Michael J. Kerrigan

Politics with Principle

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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


Courage in America began as part of my service project as a member of The Knights of Malta, a Roman Catholic service organization. As part of my “work,” I visited wounded warriors at Walter Reed Hospital in Washington D.C. The results of those and subsequent visits to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda Maryland provided the opportunity for me to select wounded warriors who already have, or were in the process of successfully overcoming traumatic injuries. My mission was to understand the character traits that enable some of them to turn their adversities into successful recoveries, while others did not.  Courage was clearly present in the successes.

Marine Corporal Todd Nicely**, was the first of the seven warriors I was to profile. Todd challenged me to write his story. I replied to Todd that given your serious injuries the story could be depressing. Todd replied…… Continue reading

Adam on the Road to Recovery

Recently, I have been absent (with leave) from posting articles on this site because my neighbors and I hosted an event to support the recovery and rehabilitation of Adam Williams’s traumatic injuries. The good news is that Adam is making a miraculous recovery and the reception raised over $30,000 to help Adam and his family defers huge medical expenses.

As many of you may know, I have been working on character building for over ten years and have just launched my third character book, Restoring Character in America (RCIA.) At this stage of the project, having dedicated 10,000 hours to studying character education, we are generating growing interest in citizen participation in character building, sold over five thousand copies of my first two published books,…  Politics with Principle: Ten Characters with Character and Courage in America, have almost 700 loyal followers who… 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

As readers of the Character Building Project might know, I am soon to publish a brief book on how character in America might be restored. Few dispute private character and civic virtue are in need of restoration but many doubt that goal is possible. This article is to share how I have gone about such a grand mission.

Several years ago I created The Character Building Project, a Web site designed to take a positive approach to building character and to identify examples of initiatives as well as civic “heroes” who are exemplifying and or uniquely promoting character development.

Since 2010 Wheatmark, Inc. published two of my books. The first Politics with Principle: Ten Characters with Character honored individual achievement in public service. The other Courage in America: Seven Warriors with Character focused on the courage and character of truly remarkable wounded warriors.  These great young Americans demonstrate the… Continue reading


Many believe the topic of heroism is critically important to our politics, culture and needs to be properly taught in our educational system. That is why I am studying the path of ordinary Americans, heroically overcoming adversity.

Some time ago I reacted to the growth of “extreme egalitarianism” and the “self-esteem” movement, then and now, infiltrating our educational system. As a reaction, I was motivated to launch The Character Building project site. Our mission is to foster character building strengths in a rising generation of citizens by sharing the stories of ethical leaders who presently serve or have served others.

My vision to enhance character development is by writing, researching, teaching, speaking about leadership that illustrates the relationship between character development and the individual’s reasoning skills, moral will and self-discipline.

The reaction to my first book, Politics with Principle was positive inside the beltway but outside the beltway not so… Continue reading


We are having a discussion in The Character Building Project blog about heroism. Readers have offered various definitions. The consensus image of a hero seems to be one who engages in a demanding and preserving adversity or struggle, endures trials, is transformed, and ultimately achieves moral success.

It is a tricky exercise to define a hero and label worthy actions as heroic, particularly in a time when the culture is so cynical about virtue and fascinated instead by celebrity status. Sadly, this is an anti-hero age. Today, our schools consciously avoid teaching about virtue, so it is not surprising that the public exhibits disdain toward magnanimous political leaders and indifference toward military sacrifices.

My earlier books: Politics with Principle and Courage in America attempted to counter this disdain and indifference. These projects inadvertently led me to discovery of many unsung exemplary people leading truly heroic lives.   I began… Continue reading


Readers of this site may recall my first book, Politics with Principle was about the good character of politicians I worked closely with over the years. Although the response to this book in and around Washington D.C. was positive, the typical response outside the beltway was, how did you find ten politicians with good character?


My next book, Courage in America: 7 Warriors with Character was a study of seven wounded warriors who displayed extraordinary resilience and character during their long war of rehabilitation. The response to Courage in America was more favorable than Politics with Principle and the typical query was, how can I help?

To follow the mission of the Character Building Project, our research of character in adversity continues. Some have suggested studying leaders in Corporate America who have displayed character in adversity. However, after reading Joel Klein’s Lessons of Hope: How to Fix… Continue reading

In Politics with Principle: 10 Character with Character I was focused on character strengths of politicians I had known who practiced the profession with principle. In writing Courage in America: 7 Warriors with Character my focus sharpened to study the strengths of character not only when lives are on the line but after combat, during the long war of rehabilitation.


Marines Returning From Iraq

Marines Returning From Iraq

Professor Matthew’s work Head Strong took me deeper into appreciating true test of grit and resilience among the band of military brothers. I had read of Martin Seligman and Christopher Peterson’s book (Character Strengths and Virtues) that described their theory of human character and a method for measuring it. However, I did not know that Professor Matthews participated in Medici II; the University of Pennsylvania conference on how positive psychology could influence large organizations like the military.


The application of positive psychology… 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

Charlie Black is a good friend of The Character Building Project and one of the ten characters with character featured in Politics with Principle http://thecharacterbuildingproject.com/politics-with-principle/ten-interesting-characters/

This past week on the occasion of receiving the 2013 lobbyists of the year award from the Bryce Harlow Foundation, Charlie Black offered the following remarks…

Bryce Harlow said, “A Washington representative needs to recognize and accept the fact that whatever it is that he represents is much more important to the political animals in town than his own personality and atmospherics. A good politician looks right behind the beseecher. He wants to know, and is busy calculating as the representative makes his pitch, how the representatives company and its employees might help or hurt him in his never-ending fight for political survival.”

In other words, it’s not about you. It’s about your company, your industry, your client, the thousands of employees, potential employees and… 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.