully. I subscribe to teachers of the distant pass, such as Aristotle and Plato who taught that, whether teaching leadership or character, it is a long, hard and broadly based process.

One of America’s preeminent management consulting companies takes a slightly different view, as Accenture believes, ”leadership does not require formal authority or personal charisma and that every person has the capacity to lead effectively with integrity and that this capacity can be developed over time through discipline practice.”*

I was pleased that the Accenture Leadership… Continue reading

After three books and with over hundreds of articles published in the past ten years, I am ready to share some lessons I have learned in the battle to restore character in our culture.

The first lesson, an excerpt from the movie a Few Good Men, is that the average American, especially today’s millennial’s, cannot handle the truth of what it takes to restore character in our country.

Jessep: You want answers?
Kaffee (Tom Cruise): I think I’m entitled to them.
Jessep: You want answers?
Kaffee: I want the truth!
Jessep: You can’t handle the truth!  Son, we live in a world that has walls. And those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Who’s gonna do it? You? You, Lt. Weinberg? I have a greater responsibility than you can possibly fathom. You weep for Santiago and you curse the Marines.… Continue reading


Readers have asked me whether character really continues to develop over a lifetime? In researching Restoring Character in America I acknowledge personality and values are shaped by genetics, childhood experiences, family relationships and other life influences.

In the present secular age, few academics consider the Christian doctrine of sanctification… the process of growing in grace which clearly calls for life long character development.

For me, it seems fair to conclude lifelong character development is due to personality, genetics, environmental factors and grace.

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

In about 180 pages General Jim Anderson and his West Point graduate son have crafted a practical leadership manual based the Aristotelean model but supported in clear drills on how to build one’s own character(see pages 28&29.) Just like Aristotle’s model, the Andersons book is designed with the idea the more we speak about making wise choices, the more likely we are to act in that way.In brief our habits form our character. The forward to Becoming a Leader of Character, written by no less than Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski (the number one in all time coaching victories in NCAA Men’s basketball) shares the Anderson treatise and foretells the “practice drills that form our Habits of Character.”and those that the Andersons’ lay out; namely; “Our character is in our own control. We build it, sustain it or destroy it based on our choices. The choices we make daily prepare us… Continue reading


After reading The Road to Character, by David Brooks I wish to share with my  readers questions raised by Brooks about how to live a life of good character. I invite your thoughts before sharing mine.

Has the meaning of the word character changed in recent times?Have we forgotten a vocabulary of character? What is the difference between a vocation and a career? What is the greatest virtue? What is the greatest vice? What virtues are the most important to cultivate? How do we build character in today’s politically correct culture? What is the purpose of my life?

The mission of The Character Building Project will surely be furthered with the proper answers to these questions.

Donald Trump

Donald Trump

The growing lack of character in our culture is, in my opinion, the crisis of our age. Today our culture would rather be titillated than inspired, preferring gossip to gospel. We are in the heyday of the impostor when celebrities like Donald Trump are being promoted as heroes. It is my belief such false celebrity worship can be mitigated by studying the moral deeds of true heroes. Not just the heroes of antiquity but ordinary Americans distinguished by achievement not by fame, wealth and image.

Daniel Boorstin wrote in his essay, “From Hero to Celebrity”

            Celebrity-worship and hero-worship should not be confused. Yet we confuse them every day, and by doing so we come dangerously close to depriving ourselves of all real models. We lose sight of the men and women who do not simply seem great… Continue reading

Eddie Canales Gives Hope to Paralyzed Athletes

Eddie Canales Gives Hope to Paralyzed Athletes

With suggestions from the readers of The Character Building Project, I intend to profile the journey of ordinary people through the difficulties life presents. My focus is not on the archetypal classical hero but of the Unsung Hero and the nobility of their service. Great souled individuals who are entitled to acclaim from their fellow Americans

I have a certain concept in mind of the Unsung Hero, one who realizes within himself or herself a great transformation after doing extraordinary deeds.  In my pursuit of Unsung Heroes, the moral interest of their stories must be centered in the kind of action, the character of the deed involved. The spirit of virtue hovers over the virtuous deed. Unsung Heroes are ordinary Americans who live out their convictions as in the case of a young couple I know.

The ides of the Unsung Hero… Continue reading

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