Michael J. Kerrigan



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

Let me take conscientiousness, one the key character traits in the chapter, How To Build Character. Within the world of personality psychology, the reigning expert on conscientiousness is Brent Robert, a professor at the University of Illinois. What intrigues Roberts is that conscientiousness predicts so many positive outcomes outside the workplace. Roberts says, “it would actually be nice if there were some negative things that went character along with conscientiousness. But at this point it’s emerging as one of the primary dimensions of successful functioning across the lifespan.

I would differ with Professor Roberts and argue there is a downside to most all character strengths and that they can indeed become character weaknesses. It is easy for me to see how conscientiousness can descend into compulsiveness.

I thought it odd that at no point in the chapter did the author mention Aristotle’s golden mean. Moral behavior is the … Continue reading



Recently, I asked my friend and author of The Heroic Heart, Tod Lindberg,  how the study of heroism might lead to the development of character, leadership and other virtues? Here is Tod’s answer…

I think one of he most useful aspects of the lens of heroism is that it draws people in to broader topics. For instance, it’s one thing to hear a lecture on how Rome established a Republic. It’s another thing altogether, far more vivid, to tell the story of Lucretia and her suicide to prove her accusation of rape against the son of the Roman king, leading to the fall of the monarchy. Likewise, in discussing political order and the danger of disruption, the personal story of Julius Caesar, or of the row between Agamemnon and Achilles, brings the subject to life, especially for students, who are often the victims these days of very dry,… Continue reading


Blog readers have asked why I choose to dedicate my web site to reflections on the need for developing good character, and they deserve an answer.

By sharing these reflections, it is hoped my own character will improve, perhaps others will be moved to acquire virtue, and finally, readers will be warned of the fearful consequences that ensue when a culture devalues acquiring good habits.

Each post is an opportunity to confront my own convictions, renew my gratitude for a blessed life, and perhaps, stir others to examine character in their own life. It is my aim to make these reflections enjoyable, useful, and, in some small way, transformative of our culture.

A focus on virtue is critical because the practice of good habits serve as an antidote to vice, a proven remedy for poor character. My reflections touch on scores of topics, such as: courage, duty, honor, humility, integrity,… Continue reading



Decades of statistics from a growing number of social scientists seem to concur that the collapse of the American community is due to such factors as:

  • An increasing divorce rate
  • Secularization of society resulting in a reduction in religiosity
  • An increasing number of babies born out of wedlock
  • Civic disengagement
  • An increasing number of citizens opting for a welfare state

While our civic culture may appear to be wasting away unable to actualize the vision the Founding Fathers had for America, the trend need not continue. Americans might raise the collective bar of responsible citizenry by taking advice from our Founding Fathers.

Our Founding Fathers believed that citizens can be left free as individuals and as families to live their lives as they see fit; that they can come together to solve problems shared by the community; and that virtues like integrity, industriousness, responsibility and religiosity are bound up… Continue reading

After conducting several interviews with our nation’s wounded warriors, reading their stories, and meeting many in the organizations serving them, I am left with amazement and deep respect for the valor and physical bravery of our nations military. Each wounded warrior I interviewed told me, in a matter of fact way, that they were trained to fearlessly run toward the sound of bullets. What motivated their singular ability to do this were these factors: they loved their country more than they feared for their lives; they valued loyalty to fellow-warriors more than securing their own safety; and, they all were, and remain, committed to defending America’s freedom–a cause greater than their individual self-interests.

Later, as I got to personally know many of these wounded warriors, I witnessed example after example of sheer moral courage. I wanted to know what character traits enabled these heroes to successfully recover from traumatic injuries?… Continue reading

Much of my research for Courage in America: Warriors with Character has been driven by this question: Why do some warriors recovering from traumatic injuries exhibit strong character and successfully transition to civilian life while others do not?

Several other questions followed from the first. Was their moral environment shaped at an early age and surfaced during their recovery from injury? Or did these warriors develop good character during their months of military training? If so, why were some patients able to apply this training to their successful rehabilitation, while others were not? How do some warriors turn adversity into recovery? What virtues are involved?

What are the bedrock virtues that define a warrior with character? Do the virtues that surface during rehabilitation have any relevance during a warrior’s transition to civilian life? Is strength of character as exhibited by traumatically injured warriors equally prevalent in the population of their… Continue reading

Professor Peter Hampson, a friend of the Character Building Project from the UK, recently forwarded the John Templeton Foundation funded report (below) warning that many English teenagers living in urban deprivation were disconnected from both their communities and basic morality. We trust both Professor Hampson and the Templeton Foundation’s concern for character will light a candle against the apparent darkness and deterioration of virtue in England’s youth. Continue reading

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) depression is the most costly disease in the world. Treating one case of depression cost about $5,000 per year. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) there are around ten million such cases annually in the United States. Apparently, millions of Americans are not satisfied with their lives. Continue reading

The next member of the “character community” to profile is Marc Butler of Denver Colorado. I came to know Marc as a fellow board member of “Families of Character.” Marc is a unique leader, not only as the CEO of J.R. Butler, Inc. http://www.jrbutlerinc.com but also a leader in building character. Continue reading

The next member of the “character community” to be profiled for the Character Building Project readers is Steve Markel of Denver, Colorado.  Recently, after 21 years of service, Steve retired from American Funds as Senior Vice President. American Funds is the Distribution Company for the Capital Group which is one of the oldest and largest money management organizations in the U.S. Steve serves on several boards: Archdiocese of Denver Finance Council. The Catholic Foundation Investment Committee, Bishop Machebeuf Board of Directors, and the Priest Pension Board. Steve and his wife Nancy have organized and developed parenting programs and talks in the Denver area over the past 18 years. The Markel’s are members of Legatus.  They have 6 children, ages 21 to 32 and have several grand children. 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.