Character

[Here’s a repeat from January 26, 2012]

When I tutor for the Chicago Lights Tutoring Program http://www.chicagolights.org  (see posts of August 8 and 9), each day I try to give my student a 3″ x 5″ card with a quotation on it. Usually the quote relates to character, integrity, hard work and achievement. I’m partial to the wisdom of John Wooden (winningest coach in NCAA basketball).

Character is doing what’s right – when no one is looking.” J.C. Watts

Character is higher than intellect.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.” James D. Miles

Nearly all men can stand adversity. But if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” Abraham Lincoln

Character is much easier kept than recovered.” Thomas Paine

The measure of true character is what a man would do if he knew he would never be found out.” Thomas Babington Macaulay

Ability may get you to the top but it takes character to keep you there.” John Wooden

In each human heart are a tiger, a pig, an ass and a nightengale. Diversity of character is due to their unequal activity.” Ambrose Bierce

Education is not just reading and math. It’s learning about tenacity, hard work, civility and character.

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Streets & Sanitation

For 5 plus years, I was an Assistant States Attorney – Felony Trial Division in Chicago.  My daughter was born in the middle of a really nasty 2 week murder jury trial (for which I am still called back every 3 years to testify in parole hearings against release of the killer).  Donna went into labor at about 2:00 a.m. on a Thursday morning.  I called my friend and partner in the case and said “Charlie – Donna’s having the baby. You’re gonna have to handle things today.” His response “Congrats but be here tomorrow.”   

The next day, I showed up at the office with my arms packed with files and three boxes of cigars.  So I’m in my office passing out cigars, smiling, yabbering, guys wandering in and out when suddenly a large chap appeared at my door.  He was wearing overalls, high rubber boots, thick shirt and a hat.  He leaned against the door frame.  “Is there a Scott Petersen here” he asked.  We all turned.  I raised my hand.  “Yeah.  That’s me.”  “You missin’ anything?” he asked.  I felt pockets.  Jacket.  My checkbook!  It’s gone.  “My checkbook” I said.  He held it up waggling it between two fingers.  “I found it on the street.”    I quickly dipped into my wallet for a twenty.  “Here” – I said taking the checkbook.  “Thank you. I apprec. . . ” “No.  That’s okay,”  he held up his hand.  “I’m with Streets and Sanitation.  I want you guys to know — we have a lot of good people in Streets and Sanitation.”    I then said “My wife just had a baby.  Can I offer you some cigars?”  He looked at the open box.  “That I will take.”  He grabbed a large handful and disappeared.

It’s funny how things happen – and there are moments of intense clarity.  Obviously I’ll never forget the birth of my daughter (I was there 🙂 ) but I’ll also never forget the integrity of that stranger.  Streets & Sanitation. . . .  

Character

When I tutor for the Chicago Lights Tutoring Program (www.chicagolights.org ; see posts of August 8 and 9), each day I try to give my student a 3″ x 5″ card with a quotation on it.  Usually the quote relates to character, integrity, hard work and achievement.  I’m partial to the wisdom of John Wooden (winningest coach in NCAA). 

Character is doing what’s right – when no one is looking.”           J.C. Watts

Character is higher than intellect.”   Ralph Waldo Emerson

You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.”  James D. Miles

Nearly all men can stand adversity.  But if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”   Abraham Lincoln

Character is much easier kept than recovered.”   Thomas Paine

The measure of true character is what a man would do if he knew he would never be found out.”  Thomas Babington Macaulay

Ability may get you to the top but it takes character to keep you there.”    John Wooden

In each human heart are a tiger, a pig, an ass and a nightengale.  Diversity of character is due to their unequal activity.”          Ambrose Bierce

Education is not just reading and math.  It’s learning about tenacity, hard work, civility and character.

Bobby Jones

Robert Tyre “Bobby” Jones (1902-1971) was one of the greatest golfers of all time.  During the 1920’s, Jones won 13 major championships  including golf’s coveted “Grand Slam.”  Jones was also an attorney (which still gives me some faint hope that I con combine my day job with my favorite sport). 

During the crucial opening round of the 1925 U.S. Open, Jones was addressing his ball, getting ready to hit.  Suddenly, he stepped back and called a penalty/stroke on himself because he had seen his ball move.  In golf, if you address the ball and it moves, it counts as a stroke.  No one but Jones had seen the ball move, but he still insisted on taking the added stroke.  Jones went on to lose the tournament — by one stroke.  When he was praised for his honesty, Jones responded testily “you might as well praise someone for not robbing a bank.” 

Integrity has its own rewards which can be quite personal (since our reputations live long beyond our days).  I find vignettes like this inspiring since they demonstrate the character that we can all aspire to.   And achieve.