Michael J. Kerrigan

Paul Stoltz

Restoring Character in America was the hardest of my books to publish. The first book, Politics with Principle was written from my 30 plus years of experience as a Washington Lobbyists. The second, Courage in America was a natural outcome of gaining the trust of the wounded warriors and just guiding them on their story of successful rehabilitation.

The idea of Restoring Character in America did not come easily to me. I read endless books, articles, and visited numerous web sites on several character related topics. Initially my plan was to write a book about our law enforcement heroes. I thought this would be a logical extension of the heroic qualities of the wounded warriors I knew. I had already reported on the wounded warriors traumatic loss, their vulnerability in rehabilitation, then their comeback, the final triumph of successful rehabilitation and transition to civilian life.

In my opinion, our country… Continue reading

Whether the original statement that ““The battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton (which is attributed by oral tradition to the Duke of Wellington) was meant literally or metaphorically makes little difference to me.

This Irish-American must give the Brits their due, as educators at British boarding schools over the last 200 years, took it for granted that they were teaching character as much as they were teaching math or history.

Ever since the McGuffey Reader was set aside in favor of various educational fads, manifestos and trends, (such as the self esteem movement,) the idea that in America, if you worked hard, and you showed real grit you could be successful, was also set aside.

However, in the last 40 years the question for educators was not whether but how schools should impart good character. In the 1980’s William Bennett made the traditional case… Continue reading


Why raise a moral saying of Publius Syrus,* a Roman slave?

As visitors to the character building project site will note, I record maxims and mottoes as they interest me. Secondly, when I came across the idea of learning well but neglecting to do well, I was reminded of the four exemplars that provided the intellectual foundation for my new book, Restoring Character in America.

The essays of the four character experts demonstrate they are not only learned but also that, through their work on character, they have done well. Few men like Rich Lerner, Mike Matthews, Paul Stoltz and Greg Mooney have their proven intellectual firepower but who have also used it for the good of their fellow citizens.

*Publius Syrus (fl. 85–43 BC[1]), was a Latin writer, best known for his sententiae. He was a Syrian… 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 first question explored in the meeting at the Union League in Philadelphia asked what  has already been done to promote character development? This question was examined from both the perspective of research as well as practice. Today we address the research side and tomorrow, the practice side of character development.

Research… To date, a respectable body of scholarly literature has been published on understanding and assessing character development. This work includes significant contributions from key players in the character field including Dr. Richard M. Lerner, Dr. Mike Matthews, Dr. Angela Duckworth, Dr. Marvin Berkowitz, and Dr. Paul Stoltz. However, the current state of character education suggests the need to extend scientific work beyond publishing and integrating data analysis across multiple research initiatives. Furthermore, researchers and supporters of character virtue development must agree upon common assessments of character to establish a unified campaign.

Translate research into practice. Scientists… Continue reading



On December 19, 2016 the following list of attendees participated in a character summit. The next several posts will address the content of that summit.

RADM Thomas C. Lynch, USN (Ret)

Chairman New Day USA

Michael J. Kerrigan

Owner of The Character Building Project

Greg Mooney

President & Executive Director Comer Science & Education Foundation

Richard M. Lerner, Ph.D.

Bergstrom Chair in Applied Developmental Science Director, Institute for Applied Research in Youth Development

Paul G. Stoltz, Ph.D.

Founder & CEO Peak Learning

Michael D. Matthews

Professor of Engineering United States Military Academy

Sarah Clement, Ph.D.

Director, Character Virtue Development John Templeton Foundation

Dr. Josephine J. Templeton

Trustee of John Templeton Foundation

Leah Jewell

Managing Director Career Development & Employability

Pearson Education

Jerry L. Johnson

Founder & CEO Axum Advisors, LLC

Jeri Lynne Johnson

Founder and Artistic Director of the Black Pearl Chamber Orchestra


Readers of the Character Building Project will enjoy the excellent article, which follows. Not only does it connect present day character education with the values of our country’s founders but also is based on research-based approaches to character.

Perhaps the authors in their next article might cite the work of four education achievers: Mike Matthews, the research scientist at West Point who brought Angela Duckworth to study why some cadets are eagles and others turkeys; but also the vision of positive youth development (PYD) of Rich Lerner best summarized in his 5C’s- character, competence, confidence, connection, and caring the 38 years of research by Paul Stoltz, foremost expert on resilience and finally, and Gary Comer College Prep H.S. Chicago’s most successful charter school in sending graduates on to college, led by Greg Mooney. College counselors should grasp the importance of character attributes and do well to study the work of… Continue reading




3.0 out of 5 stars
This review is from: The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil (Paperback)
At age 40 my general counsel convinced me life was too short and I need not finish every book I start. Since then I have followed his counsel the result of which was to be reading at least seven books at the same time.

Later I learned to be more critical in reading the books I started. Now I do not necessarily read either the entire book or read the book in the chronological order. Once such book is The Lucifer Effect (TLE.)

While the TLE read is challenging and worthwhile, soon I tired of learning how easily we humans have potential for evil. While, the author Philip Zimbardo is highly accomplished psychologist, his left ward political perspective, so common in academe, became even more tiresome.

Before giving up on completing TLE,… Continue reading


As a “recovering lobbyists”, I maintain an interest in observing how influencers interact in insightful ways, often with these interactions producing exponentially raised success rates.

I was honored to be invited by Team Red White and Blue (teamrwb.org) to speak to cadets at the United States Military Academy. One of the many highlights of this trip was the opportunity to meet with Michael D. Matthews, the Professor of Engineering Psychology at West Point. Soon thereafter Oxford University Press published Matthews’ most recent book, Head Strong, How Psychology is Revolutionizing War. I was so impressed with Head Strong that I chronicled it in five posts on The Character Building Project. (Please see the Head Strong Chronicle #1: Does War Stimulate Science Or Vice Versa?)

Mike is now on sabbatical working for the Army Chief of Staff in the Pentagon. Hoping to put two thought influencers together, I introduced… Continue reading

Suffering well means doing so in a way that elevates yourself and those around you. It is the one opportunity for everyday greatness we are all granted.

It means paying a price others maybe unwilling to pay to achieve a goal others may be unable to reach. It means facing up to hardships inherent in anything significant, and taking on the task together, not with the hollow words “Good luck team,” but rather with the meatier blessing, “Suffer Well!” Live these words and greatness will emerge.

Suffering well means taking in the rich nutrients of life’s bitter defeats, emerging more powerful, formidable, and focused as a result. To suffer well is to use the hardships to transcend ego, so that you get out of your own way in doing what needs to be done with your life.

It is to distill and ultimately share the meaning you derive from each… Continue reading

I have had a blessed life. I am the beneficiary of my loving wife of 45 years. We now transition to our “next chapter” by having the gratification of watching our three children carefully, raise their families in the faith of our fathers. Not having spoiled our three, we can have the joy of spoiling our twelve grandchildren.

While I am well aware of these blessings, reading Sirach reminds me not to take so many friends for granted. Many of my friends have demonstrated the excellence of their moral character by contributing not only to our country but also by finding the time to support The Character Building Project.

Several of the “characters with character” profiled on Politics with Principle, have actively supported our mission to improve character in our country. Charlie Black when accepting a ”Lobbyists of the Year” award speaks of the virtue of humility. Bill Bulger counsels… Continue reading

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Courage in America has been aurally transcribed for the visually impaired, thanks to Volunteers of Vacaville, California. Tel: 704.448.6841 ext 2044.