Michael J. Kerrigan


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

Due to the relative success of my two earlier books (Politics with Principle & Courage in America,) I thought the idea for the third book (Restoring Character in America) was the broadest character theme needed to be addressed and would result in the most successful book of the three.

Initial results from the summer launch of Restoring Character in America have been slow to reach a wide audience of educators, coaches and parents. It seemed because I so badly wanted this book to succeed my hopes were what matters. The hard part was not the dream of restoring character or the book’s content and design but, I now realize what matters most, was whether I am willing to do the hard work of getting the book known.

In the past, I had preached to myself the cliché of 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration, but after hitting… Continue reading

Achieving progress on my mission* of helping to restore character in America is discouraging at times. However, belief in such progress commands trust. Persevering on my mission forbids cynicism and walking away from fostering building character strengths and relationships in a rising generation of citizens.

Substantive comments on my blog for example, following my warning to fellow conservatives not to let the alt-right abrogate traditional values; loyal support from Facebook friends but strangers too, as well as reviews on Amazon of my new book: these victory signs are proof that the call to restore character in America goes out and will not come back empty-handed.

Thanks be to all, friends and new friends alike, for your support.

*To generate greater meaning, purpose and engagement in life’s satisfaction by belonging to and serving the character community and the community at large.

**We may be across the aisle politically, but we are… Continue reading


Although KIPP Academy in the South Bronx and Riverdale are worlds apart geographically and economically (tuition starts at Riverdale at $38,500 a year and that’s for pre-kindergarten) both were addressing the question of whether and how schools should impart good character.

The two schools have enjoyed a fruitful collaboration notwithstanding some educational differences, such as, agreeing on the definition of character, and the inevitable problem with the values and ethics approach, which leads to the questions of whose values, whose ethics?

Much of the chapter covers the discussion of the importance of self-control*, will power**, patience and perseverance … ironically, leading to a not so remarkable conclusion like, “they did better for a simple reason: they tried harder.”

Surprisingly for me was the discussion whether character traits can backfire. Our next post will address when character strengths can become character weaknesses.

* Clear connections were seen between childhood self-control… Continue reading

This week our son Jack hosted Donna and me at their ocean front beach house in the Outer Banks (Corolla) of North Carolina. Enjoying their hospitality and watching our grandchildren having fun in the Ocean, still offered me plenty of time to read, Paul Tough’s, How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity and the Hidden Power of Character.

Given the nature of my web site, my focus was understandly on Chapter 2 … How To Build Character. The next several posts contain my analysis of this chapter. The chapter is built around a discussion of the immersive style of schooling at the KIPP Academy in the South Bronx. KIPP stands for Knowledge Is Power Program. Although I was somewhat familiar with KIPP, I was immediately heartened to see the influence of Martin Seligman’s, Learned Optimism being practiced at KIPP Academy. The first takeaway in this respect is that the KIPP “students who… Continue reading


There were more, “I don’t know” answers to this question than the previous ten. Those who profess to know why some lack perseverance offer: a positive mindset, moral and physical fortitude, resilience, stubbornness, faith and strong role models. Others explain the deficiency, due to fear, lack of formation, confidence, vision, purpose, training in virtue and poor circumstances.


Lack of faith… Lack of clear purpose… Lack of training in virtue…

Great question, and I don’t claim to know the answer. Again, mindsets are critical. I’m reminded of that classic children’s story, The Little Train That Could. If you believe, you can achieve. That sounds trite, and certainly one’s past experiences play a huge role in shaping one’s beliefs about effort and success.

I believe it is a lack of formation.

I believe those who persevere have a greater well of mental, moral and physical fortitude and more stamina and… Continue reading

Rudyard Kipling

Rudyard Kipling

This post from Crisis Magazine is dedicated to Brigid, my highly educated daughter who, each Christmas, helps improve my taste in classical music, fables and  poetry. Her Christmas book gift this year  was The Complete Book of Fables of La Fontaine. Those of you with more pedestrian taste may enjoy the following lesson in manhood (and character) … By James P. Bernens

For a particular poem to retain its power across years and generations, it must give expression to something that transcends the passing of time, and do so in such an exquisitely memorable manner that it simply cannot be imitated or remade. Competitors and critics may sally forth and give it battle; lesser authors may adopt its theme or mimic its style; but its image will remain—an image somehow more perfect, and more captivating of a deeper truth, than any… Continue reading


Over the holidays I had time to watch several You Tube videos** of warriors coping with TBI and especially, noting the essential role of spouses standing by their men. These stories prompted me to think more deeply of their suffering.

Although I could not be of much help to these American heroes, I would hope they might receive some consolation in the following mediation by Elisabeth Leseur, a French laywoman whose cause for canonization is underway.

“Suffering is the great law of the spiritual world. God’s chosen ones escape it less than others; they pay the ransom for others, sometimes at a very high price. We will know only later the work accomplished by our suffering and our sacrifices.”

I pray these spiritual martyrs can maintain their faith and perseverance. May they know their trials not only inspire their fellow Americans but may be a redemptive treasure for them as… Continue reading


In working with wounded warriors over the last several years, I was curious why some warriors had positive outcomes from their combat injuries and others did not?

  • Did those having success call upon their own will power as a means to recovery?
  • Did those not experiencing successful rehabilitation, might they have used up their reserves of will power?
  • Did some warriors possess better “character armour” than others?

In writing Courage in America, I chose to focus on those warriors having successful recoveries. Sadly, there were more warriors whose rehabilitation from injuries could not be viewed as successful, with a few ending with a life on drugs, alcohol or in suicide.

The warriors I profiled all had successful physical and mental recoveries from various kinds of combat injuries; losing their sight, to losing there limbs and having traumatic brain injuries. All exhibited an amazing will to recover and, rather than… Continue reading

Although several thousand copies of my first book, Politics with Principle: 10 Character with Character were purchased, there were scores of readers who quipped, how in your 34-year career as a lobbyist did you find ten politicians with character? The character market seemed not receptive to stories of politicians with character.

Because perseverance is among the virtues needed not only for authors but those faced with adversity, I authored my second book and was pleasantly surprised with the reaction to, Courage in America: 7 Warriors with Character. Not only were more copies sold than the first book but also interest in the stories of courage of our servicemen and women has not faded but remains strong.


I remain dedicated to my mission, that is, to foster character building strengths, relationships and meaning in a rising generation of citizens by sharing the stories of successful and ethical leaders who presently… Continue reading

Courage, bravery and valor are basically synonymous but there are different types of courage.

Physical courage is the type involved in overcoming the fear of physical injury or death in order to save others or one self.

Moral courage entails maintaining ethical integrity at the risk of losing friends, employment, privacy or prestige. In its most classic form, physical courage is the valor on the battlefield.

Cicero defined courage to include physical valor, yes, but also integrity and perseverance, any act of willfully overcoming your own security, comfort, complacency to achieve a greater good. Cicero meant courage is doing what is right even when one has much to lose.

Moral courage often relates to fear of others’ opinions. Looking foolish before peers, for example is a common fear. But moral courage compels an individual to do what he or she believes is right, despite fear of social or economic consequences.… 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.