Michael J. Kerrigan

University of Virginia

My next several posts are largely influenced by reading Ben Sasse’s, The Vanishing American Adult, Our Coming of Age Crisis and How to Rebuild A Culture of Self-Reliance. In my opinion, the most worthwhile chapter is, Build A Bookshelf.

I agree with Senator Sasse that becoming literate is an essential step in rebuilding our culture. Reading requires a degree of attention, engagement and active questioning of which most of our students today have a deficit.

Having recently retired to Keswick less than three miles from Shadwell, Virginia, (where Thomas Jefferson was born) it is fitting I begin with the Sage of Monticello, the author of the Declaration of Independence, the father of the University of Virginia and among the most educated of the Founding Fathers.

Thomas Jefferson began his education with French, Latin and Greek when he was 9 and entered William & Mary when he was 16.… Continue reading


In his long career of service both in the military and academia, dean of the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy Allan Stam has also learned a few things about the truth. He wants students to know the true meaning of leadership and what a valuable resource it is for the world.

Stam pointed out that outside academia there are three major areas that frequently discuss leadership and are heavily invested in it: the military, the business world and athletics. All of these groups have one major thing in common: they keep score. They tally the best use of people and resources, sales and growth, and wins and losses.

“Unfortunately, keeping score has become unfashionable in certain parts of society,” Stam said.

He noted the generational trend of shielding children and young adults from failure as much as possible, arguing that it is harmful to… Continue reading

We hope that you will enjoy reading Restoring Character in America. But more importantly, we hope that you will share our message!

It is our hope that you will share its message by purchasing, additional copies and donating them to schools, libraries, teachers, coaches and guidance counselors. Consider helping this campaign.

“Thankfully, Michael J. Kerrigan has nailed a crucial issue in the continued growth of America. To be a great nation, there must be some shared values, beliefs, and behavioral constraints that lead to self-discipline and a concern for the common good. This is what makes a nation one and united. In a nation of character, there is no difference in how one behaves when no one is watching. There is an internal moral compass that guides and controls behavior. It is crucial that parents, teachers, coaches, and other influential people serve as role models if America… Continue reading


Saras Sarasvathy Professor of Business Administration at the Darden Graduate School of Business Administration, University of Virginia, studies the habits of the mind of successful entrepreneurs and argues that failure is a necessary part of the process of invention, innovation and creativity. The UVA Professor asserts that successful entrepreneurs “do not seek to avoid failure they seek to make success happen.”

Venture capitalist that “spray and pray” their investment bets across their portfolio companies recognize that failing is an integral part of venturing. Wise entrepreneurs, who exhibit a willingness to fail, learn to outlive their failures by keeping them small.

I try to remind myself as a limited partner in several ventures that it is precisely the small-scale failures that lead to new discoveries and learning opportunities. On the other hand, I trust the principals in my investments will learn from their failures and predicate their exits on experimentation,… Continue reading




This review is from: The Death of Character: Moral Education in an Age Without Good or Evil 
Imagine my surprise to find out that Professor James Davison Hunter, a gifted and first class professor, the author of The Death of Character… Moral Education in an Age Without Good or Evil resides in my adopted hometown of left-leaning Charlottesville, Virginia. I had read and enjoyed Professor Hunter’s earlier work on the Culture Wars and should have been prepared for his own strength of character in boldly criticizing the psychology regime’s domination and weakening of moral commitment of today’s educational gatekeepers.

The Death of Character is an important read, if you believe as I do, that character really matters. For Hunter… “Character was always related to an explicitly moral standard of conduct, oriented toward work, building, expanding, achieving, and sacrifice on behalf of a larger good.” Hunter contrast… Continue reading

Greg Saathoff, M.D. of ParadeRest

Greg Saathoff, M.D. of ParadeRest

By Martin Kuz

Stars and Stripes

Running bombing missions over Germany in the last months of World War II provoked a fight or flight dilemma for young Jim Kavanaugh.

“Sometimes over a target you’d think, ‘I don’t like this. I don’t think I’ll do anymore,’” said Kavanaugh, who in 1945, at 19, served as a radio operator on a B-17 Flying Fortress.

His was a natural reaction to the perils posed by German anti-aircraft fire and fighter planes. At the time, U.S. crews volunteered for missions and, in theory, could choose to ground themselves. But to drop out of the flight rotation was to risk ridicule and ostracism from fellow airmen, a fate most of them considered worse than getting shot down.

So by the time his bomber landed safely at its base in England, Kavanaugh found his reluctance dissolving, his resolve returning. “You felt… Continue reading


Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello

Having relocated my family on Independence Day from Great Falls, Virginia to Keswick in Albemarle County, Virginia, it has been among our many blessings to frequently visit Monticello and the University founded by Mr. Jefferson. Living amidst Mr. Jefferson’s shadow  is rewarding to become steeped in his values. Thomas Jefferson proposed that one should follow truth wherever it may lead. He believed that grit, resilience, and robustness are the core ethical values needed to survive and grow in greatness. Mr. Jefferson exhibited those core values when he overcame overwhelming odds in giving birth to our nation. He turned adversity into victory for all Americans.

Many of today’s wounded warriors, like Mark Holbert embrace the same Jeffersonian values of grit and resilience to thrive against daunting odds as they struggle to recover from combat injuries in service to our country. As Mr. Jefferson did, they must draw… Continue reading

One of The Character Building Project’s close friends, Rafael Triana, Ph.D., Psychoanalyst Assistant Professor at the 
University of Virginia brought the following article from American Psychologist to our readers’ attention. This article is noteworthy for several reasons, not the least of which is because the co-author Richard G. Tedeschi not only coined the term Post Traumatic Growth (PTG) but also is a leader in the positive psychology movement.

As we noted earlier, the post traumatic growth component of the Comprehensive Soldier Fitness program is under development. Key questions remain unanswered. First, it is unclear whether training occurring before, during, or after deployment can foster posttraumatic growth among military personnel. Whether mental health professionals or fellow warriors working with military personnel exposed to combat can do things that encourage growth is unknown. Second, although researchers have developed good self-report measures of posttraumatic growth, these measures may depend on baseline levels… Continue reading

Rafael Triana, Ph.D. Psychoanalyst, Professor of Psychiatric and Neurobehavioral Sciences at the University of Virginia and an excellent friend of The Character Building Project advising us on various dimensions of Post Traumatic Growth (PTG), brought the following report of the John Templeton Foundation to our attention. Thank you Doctor Triana for your continued contributions to our efforts on PTG!

Considering positive psychology in general, and “spirituality” in particular, are key ingredients to PTG, we believe you will find: Rethinking Human Nature, Reimagining Spirituality, Jonathan Rowson’s work of interest.

Spirituality is difficult to explore within a scientific frame. For one thing, the word “spirituality” is tricky to define in the precise ways science requires. Rowan Williams, Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge and former archbishop of Canterbury, recently spoke of the spiritual as “filling out as fully as possible human experience.” However, spirituality is also intimately linked to religious and metaphysical traditions.… Continue reading

I have been giving considerable thought to what principles, values, standards or rules of behavior guide Americans in civilian life. To be sure some professionals, such as medical doctors, must adhere to a code, for example, the Hippocratic oath. Most Americans would subscribe to the “Golden Rule.”

However, unless you are a member of the military, attending the University of Virginia, a medical doctor or a member of a religious order you, as a civilian, probably do not adhere to a code of conduct, honor or ethical code.

Throughout the ages, members of the warrior class have had a code of honor duty, loyalty and courage. Some times they would subscribe to such codes so that the rest of society would not corrupt them. Today, members of the United States Military fall under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the Geneva Conventions and adhere to the Military Code of Conduct.… Continue reading

Yesterday’s post encouraging readers to forward articles they think of interest to the Character Building Project begot an opinion piece from today’s Wall Street Journal. The article is by John Garvey, the President of The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.  Reverting to single sex dorms is, in my opinion, a practical answer which will encourage good habits.

Continue reading

Sign Up for Updates
For a limited time, grab a FREE copy of the book, Courage in America: Warriors with Character
Mottoes & Quotes
For the Visually Impaired
Courage in America has been aurally transcribed for the visually impaired, thanks to Volunteers of Vacaville, California. Tel: 704.448.6841 ext 2044.