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Bloviating Zeppelin: Why Character Matters

Bloviating Zeppelin

(in-ep-toc'-ra-cy) - a system of government where the least capable to lead are elected by the least capable of producing, and where the members of society least likely to sustain themselves or succeed, are rewarded with goods and services paid for by the confiscated wealth of a diminishing number of producers.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Why Character Matters

A wonderful summation of why character is more important than simply education. And why character matters. From the Dartmouth News (thanks Pete!):

Remarks by Student Body President Noah Riner at Convocation Sept. 20, 2005
Posted 09/21/05

You've been told that you are a special class. A quick look at the statistics confirms that claim: quite simply, you are the smartest and most diverse group of freshmen to set foot on the Dartmouth campus. You have more potential than all of the other classes. You really are special.
But it isn't enough to be special. It isn't enough to be talented, to be beautiful, to be smart.

Generations of amazing students have come before you, and have sat in your seats. Some have been good, some have been bad. All have been special.

In fact, there's quite a long list of very special, very corrupt people who have graduated from Dartmouth. William Walter Remington, Class of 1939, started out as a Boy Scout and a choirboy and graduated Phi Beta Kappa. He ended up as a Soviet spy, was convicted of perjury and beaten to death in prison.

Daniel Mason '93 was just about to graduate from Boston Medical School when he shot two men – killing one – after a parking dispute.

Just a few weeks ago, I read in the D about PJ Halas, Class of 1998. His great uncle George founded the Chicago Bears, and PJ lived up to the family name, co-captaining the basketball team his senior year at Dartmouth and coaching at a high school team following graduation. He was also a history teacher, and, this summer, he was arrested for sexually assualting a 15-year-old student.

These stories demonstrate that it takes more than a Dartmouth degree to build character.
As former Dartmouth President John Sloan Dickey said, at Dartmouth our business is learning. And I'll have to agree with the motto of Faber College, featured in the movie Animal House, "Knowledge is Good." But if all we get from this place is knowledge, we've missed something. There's one subject that you won't learn about in class, one topic that orientation didn't cover, and that your UGA won't mention: character.

What is the purpose of our education? Why are we at Dartmouth?

Martin Luther King, Jr. said:

"But education which stops with efficiency may prove the greatest menace to society…. We must remember that intelligence is not enough. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education."

We hear very little about character in our classrooms, yet, as Dr. King suggests, the real problem in the world is not a lack of education.

For example, in the past few weeks we've seen some pretty revealing things happening on the Gulf Coast in the wake of hurricane Katrina. We've seen acts of selfless heroism and millions around the country have united to help the refugees. On the other hand, we've been disgusted by the looting, violence, and raping that took place even in the supposed refuge areas. In a time of crisis and death, people were paddling around in rafts, stealing TV's and VCR's. How could Americans go so low?

My purpose in mentioning the horrible things done by certain people on the Gulf Coast isn't to condemn just them; rather it's to condemn all of us. Supposedly, character is what you do when no one is looking, but I'm afraid to say all the things I've done when no one was looking.

Cheating, stealing, lusting, you name it - How different are we? It's easy to say that we've never gone that far: never stolen that much; never lusted so much that we'd rape; and the people we've cheated, they were rich anyway.

Let's be honest, the differences are in degree. We have the same flaws as the individuals who pillaged New Orleans. Ours haven't been given such free range, but they exist and are part of us all the same.

The Times of London once asked readers for comments on what was wrong with the world. British author, G. K. Chesterton responded simply: "Dear Sir, I am."

Not many of us have the same clarity that Chesterton had. Just days after Hurricane Katrina had ravaged the Gulf Coast, politicians and pundits were distributing more blame than aid. It's so easy to see the faults of others, but so difficult to see our own. In the words of Cassius in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, "the fault, dear Brutus is not in our stars but in ourselves."

Character has a lot to do with sacrifice, laying our personal interests down for something bigger. The best example of this is Jesus. In the Garden of Gethsemane, just hours before his crucifixion, Jesus prayed, "Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done." He knew the right thing to do. He knew the cost would be agonizing torture and death. He did it anyway. That's character.

Jesus is a good example of character, but He's also much more than that. He is the solution to flawed people like corrupt Dartmouth alums, looters, and me.

It's so easy to focus on the defects of others and ignore my own. But I need saving as much as they do.

Jesus' message of redemption is simple. People are imperfect, and there are consequences for our actions. He gave His life for our sin so that we wouldn't have to bear the penalty of the law; so we could see love. The problem is me; the solution is God's love: Jesus on the cross, for us.

In the words of Bono:

[I]f only we could be a bit more like Him, the world would be transformed. …When I look at the Cross of Christ, what I see up there is all my s—- and everybody else's. So I ask myself a question a lot of people have asked: Who is this man? And was He who He said He was, or was He just a religious nut? And there it is, and that's the question.

You want the best undergraduate education in the world, and you've come to the right place to get that. But there's more to college than achievement. With Martin Luther King, we must dream of a nation – and a college – where people are not judged by the superficial, "but by the content of their character."

Thus, as you begin your four years here, you've got to come to some conclusions about your own character because you won't get it by just going to class. What is the content of your character? Who are you? And how will you become what you need to be?

Why character matters, and why character is King. Who of the two presidential candidates do you believe possesses the most?



Blogger Ranando said...

Besides a little romp in the hay with someone other than your wife. I would say they both have good character.

Disagreeing with someone’s political views doesn’t mean they have bad character. Agreeing with someone’s political views doesn’t mean they have good character either.


Fri Oct 31, 03:45:00 PM PDT  
Blogger Bloviating Zeppelin said...

Ranando: perhaps I should have been more specific. I equate character with Leadership. I also equate Leadership with courage, honor, honesty, a sense of sacrifice for a greater good, discipline, self-sufficiency, development, mentoring, a larger perspective, national sovereignty, positivism, focus, duty and, more importantly, blame vs. accountability.

That's the perspective in which I view the two candidates. I find Barack Hussein Obama, of the two, lacking.


Fri Oct 31, 04:20:00 PM PDT  
Blogger shoprat said...

Wisdom = Intelligence + Experience + Character.

You need all three.

McCain has all three.

Obama maybe has Intelligence.

Fri Oct 31, 04:43:00 PM PDT  
Blogger Bloviating Zeppelin said...

Shoprat: and, of course, that was the point. Education without character yields very little. Except perhaps a large bill due.


Fri Oct 31, 04:50:00 PM PDT  
Blogger Average American said...

The way I see it:

Intelligence minus character equals smart asshole!

Sat Nov 01, 12:25:00 AM PDT  
Blogger Mahndisa S. Rigmaiden said...

11 01 08

I agree with Ranado here and the gist of your post BZ. To answer your question about character, I don't think either candidate exemplifies good character. Obama is a flip flopper who says whatever to get votes. He has publically castigated people who helped him get this far, which is low imho.

McCain cheated on his first wife when she was deformed by a car accident then got married to Cindy. McCain calls Obama elitist but his wife wears clothes that are worth more than my house!

Lastly, I have a really hard time understanding how a party who purports to care about the middle class could spend so much money on Palin's wardrobe. I mean, if she was plain folks why didn't they shop at Target or Walmart (get endorsements btw) and say, NO you guys this is too much money for clothes when the average American is struggling? I know the GOP committee can spend money on whatever it wants, but I think it was unwise and whoever made that decision was weak in character!

No. Neither of these guys have character at all. They are both politicians who should be serving the public but instead are serving their own egos.

Sat Nov 01, 04:36:00 AM PDT  
Blogger A Jacksonian said...

There is difference between being a character and having character.

Apparently a few folks have lost sight of that.

Sat Nov 01, 08:56:00 AM PDT  
Blogger Unknown said...

And good character means disparaging all the people of New Orleans over the acts of a minority? I live in the area and I saw firsthand heroism and acts of kindness everyday. I lost my country in Katrina, because instead of support we got political spin and judgemental tirades from people that had no idea of the hardships people were fighting against. I have been a Republican for over 30 years and I will be voting for Obama tomorrow. I want the country I once loved and respected back again.

Sun Nov 02, 08:03:00 AM PST  

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