Michael J. Kerrigan

virtue

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Growing up in the Midwest, I was blessed to have loving parents, old school coaches, caring teachers and orthodox priests, all of whom imparted in me traditional values. As an adult, I have been also blessed by the significant role of mentors in my past and current professional life.

One mentor helped me understand the application in practicing the skills I developed as a lobbyist to my work on the goals of the Character Building Project. For example, billing out time to different clients while advocating their cause on the Hill taught me the importance of being “thoughtful about my work habits.” Now that my career has become a “calling,” similar skills are needed to measure my productivity.

Another mentor taught me that while my professional goals in the past were often measured by the income I generated, now my goals are no longer measured in monetary terms or career… Continue reading

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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.

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In my last post, I parted with my secular humanist friends regarding their belief that man has no hope for happiness that reaches beyond the grave. Life would be meaningless for us Christians if death were our ultimate destiny. In this post, I find common ground with my secularist pals when we act as “better angels of our nature.”

When Christians act in imitation of God’s selflessness toward man, and secularists act selflessly for virtue’s own sake, they both offer  better “modi operandi”  for existence than do the Darwinists, for example, who promote Darwin’s theory that selfish struggle for survival is the driving force for life itself. Adam Smith’s “Invisible Hand” and Ayn Rand’s novels have, rightly or wrongly, furthered that idea that takers win, so avarice and greed, signs of man’s selfish struggle for survival,  must be beneficial to public welfare.

Recently, economists have begun to… Continue reading

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In our study of American Heroes, the moral interest of their stories must be centered in the character of the deed involved. Heroes’ deeds proceed from choice rather than obligation. The spirit of virtue hovers over their deeds and motives.

Their accomplishments must be worthy of our admiration while their heroism comes from both the magnitude of the achievement and from their humility. There is no conflict between the Christian values of humility and heroism because heroes do not seek acclaim.

The qualities, which, in my view, may be seen as heroic, are: grit, wisdom, selflessness, commitment, willingness to take on a monumental task, purity of intention and singleness of purpose.

We are seeking to identify Americans who have lived out their convictions. Some may have done so in the public eye because of the visibility afforded them by their careers. Others may simply have lived lives of quiet heroism.… Continue reading

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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

5.0 out of 5 stars
Natural Born Heroes: Skill or Virtue?
June 6, 2015
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This review is from: Natural Born Heroes: How a Daring Band of Misfits Mastered the Lost Secrets of Strength and Endurance 
In Natural Born Heroes McDougall skillfully addresses two book ideas: a wartime adventurer on Crete and the exercise philosophy called Natural Movement. Surprisingly, the author gives less credit to what, in my opinion, is his best book idea: “The Art of the Hero.”
My SF’s friends will enjoy both the yarn of the daring band of Oxford Dons kidnapping a German General and the lost secrets of strength and endurance. In my view, both the war story and the study of endurance are best understood by McDougall’s treatise on heroism.

The foundation to the “Art of the Hero” is laid in the early chapters when McDougall raises the question: Is heroism… Continue reading

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By Michael G. Sabbeth**

To shoot or not to shoot—that was the question. I was hunting pheasant at the Kiowa Creek shooting club east of Denver, using a new Zoli 28 gauge over/under shotgun. My dog charged a thicket of corn husks. A pheasant flew out like a missile. I shouldered the gun and established the lead but, as the bird gained distance, I concluded an ethical shot was not possible. I returned the gun to a safe position.

Ethical behavior is the foundation for safe responsible hunting—indeed, for participating in any shooting sport. We want our students to be ethical participants in hunting and shooting sports; to be safe, not to hurt others and to present themselves in a positive way. Here are five tips on how to effectively instruct students on hunting ethics.

“Good company and good conversation are the very sinews of virtue.”

Izaak Walton,… Continue reading

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Chris Kyle preferred the common good to his own individual good. If you’ve seen American Sniper, you’ll recall that his preference is displayed poignantly in an argument with his wife, Taya, before his fourth tour in Iraq. She asks him why he’s thinking about going back “over there.” She’s raising the kids by herself. She knows these extra tours are not strictly necessary. Other husbands have done fewer, and she demands to know why he wants more. What about her and the kids?

Kyle doesn’t give an eloquent answer in the movie. He mentions duty to country and denies loving war for its own sake. In his autobiography Kyle reveals more, saying that he and his wife are thinking with different sets of priorities: God, family, and country in her case, but God, country, and family in his.

Most of us will never face this kind of existential challenge. There… Continue reading

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As the midterm elections approach, I have been thinking about duties of citizenship. Since the time of the ancient Greeks it was considered a noble ambition to serve the state and be good citizens.

In his Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle (384-322 BCE) describes the happy life intended for man by nature as one lived in accordance with virtue. In his Politics, he describes the role that politics must play in bringing about the virtuous life in the citizenry and in particular, his belief that citizens must actively participate in politics if they are to be happy and virtuous.

Aristotle asks the question: “Must a good citizen be a good man?” He makes a distinction between the good citizen and the good man, writing, “…there cannot be a single absolute excellence of the good citizen. But the good man is so called in virtue of a… Continue reading

I’ve been reading through a book on aesthetics written by a professor of mine at UD named Robert Wood. He’s one of those types who’s incredibly complex. Everything he says has extraordinary depth even if it sounds superficial or perfunctory at first. The book is called Placing Aesthetics and looks to find the place of aesthetics in the major thinkers of the Western tradition. It’s been incredibly enlightening, especially the chapter on Aristotle.

He begins the chapter by contrasting various ways Aristotle uses the word “art”. In one way he contrasts “art” vs. “nature”. The idea is that nature is what’s given in the world and art is what we do with what’s given. But this division is not so clear in terms of human nature. Human nature has choice as part of it’s “what’s given.” We are the animal that must choose. We can’t help but choose. Aquinas waxes… Continue reading

In all the conversations with the wounded warriors, one common core value emerged: selflessness. Nothing gives another man courage more than another man’s fear, or his injury. All talked about taking care of their military buddies by placing the good of the squad, unit, or group above their own needs. They claim they never did anything except what any of their buddies would have done in the same situation. No matter what nuance each brought to a definition of courage, they all agreed on one critical element: great leaders readily act for the good of others. At all times, they are willing to choose the “harder right” rather than the “easier wrong.” For military leaders, selfless decision-making is the fruit of the virtue of courage, when exercised. This virtue is honed in all warriors by their culture, training them to focus first and foremost on the mission and achieve its… Continue reading

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