Michael J. Kerrigan


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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



Hopefully, all the readers of The Character Building Project will have time to read, The Meaning of Their Service in today’s WSJ. For those who cannot make time, I offer a few excerpts from the article by General Mattis, a retired four-star (U.S. Marine Corps) and former commander of U.S. Central Command, and a visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution.

General Mattis call to revive the American spirit is reminiscent of scene from Shakespeare, Henry V (“We few, we happy few, we band of brothers…”) a speech to rally the warriors in the English camp.

Here follow a few excerpts from, The Meaning of Their Service, General Mattis explanation of how veterans can help revive American optimism.

So long as you maintain that same commitment to others and that same enthusiasm for life’s challenges that you felt in yourself, your shipmates, your comrades and buddies, you will never… Continue reading

Recently, I was honored to accept the invitation to become a member of the Board of Directors of The Joe Foss Institute(JFI) . JFI is a nonprofit organization in the United States that aims to promote an appreciation among students for the American tradition of liberty, the country’s military history, and patriotic values. It was founded in 2001 by flying ace and politician Joe Foss, and is headquartered in Scottsdale, Arizona.[1]

American Patriot Joe FossJoseph Jacob “Joe” Foss (April 17, 1915–January 1, 2003) was the leading fighter ace of the United States Marine Corps during World War II and a 1943 recipient of the Medal of Honor, recognizing his role in the air combat during the Guadalcanal Campaign. In postwar years, he achieved fame as a General in the Air National Guard, the 20th Governor of South Dakota, President of the National Rifle Association,… Continue reading

During the last few years, I have had the distinct opportunity to become better acquainted with Green Berets, Rangers, SEALs, and other Special Operations Forces. With each encounter, I come away impressed not only with their patriotism and resilience but most of all, their dedication to their fellow warriors.


Having once been an American History teacher, I recall my high school students actually being interested in the formation of Rogers Rangers. Major Robert Rogers, who organized nine Ranger companies in the American Colonies, established Rogers’ Rangers in 1751. These early American light infantry units, organized during the French and Indian War, were actively called “Rangers” and are often considered to be the spiritual birthplace of the modern Army Rangers. Major Rogers is credited with, among other things, drafting the first set of standard orders for rangers. These rules, Robert Rogers’ 28 “Rules of Ranging”, are still provided to… Continue reading


From time to time I receive comments on The Character Building Project regarding the mottos and quotes posted on the site. Given these comments, I thought a good way to begin the New Year is by listing these general truths, which in my opinion, make a wise comment about human behavior in general and are consistent with how I see character.


Marcus Aurelius, Emperor of Rome

Marcus Aurelius, Emperor of Rome

The happiness in your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts.

Marcus Aurelius


Look at a man in the mist of doubt and danger, and you will learn in his hour of adversity what he really is



A faithful friend is a sturdy shelter; he who finds one, finds a treasure.

Sirach 6:14


Human nature is the one constant through human history. It is always there.



Luxury destroys more efficiently than war.



Yield… Continue reading

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