Character is Destiny

Character Is Destiny #Character

Inspiring Stories Every Young Person Should Know and Every Adult Should Remember is a 2005 book by United States Senator John McCain with Mark Salter. Published by Random House ISBN 1-4000-6412-0, it is a collection of biographies about individuals from the past and present who, in the authors' view, exemplify the best qualities of character. The book is divided into seven parts with further divisions of a characteristic and a person who is seen to exemplify it.




A.  Foundation of Love-Mother Teresa


A great example for us is Mother Teresa who showed us how mercy is the only way to find contentment through selflessness. “She chose to live amid squalor and sickness and desperation, endured hardship and endless toil, and might have been the happiest person on earth.” Mother did not flee from the Lord; nor did she fear anyone. When the Lord called her; she knew the call was authentic because it filled her with joy. The first counsel of Mother Teresa is to put your hand in His and walk all the way with Him. When you hear the call to follow: follow. To Mother Teresa it was never more complicated than that. To her care of the dying was the purest expression of love. Who around you is dying-physically, emotionally or spiritually? Love might not heal every wound of disease but it heals the heart.  McCain notes that Mother Teresa showed that rather than chasing ambition the greatest contentment comes from having a foundation of love. “She loved and was loved, and her happiness was complete.” 





B. Core of Strength


Christ asked Peter if he loves Him more than the others thus establishing Peters leadership on love. Next Christ tells Peter to feed His lambs to give them a core of strength. If we wish to develop strength in ourselves and others it is imperative that we give hope, confidence, a work ethic, confidence, resilience, self-control and courage to the lambs in our charge.


1. Hope-John Winthrop #hope


Pilate was afraid of diabolical and fanatical men but not of God. Let us not be like Pilate. How often are we though when we go about our daily business? Pilate symbolically washed his hands to remove his guilt. Did it work? To remind myself of this as I wash my hands throughout the day during the washing I say the Hail Mary and ask our Lady to help me not betray the sacrifice of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I try to remember Christ became hopeless to give us hope. John Winthrop who left the security of his native country to face the dangers of an unknown world to create and shape the character of a new civilization in America. Is there still hope in this country He helped found? Only if we hope! John was a puritan and followed their teachings in that they are to be in the world but not of the world. They should not love earthly pleasures but neither should they shun the blessings of God. To be humble and grateful and give hope to others, by being faithful and encouraging in their own society. John believed men should strive to build a shining city on the hill by putting ones duty to God and community before one’s own personal desires and to never despair. He wrote and preached the sermon, “Model of Christian Charity” to give hope to others. He led always by example and never, never gave up hope.



2. Confidence-Elizabeth I


Queen Elizabeth I of England by her example brought about England’s golden era. It is evident that she in her rise as the greatest Queen in English history used three steps  1) Receiving Forgiveness which involves experiencing God and forgiving yourself. 2) Deciding to Forgive. 3) Sharing Forgiveness not only for herself but for others as well. She was raised in fear and uncertainty that would have paralyzed anyone but she rose above it by her strength and confidence. Where did her confidence come from; was it inherited from her father? Why is it she had an air of command, gracefulness, and dignity that eluded others around her that wished to kill her for the crown? Her early life was particularly in grave peril. In imprisonment she was defiant and argumentative; she knew meekness would not save her life. She went forth daringly in faith having received God’s forgiveness expecting the same death at any time that her mother received (Beheading). At her accession to the throne Elizabeth kneelt to the ground and said in Latin “This is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes.” As Queen she would not be ruled by fear and boldly stated, “I am your anointed Queen. I will never be constrained by violence to do anything. It is monstrous for the feet to direct the head.” Knowing fear is the root of evil she decided to forgive; not to persecute Catholics for their faith; thus sharing her forgiveness with loyal English Catholics.  She stated as long as Catholics remained loyal subjects, she would not trouble their consciences. She acknowledged God’s mercy at her final address to the united English people:

“Thou God has raised me high, yet this I account the glory of my reign, that I have reigned with your love….You may have many a wiser prince sitting in this seat, but you never have had, or shall have, anyone who loves you better.”



3. Industry-Eric Hoffer


Eric Hoffer is McCain’s example of a man who demonstrates for us the characteristic of INDUSTRY.  Christ asks us to carry our cross daily to be industrious in our living out the gospel. Hoffer was a longshoreman, author, and philosopher who explained the purpose of freedom in the way we develop our societies. Hoffer in his writings argued that honest labor gave purpose and dignity to a man. Hoffer’s ideas and thoughts confront our culture’s obsession with individualism, hedonism, and minimalism by portraying the value of industry in man. Hoffer who was blinded as a youth for eight years due to a fall had an insatiable hunger for the reading of books; fearing he would lose his sight again. He was a modern example of what the man born blind in the gospels must have been like. Hoffer’s self-studies revealed to him the idea that the absence of self-esteem caused people to surrender themselves to causes and may have been the root cause of the mass movements of Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Russia. Hoffman argues that freedom offers man a means to self-esteem and may help us to understand the contributing factors in the current Islamic extremist movements.[1]





[1] Eric Hoffer. The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements.


4. Resilience-Abraham Lincoln 


John McCain in his book Character is Destiny describes the 16th President of the United States as an example of a man who demonstrates for us the characteristic of RESILIENCE. Resilience is the ability to become strong, healthy, or successful again after something bad happens. Abraham Lincoln had known loss and grief all his life yet rather that than succumb to defeat; he somehow, always found a way to rise back up. He was inarguably a man of action. Although he was known to have chronic depression he never yielded and in some way resurrected from his melancholic states thinking, “To remain as I am is impossible; I must die or be better.” Lincoln rose to the highest office in the land after surviving a hard and poor childhood in the Indiana wilderness, a harsh father, little education, and deep loneliness. He survived the death of his brother, a sister, his mother, his first sweetheart, and his own children and his marriage to Mary Todd was troubled. As president he was considered dismal by most. How did Lincoln persist? He willed it. He was neither swift nor brilliant at work but he was exhaustive; he continued. His resilience sprang from his deep conviction that America was, “the last, best hope of earth.” In the end he paid for his devotion with his life; so that the government of the people, by the people, and for the people shall not perish from the earth.



5. Self-Control George Washington


The First President of the United States is McCain’s example of a man who demonstrates for us the characteristic of SELF CONTROL. Self-control is the ability to control one's emotions, behavior, and desires in the face of external demands in order to function in society. (Matt DeLisi) Washington was a self-made man who learned to govern himself before he governed our great country. He was a passionate man by nature yet he was famous for his reserve and graciousness to others. Washington worked on himself very hard to control his temper and to not be sensitive to criticism. It was a lifelong struggle and at times he was given to fits of anger.  So much so the Indian name for Washington was “boiling water”.  His passion was a two edged sword that either cut for him or against him. His passion was also the source of his great courage. History records his fury in battle where he wore out two horses and stood in defiance of withering fire and having his coat tore by four musket balls. Washington did not just tell his men to stand fast and face the enemy but set the example; leaping headlong into battle and the men followed. Washington disciplined his passionate nature with iron will and self-control. Washington wrote, “Every action done in company ought to be with some sign of respect, to those that are present” and, “Labor to keep alive in your breast the little spark of celestial fire called conscience.” He strove to be a man of unquestionable dignity and manners. He was modest and wore clothes that were fine and neat but never showy. He was consciously groomed and was seldom discourteous to anyone, of higher or lower station in life. He knew his strengths as well as his weaknesses; there was no hubris in him.

He understood the nature of his countrymen as well as he understood his own. He knew we are all flawed, that we must always be alert to the danger of ungoverned appetites, and must strive to control and improve our nature. He understood his country at its birth needed a leader of towering honor, wisdom, and selflessness, whose appearance must fit the role as well as his character, did. And through the constant application of his self-control, he inhabited that role as no one has again, and became, in fact, the father of our country. He imprinted his character on his nation, and in that sense we are all his descendants, a people famous for our constant struggle to improve. We are never so removed from the failings of our nature that we cannot stand more improvement, but neither are we so removed from Washington’s magnificent example that we dare not dream we can achieve it.




6. Courage-Edith Cavell


Edith Louisa Cavell who was a British nurse demonstrates for us the characteristic of COURAGE. Courage is the ability and willingness to confront fear, pain, danger, uncertainty or intimidation. Physical courage is courage in the face of physical pain, hardship, death or threat of death, while moral courage is the ability to act rightly in the face of popular opposition, shame, scandal or discouragement. Edith was a devoted nurse who gave her life on Oct 13, 1915 in Belgium for helping some 200 allied soldiers to escape capture during the early years of WWI and was as a result convicted by a German military court and executed by firing squad. She was courageous to the end and prepared for her death much as she lived her life: dutiful, disciplined and prayerful. She knew that to help allied soldiers could mean her death but to do nothing was worst. Her deep compassion compelled her to have courage in the face of the grave danger of helping and now she was to face the supreme sacrifice of a firing squad for her personal convictions. One of her last communiques was “Standing as I do in view of God and eternity, I realize that patriotism is not enough, I must have no hatred or bitterness towards anyone.” In the end she died as she lived with courage and a loving heart. Edith was able to endure her suffering owing to the foundation of love which she had in Christ and through her core of strength that she had developed by a sense of duty; thus giving her the strength to sustain her suffering. Like the others we have examined her strength was built on a foundation of love. As we go forth in our own lives let us remember to give hope to others (John Winthrop); be confident (Elizabeth I) work hard, (Eric Hoffer) get back up when we fall (Lincoln) being composed and in all self-control (Washington) as we have the courage (Cavell) to take up our daily crosses.

C. Firm Purpose


7. Idealism-Sojourner Truth


In the gospel our Lord asks Peter if he loves Him three times.  One time for each of the times Peter denied our Lord on the eve of His crucifixion thus nullifying Peter’s denials and restoring him. Christ asks Peter with each affirmation to 1) feed His lambs 2) tend His sheep and 3) feed His sheep.  I see a connection between Christ’s institution of Peter’s leadership and our book study of leadership in Character is Destiny.[1]

First Christ asks Peter if he loves Him more than the others thus establishing Peters leadership on love (Mother Theresa). Next Christ tells Peter to feed His lambs to give them a core of strength. If we wish to develop strength in ourselves and others it is imperative that we give hope, confidence, a work ethic (industry), confidence, resilience, self-control and courage to the lambs in our charge.

Secondly Christ asks Peter to “tend His sheep” or that is to give a firm purpose to direct their efforts to create the Kingdom of God. We will be examining people who best portrait the traits of idealism, responsibility, diligence, righteousness, cooperation and citizenship.

Lastly Christ asks Peter to “Feed His sheep” by having an understanding heart and to be compassionate, faithful, merciful, tolerant, forgiving and generous which we will study in the following weeks ahead.


Today we will be looking at the idealism of Sojourner Truth who was a slave who became an abolitionist and a women’s rights activist. Sojourner Truth was born Isabella Baumfree in 1797 in Ulster County, New York. Sojourner’s first spoken language was Dutch which caused her a great deal of suffering when her ownership as a slave was transferred to an English speaking master that took rods heated to beat her with because she couldn’t speak English.  The scars from this beating stayed with her till her death. Eventually Isabella was freed by the efforts of Quakers and a kindly Dutch family (Van Wagener) who hated slavery.  Eventually Isabella changed her name to Sojourner Truth after God told her to and took up a wandering ministry where her ideals on freedom as a religious and oppressed former slave and woman were put to test.




8. Responsibility-Lord Horatio Nelson

Lord Nelson who was the personification of a person who displays the characteristic of RESPONSIBILITY. Nelson was a man who did not play small he took to heart the adage that to be responsible one must respond with their ability (response/ability). Sometimes he disobeyed orders when he knew there was a better and smarter way to defeat the enemy; he had all faith and all courage. McCain said of Lord Nelson that he was, “The bold and brave admiral who taught men how to fight and made the British Navy the most powerful in the world” Nelson was known for his creative disobedience that is the courage to disobey if the situation was warranted. Nelson never just ran head long into battle. No, if he disobeyed it was daring and would not have wasted the precious lives of his men. His men knew this and they had the greatest trust and regard in him. Lord Nelson also had the greatest affectionate regard for those with which he served. His men loved him and followed him into battle willingly. 



9. Diligence-Winston Churchill


Winston Churchill is McCain's choice for a leader who best displays the characteristic of DILIGENCE. He persevered through every trial and misfortune to alert his countrymen to the approaching danger of Nazi Germany, and to save them when they ignored his warning.
We must be just as diligent in our pursuit to do the will of God in our lives.

Churchill’s most famous quote is,

Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never—in nothing great or small, large or petty—never give in, except to convictions of honor and good sense.”

Winston never did give in he led his country at the age of 67 living a life of many failures to become the prime minister of England during their greatest need.

McCain says of Churchill:

 This extraordinarily diligent man, who would not give in to many bitter trials that would have forced most of us to surrender to a cruel and unrelenting fate, who had fought, been beaten, and risen again so many times to take his place among the great democratic leaders of world history, would, by the power of his speech and the unyielding courage of his example and convictions, lead his country through the most dangerous experience of its long history. He stood alone first, and then as Britain’s leader as she stood alone, letting no defeat, no danger, no impossibly overwhelming odds destroy his courage or his will. He would not give in. Never, never, never, never. And, due in great part to the courage he inspired in others, neither would his country.


10. Righteousness-Romero Dallaire


RIGHTEOUSNESS was a trait exemplified by Roméo Dallaire who in 1993, was appointed Force Commander for the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR), where he witnessed the country descend into chaos and genocide, leading to the deaths of more than 800,000 Rwandans. When the rest of the world looked away, he stayed behind in a manmade evil for the sake of duty and justice. Dallaire was in charge of a small overwhelmed African peacekeeping force, he could have left but he refused and witnessed the genocide. He is ashamed he could have not done more and the reaction of the world that stood by for 100 days doing nothing allowing the devil to reap carnage, terror and hopelessness. Dallaire was the one candle in a darkened room of despair created by the collective failure of mankind’s conscience along with the apathy and deceitfulness of world governments toward Rowanda’s plight. McCain writes of Dallaire dilemma:



The U.S. government, our allies, and the United Nations went to extraordinary and ridiculous lengths to avoid using the term, aware that once genocide was acknowledged, they would have to act. Day after day, long night after long night, for over three months, more men, women, and children were added to the rolls of the victims by their hate-crazed persecutors. Romeo Dallaire soldiered on, saving those he could and agonizing over those he couldn’t, all the while begging the UN, and the world, to send more troops, to do something, anything, to help. In his telling, his mission was to keep peace; peace was destroyed by unimaginable violence, and many thousands died. He failed. He tried to convince his superiors to send him more men. He failed. He tried to get the United States and other powerful countries to listen to their consciences and help. He failed. He tried to persuade the world to stop genocide. He failed. And while many, many people who had a responsibility to stop the killings looked the other way and never had a moment of doubt or a night of troubled sleep, Romeo Dallaire took his failures very, very seriously. A righteous person, no matter how blameless, will always take humanity’s failures personally.








11. Cooperation-John Wooden


John McCain in his book Character is Destiny highlights the life of John Wooden who in his own quiet way as a Basketball coach made a huge difference in countless lives of young men growing up teaching them the power of COOPERATION. Coach Wooden was a modest man who inspired young men under his tutelage, leading by example; teaching them wisdom and decency to become both winners and good men.
McCain states Wooden:
He cared about his players, and paid strict attention to teaching them the small and big things that would help them become the best basketball players they could be, and, most important, the best men they could be. He would bench a player for using profanity or for criticizing a teammate or for treating an opponent disrespectfully. He expected his players to dress appropriately, be courteous to everyone, acknowledge their other teammates when they scored, and to refrain from showing excessive emotions on the court. He taught them dignity, based, as dignity is, on self-respect and respect for others. And he taught them not only the usefulness of teamwork, five men all playing their assigned roles, but the virtue of cooperation, and the sense of satisfaction it provided to an individual.
Coach Wooden taught that success is, “peace of mind that is the direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming.” Coach Wooden developed a Pyramid of Success which he taught his players which not only help them win at the game of basketball but also in the game of life.


12. Citizenship-Pat Tillman

The church always encourages us to be loyal and good citizens but citizens of heaven first. John McCain’s book Character is Destiny highlights the life of John’s example for good CITIZENSHIP:  Pat Tillman.





McCain says of Tillman:

He gave away the fortune and fame of a celebrity to serve his country in its time of need and leave us with a lesson of real heroism. He was quite a man, tough, honest, overachieving, and intense, colorful, daring. His parents were strict, but fun and encouraging. He was raised to be brave, work hard, not to brag but to believe in himself. He is remembered as the first one to help a friend in trouble, to stand up to a bully, to try to do the right thing. He thought for himself, and had, without doubt, the courage of his convictions. As a strong safety for the Cardinals, hard-hitting Pat Tillman broke the team record for tackles, 224, each one of them bone-rattling. The next year, the Super Bowl champions, the St. Louis Rams, offered Pat a nine-million-dollar contract. He turned them down. The Cardinals, who had given him a chance when others wouldn’t, could afford to pay him less than half that generous sum. But they had his loyalty. And loyalty is something Pat Tillman took very seriously. Yet, He knew Americans had much more important allegiances that we must live up to, and he intended to live up to his. Pat walked into his coach’s office just after he returned from his honeymoon, and told him that he was going to leave football, and his $3.9 million salary, and join the army. On April 29, 2004, Pat Tillman died as he had lived, bravely, in the service of his country. His unit was looking for Taliban and al Qaeda fighters. They were divided, and separated at a distance that made it hard for the Rangers in each squad to see one another. The sound of gunfire, real or mistaken, caused the Rangers to believe they were under attack. Someone in the squad behind Pat Tillman mistook Pat and his squad for the enemy, and began to fire at them. Pat was killed.



John McCain in reflecting on the citizenship of Tillman says:



Our country’s security doesn’t depend on the heroism of every citizen. Nor does our individual happiness depend upon proving ourselves heroic. But we all have to be worthy of the sacrifices made on our behalf. We have to love our freedom, not just for the ease or material benefits it provides, not just for the autonomy it guarantees us, but for the goodness it makes possible. We have to love it so much we won’t let it be constrained by fear or selfishness. We have to love it as much, even if not as heroically, as Pat Tillman loved it.



Soldiers go to war knowing they might lose everything. Steel your heart the same way as a soldier of Christ: going to war against the forces of darkness.







D. Understanding Heart



McCain’s book which is a study of the right path to a life of dignity and loyalty. Anyone wishing to have a life of dignity and honor must first have a foundation of love that cares for others and become selfless (Mother Teresa). Then on this foundation of love they must develop the personal characteristics which give them a core of strength. They must start with having and giving hope in a better world to come (Winthrop) and then go forth with confidence (Elizabeth I). Next one must work hard with all one’s industry (Hoffer) and be prepared for setbacks thus being resilient (Lincoln) self-controlled (Washington) and having courage (Cavell) in the face of opposition.

Yet all these strengths if they are not tied to the will of God are all but vanity. To develop ourselves for God’s work to our core of strength, if we are to develop, we must act with a Firm Purpose devoting ourselves to the Idealism (S. Truth) of God’s Kingdom. Acting responsibly (Nelson) where we can and go about our days with all diligence (W. Churchill). We must protect the weak with all righteousness (Dallaire) striving for cooperation (Wood) with our brethren and being a participant in the work of good citizenship (Tillman).

Nevertheless now we must add to our foundation of love, core of strength and firm purpose an understanding heart. A person with an understanding heart must develop the personal characteristics of compassion, faith, mercy, tolerance, forgiveness and generosity. John highlights the life of Maximilian Kolbe as an example of a person who best portraits the characteristic of compassion.

13. Compassion-Maximilian Kolbe

Kolbe was a Polish priest who knew his mission was to give his life so that another might live, and who thanked God for the privilege. Kolbe had an ardent and invigorated religious faith which caused a vision of Mary, the Mother of God, which beckoned him to the faith and priesthood. She offered him two crowns, one of purity and one of martyrdom. He asked for both. With several other seminarians, he formed the Militia Immaculata, the Crusade of Immaculate Mary, with the purpose of “converting sinners, heretics and schismatics, particularly freemasons” to the love of Christ through the intercession of Mary. He threw himself into the work of the Militia Immaculata, founding chapters throughout Poland, and publishing a monthly magazine, the Knight of the Immaculate, determined to make Mary the “Queen of every Polish heart.” Poland’s brief episode of independence ended with Nazi Germany’s invasion in 1939, and the beginning of World War Two. The German Army had occupied Father Kolbe’s monastery, the City of the Immaculate. The monks and priests living there, including Father Kolbe, were arrested and deported to Germany in September of that year. They were released a couple of months later, appropriately on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, returned home, and renewed their ministry. They continued printing monthly issues of the Knight and their various other publications, including some that were considered antithetical to Nazi ideology. In what was perceived as a direct challenge to their Nazi rulers, Father Kolbe published a sermon under his own name in the Knight: “The real conflict is inner conflict. Beyond the armies of occupation and the catacombs of concentration camps, there are two irreconcilable enemies in the depth of every soul: good and evil, sin and love. And what use are victories on the battlefield if we ourselves are defeated in our innermost personal selves.”
In February 1941, the Gestapo seized their printing presses and arrested Father Kolbe and his brothers. “Have courage;” he told them, “we are going on a mission.”
In May, Father Kolbe was transferred to Auschwitz, dressed in a prisoner’s striped uniform, and tattooed with the number 16670. All through his terrible ordeal he secretly carried out his ministry. He heard confessions, preached love and forgiveness, blessed the sick and dying, and prayed for them. When the desperately hungry prisoners pushed and shoved one another in the food lines, Father Kolbe waited for all to receive their meager ration of bread or soup before he took his. Often he went without any food. When he did receive his small portion, he shared it with others.
One day in July, a prisoner from Father Kolbe’s cell block who had drowned in a camp latrine and not been found was believed to have escaped. All the prisoners in the block were ordered to stand at attention in the prison yard, under the hot sun, for the entire day. If the missing man was not betrayed or found by three o’clock that afternoon, ten of them would be taken to the starvation cell, and left naked in that underground dungeon where no light was admitted, without cover to protect against the cold, and without any food or water until they all slowly died. After many hours and after many prisoners had dropped unconscious to the ground, weakened by hunger and the heat, Commandant Fritsch singled out his ten men. One of them, a member of the Polish resistance, Franciszek Gajowniczek, cried out in despair, “My poor wife. My poor children. What will become of them?” Unmoved by the cries of the unfortunate ten, Commandant Fritsch stared at the small part of humanity whose lives and deaths were disposed of at his whim. Mercy was unknown to him. But before he turned away, one prisoner who had not been selected left the line, walked quickly toward him, and spoke to him. Fritsch didn’t hear the words Father Kolbe spoke. “What does this Polish pig want?” he asked a guard. Father Kolbe repeated his request. He pointed at Franciszek Gajowniczek and said, “I am a Catholic priest. Let me take his place. I am old. He has a wife and children.” In the end, Father Kolbe died as he lived, with compassion for all; both guards and the condemned.



14. Faith-Christian Guard at Hua Lo Prison


God’s mercy is just like the drops of water which grooves stones to make gorges and canyons; small acts of mercy have a similar effect on the hearts of sinners making them into monoliths of strength. John McCain in his book “Character is Destiny” highlighted that our Lord asks us to even show mercy to our enemy’s. This takes great Faith and thus leads to an understanding heart. McCain showed us the compassion of a prisoner of war in the last chapter of his book and shows us the model of Faith via the Christian Guard at Hua Lo Prison where McCain was a prisoner of war. John says that this guard was an enemy who best helped him to understand the power of my faith.
Hate is a condition of warfare familiar to every combat veteran. There are many noble qualities exhibited by soldiers in war. Love, compassion, courage, self-sacrifice have been expressed in the highest degree on all the battlefields of all the wars in history. But hatred, on both sides of a war, is ever present as well. You come to hate your enemies, and not in the abstract because you believe they serve some hateful purpose, but in reality, and individually. You hate them because they have harmed or killed comrades you have loved. You hate them because they are trying to kill you. This is war’s great tragedy, that no matter how just or necessary your cause, a part of you must become less human to serve it on a battlefield. It is a rare and magnificent soldier who can fight without hating any of his enemies. For those of us held as prisoners of war, we needed more than hate to survive. We needed faith. Faith, first and foremost, in one another. We had faith that no matter how bad things got we could rely on the support and encouragement of our comrades to help us get through it. Lastly, almost all of us had faith in God, even if when we arrived in prison we lacked a close affiliation with an organized religion. But in prison you needed to believe in a God whose love for you was ever present. And you needed to believe in God to maintain, through all the horrors of war, a sense of moral responsibility to struggle to remain a human being.
On one particular night as I sat tied up on a stool cursing, and straining against the painfully tightened ropes, the door suddenly opened and a young gun guard I had occasionally seen wandering around the camp entered the room. He motioned to me to remain silent by placing his finger to his lips, and then, without smiling or even looking me in the eyes, proceeded to loosen the ropes that bound me. His kind action completed, he left without uttering a word to me. As dawn approached, he returned to tighten the ropes before he finished his watch and another guard might have discovered what he had done. In the months that followed, I occasionally saw my Good Samaritan when I was moved from one part of the prison to another. He never allowed himself a glance in my direction; much less spoke to me, until one Christmas morning, when I was briefly allowed out of my cell to stand alone in the outdoors and look up at the clear, blue sky. As I was looking at the heavens, I became aware of him as he walked near me and then, for a moment, stood very close to me. He did not speak or smile or look at me. He just stared at the ground in front of us, and then, very casually, he used his foot to draw a cross in the dirt. We both stood looking at his work for a minute until he rubbed it out and walked away. For just that moment I forgot all my hatred for my enemies, and all the hatred most of them felt for me. I forgot about the torture, and the interrogators who persecuted my friends and me. I forgot about the war, and the terrible things that war does to you. I was just one Christian venerating the cross with a fellow Christian on a Christmas morning. I saw him again occasionally. But he never looked at me or attempted to speak to me. We never worshiped together again. But I have never forgotten him or the kindness he showed me as a testament to the faith we shared. That experience helped to form my lasting appreciation for my own religious faith, and it took the faith of an enemy to reveal it to me, the faith that unites and never divides, the faith that bridges unbridgeable divisions in humanity, the faith that we are all, sinners and saints alike, children of God. I became a better man, a stronger man, a more faithful man, who, for at least a moment, could love his enemies.


15. Mercy-Mother Antonia

John McCain in “Character is Destiny” John highlights the life of Mary Clark; also known to those in the prison at Tijuana, Mexico as Mother Antonia as an example of a person who best portraits the characteristic of mercy.


The winners of the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for international reporting tell the astonishing story of Mary Clarke. At the age of fifty, Clarke left her comfortable life in suburban Los Angeles to follow a spiritual calling to care for the prisoners in one of Mexico's most notorious jails. She actually moved into a cell to live among drug king pins and petty thieves. She has led many of them through profound spiritual transformations in which they turned away from their lives of crime, and has deeply touched the lives of all who have witnessed the depth of her compassion. Donning a nun's habit, she became Mother Antonia, renowned as "the prison angel," and has now organized a new community of sisters-the Servants of the Eleventh Hour—widows and divorced women seeking new meaning in their lives. "We had never heard a story like hers," Jordan and Sullivan write, "a story of such powerful goodness."
Born in Beverly Hills, Clarke was raised around the glamour of Hollywood and looked like a star herself, a beautiful blonde reminiscent of Grace Kelly. The choreographer Busby Berkeley spotted her at a restaurant and offered her a job, but Mary's dream was to be a happy wife and mother. She raised seven children, but her two unfulfilling marriages ended in divorce. Then in the late 1960's, in midlife, she began devoting herself to charity work, realizing she had an extraordinary talent for drumming up donations for the sick and poor.


On one charity mission across the Mexican border to the drug-trafficking capitol of Tijuana, she visited La Mesa prison and experienced an intense feeling that she had found her true life's work. As she recalls, "I felt like I had come home." Receiving the blessings of the Catholic Church for her mission, on March 19, 1977, at the age of fifty, she moved into a cell in La Mesa, sleeping on a bunk with female prisoners above and below her. Nearly twenty-eight years later she is still living in that cell, and the remarkable power of her spiritual counseling to the prisoners has become legendary.The story of both one woman's profound journey of discovery and growth and of the deep spiritual awakenings she has called forth in so many lost souls, The Prison Angel is an astonishing testament to the powers of personal transformation.

16. Tolerance-The four chaplains


John portraits the life of “The Four Chaplains” as a model of great religious tolerance that allowed them to risk all to protect others of a different faith or race.


It was the evening of Feb. 2, 1943, and the U.S.A.T. Dorchester was crowded to capacity, carrying 902 service men, merchant seamen and civilian workers. Once a luxury coastal liner, the 5,649-ton vessel had been converted into an Army transport ship. The Dorchester was one of three ships steadily moving across the icy waters from Newfoundland toward an American base in Greenland.

Hans J. Danielsen, the ship’s captain, was concerned and cautious because he knew he was in dangerous waters. German U-boats were constantly prowling these vital sea lanes, and several ships had already been blasted and sunk. The Dorchester was now only 150 miles from its destination, but the captain ordered the men to sleep in their clothing and keep life jackets on. Many soldiers sleeping deep in the ship’s hold disregarded the order because of the engine’s heat. Others ignored it because the life jackets were uncomfortable.

On Feb. 3, at 12:55 a.m., a periscope broke the chilly Atlantic waters. Through the cross hairs, an officer aboard the German submarine U-223 spotted the Dorchester. The U-223 approached the convoy on the surface, and after identifying and targeting the ship, he gave orders to fire the torpedoes, a fan of three were fired. The one that hit was decisive–and deadly–striking the starboard side, amid ship, far below the water line. Captain Danielsen, alerted that the Dorchester was taking water rapidly and sinking, gave the order to abandon ship. In less than 20 minutes, the Dorchester would slip beneath the Atlantic’s icy waters.

Aboard the Dorchester, panic and chaos had set in. The blast had killed scores of men, and many more were seriously wounded. Others, stunned by the explosion were groping in the darkness. Those sleeping without clothing rushed topside where they were confronted first by a blast of icy Arctic air and then by the knowledge that death awaited.
Men jumped from the ship into lifeboats, over-crowding them to the point of capsizing, according to eyewitnesses. Other rafts, tossed into the Atlantic, drifted away before soldiers could get in them.

Through the pandemonium, according to those present, four Army chaplains brought hope in despair and light in darkness. Those chaplains were Lt. George L. Fox, Methodist; Lt. Alexander D. Goode, Jewish; Lt. John P. Washington, Roman Catholic; and Lt. Clark V. Poling, Dutch Reformed.

Quickly and quietly, the four chaplains spread out among the soldiers. There they tried to calm the frightened, tend the wounded and guide the disoriented toward safety.
“Witnesses of that terrible night remember hearing the four men offer prayers for the dying and encouragement for those who would live,” says Wyatt R. Fox, son of Reverend Fox.
One witness, Private William B. Bednar, found himself floating in oil-smeared water surrounded by dead bodies and debris. “I could hear men crying, pleading, praying,” Bednar recalls. “I could also hear the chaplains preaching courage. Their voices were the only thing that keptme going.”

Another sailor, Petty Officer John J. Mahoney, tried to reenter his cabin but Rabbi Goode stopped him. Mahoney, concerned about the cold Arctic air, explained he had forgotten his gloves.

“Never mind,” Goode responded. “I have two pairs.” The rabbi then gave the petty officer his own gloves. In retrospect, Mahoney realized that Rabbi Goode was not conveniently carrying two pairs of gloves, and that the rabbi had decided not to leave the Dorchester.
By this time, most of the men were topside, and the chaplains opened a storage locker and began distributing life jackets. It was then that Engineer Grady Clark witnessed an astonishing sight.

When there were no more lifejackets in the storage room, the chaplains removed theirs and gave them to four frightened young men.

“It was the finest thing I have seen or hope to see this side of heaven,” said John Ladd, another survivor who saw the chaplains’ selfless act.

Ladd’s response is understandable. The altruistic action of the four chaplains constitutes one of the purest spiritual and ethical acts a person can make. When giving their life jackets, Rabbi Goode did not call out for a Jew; Father Washington did not call out for a Catholic; nor did the Reverends Fox and Poling call out for a Protestant. They simply gave their life jackets to the next man in line.

As the ship went down, survivors in nearby rafts could see the four chaplains–arms linked and braced against the slanting deck. Their voices could also be heard offering prayers.
Of the 902 men aboard the U.S.A.T. Dorchester, 672 died, leaving 230 survivors. When the news reached American shores, the nation was stunned by the magnitude of the tragedy and heroic conduct of the four chaplains.



17. Forgiveness-Nelson Mandela

John McCain portraits the life of “Nelson Mandela” as a model for the power of Forgiveness. One can only forgive if they have the capacity to love. Our study is based on developing our character by starting with a foundation of love to which we develop a core of strength by being hopeful, confident, Industrious and so forth. After we have advanced these traits sufficiently we need to apply our firm purpose and work on having an understanding heart. Everything is based on love and love is the key to understanding the trait of forgiveness.

John says of Nelson Mandela:

He was a prisoner who forgave his jailer, and helped his countrymen forgive one another. Nelson Mandela believes “no one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”  Africa has been saved from the ravages of racial hatred is due, in large part, to Mandela’s noble character, among whose virtues has been the ability to forgive the wrongs done to him and his people during the oppression from apartheid. Mandela believes truly that love is the natural condition of the heart, and that hatred is as much a burden to the hater as it is to the hated. Mandela tried peaceful means to end apartheid but to no avail and eventually turned to violence when no other means for saving his country was within his power. He was eventually captured and jailed for 29 years. At his trial he conducted his own defense; he argued that an all-white judicial system could not possibly try black opponents of the system fairly. His riveting closing statement from the dock has become one of the most celebrated speeches in modern political oratory: “I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”

As apartheid began to crumble, Mandela was escorted to meetings with the South African president that would eventually lead to Mandela’s release and then to a genuine multiracial South African democracy. Mandela was finally released in 1990 and was inaugurated the first truly democratically elected South African president.



18. Generosity-Oseola McCarty





John McCain’s in his book “Character is Destiny” points out that an understanding heart is also a generous heart. John portrays for us the life and generosity of Oseola McCarty a poor washer woman who had few possessions, but by the end of her life she was the richest woman in town.





John says of Oseola:


She knew the difference between need and want. For seventy-five years she worked from early in the morning until ten or eleven o’clock at night washing and ironing other people’s clothes. You aren’t paid much for washing clothes. She never bought anything on credit, though. “We loved to work,” Ola later recalled. “My whole family was workers, just like I worked when I was able to. I worked all the time, night and day. Anything I wanted, I’d see it, I’d go at it, and get the money to pay for it. . . . I didn’t owe nobody nothing. Nobody.”  “I try not to spend money I don’t have,” she said, “buying what I can’t afford.” She had everything she needed, and enough money to pay for it. She had enough money to do what she wanted, too. And what she wanted was to help other people. So she gave away most of the money she saved. She knew other people’s dreams were bigger than hers, and if they needed help to make them come true, she wanted to give it to them. She left most of it to the University of Southern Mississippi, in a scholarship trust for deserving students who couldn’t afford a college education. The university was only three miles from her house, but she had never visited the campus. No one there had ever done anything for her. She wasn’t paying anyone back for helping her. She just wanted to help a few kids go to college, and so she did. The scholarship fund came to $150,000. It is an awful lot of money for an old woman who washed and ironed clothes for a living. She built her fortune over seventy-five years, a few dollars at a time. And she just gave it away. “I just want it to go to someone who will appreciate it and learn,” she said. “I’m old and I’m not going to live always.” “I can’t do everything,” she said. “But I can do something to help somebody. And what I can do I will do. I wish I could do more.” The simple decency of Oseola McCarty, the shy, modest washerwoman who had saved a fortune and given it away, struck a deep chord in people. As we hustle along making money, conspicuously consuming, accumulating all sorts of things we don’t need, going into debt, she reminded us that happiness isn’t a commodity with a price tag. Selfishness won’t purchase it no matter how big a house you live in, how nice a car you drive, how many toys you have, how easy your life has been. You have to give something away to be happy. You have to give yourself away. Oseola McCarty lived a simple life. She worked hard for it. And she gave everything she had away. In a sense, she gave all her work, all her life to others. People want to touch that kind of person, see if a little of the happiness can rub off on them. I guess they thought Ola knew something they didn’t or had forgotten some time ago when their work had become nothing more than a means to a lifestyle. A good life, Ola told them, was any life that you could be proud of. “A lot of people talk about self-esteem these days. It seems pretty basic to me. If you want to feel proud of yourself, you’ve got to do things to be proud of. Feelings follow actions.” Oseola McCarty lived a modest life, but she knew a few things, important things, that many people with more advantages never learn. She knew self-respect has a greater value than wealth or fame. She knew hard work is more satisfying than a life of unearned leisure. She knew generosity makes us happier than acquiring possessions we do not need. She knew that feelings follow actions, lived her life accordingly, and died a proud and happy woman.


E. Creative Mind



19. Curiosity-Charles Darwin


John McCain’s points out that an understanding heart must be generous (Oseola McCarty), forgiving (Nelson Mandela), tolerant (Four Chaplains), full of mercy (Mother Antonia), faithful (Christian Guard at Hua Lo prison) and compassionate (Maximilian Kolbe). John now suggests for us that adding to our understanding heart we must strive to have a creative mind. A creative mind must be built on a thirst or curiosity in the mysteries of creation. John points out as an example of curiosity the renowned Charles Darwin.




McCain says of Darwin:



His curiosity and courage helped him to discover the history of nature, and start an argument that has continued for 150 years. A curious thing about the father of the theory of evolution is that he himself was an avowed agnostic, keeping to his scientific methods. The evolution of all life on earth, including man, was and still is, in some quarters, considered an affront to the belief that the progress of the human race over time bears the unmistakable sign of the divine spark in our nature. But why can we not be content in our faith with the understanding that God’s divine intelligence, which exists beyond time and space, and has left us to choose by the exercise of our free will whether to accept His grace or reject it, could have left nature to work its physical changes upon us? We have a second nature, a moral nature, that is not determined by ecological change but by the workings of our conscience. Is not our conscience and its effect upon our will enough confirmation for the believer that God, the Creator, has endowed us with the divine spark of His love to improve, if we so choose, our second nature in service to Him? It is enough, I believe, for anyone who can see in our struggle to be good a divine purpose, as we may still glimpse in the wonders of nature the divine intelligence that created it and set it all in motion. To believe and follow God is our choice. Not all will follow. Our principal belief is in our salvation not in this life but the next. Man and nature, even at their cruelest, cannot deny us that, nor the gloriousness of His creation, a gloriousness that human qualities like curiosity have led us to appreciate with humility and awe. Time and the laws of nature do not expose the absence of God, Whose proofs are a matter for the heart to contemplate, a matter of faith.









20. Enthusiasm-Teddy Roosevelt


In order to fly we need to be enthusiastic about all things that God wills for us. Continuing our study of John McCain’s book “Character is Destiny”[2] John points out that to have a creative mind we must be enthusiastic. John’s example of a man filled with enthusiasm is that of President Theodore Roosevelt.

John says of President Roosevelt:
He led one of the most eventful lives in American history and did it all with the delight and eagerness of a six-year-old boy. Yet he was not afraid of work: library shelves would eventually groan under the weight of his forty books, many of them with multiple volumes. Besides being a writer and politician he was also a warrior during the Spanish American war and led a charge up San Juan Hill.
Roosevelt was sickly as a boy. He was small, terribly nearsighted, and plagued by asthma that left him chronically breathless. His father, who was the greatest influence on his life, and whom he loved more than any other, took him for carriage rides in the evenings so that the cool night air might restore regular breathing to his gasping child. Despite the crowded duties of the respected and civic-minded reformer, the older Roosevelt never deprived his son of loving attention. He calmed his fears, and encouraged him to defy his physical handicap, build his willpower, and strengthen his body. The dutiful son complied, and pushed himself with exercise, sports, and sheer bloody-minded determination to begin his lifelong crusade to become a vigorous, exuberant outdoorsman. He swam and fished and hunted and rowed and hiked and rode on horseback whenever he could. His mind was as eager as was the body he willed to health.

Theodore as a young “Havard” man had a romantic temperament, but he was a scrupulously moral young man. He did not smoke or drink, and would never offend God and womankind by pressing unseemly affections on a young lady. And he could not abide, under any circumstances, indolence. He always thought “My duty is clear—to study well and live like a brave Christian gentleman.” He spent a few weeks before the start of his junior year living in Maine’s north woods with a rugged outdoorsman, lumberjack, and hunting guide, Bill Sewall, who became his lifelong friend. He was still a skinny kid, with thick spectacles. His constitution looked fragile to those who didn’t know him, but he impressed the older man immediately, carrying as much in his pack on their hunting trip as Sewall, sharing the chores, keeping the pace in their canoe, hiking for endless distances through all kinds of weather, swimming in freezing water, and falling exhausted into sleep beneath the stars.




21. Discernment-Leonardo da Vinci

To find what is beautiful in our own lives takes some degree of discernment and discernment the next characteristic of John McCain’s framework of being a person of destiny is to develop within ourselves the ability to have discernment. Discernment is the ability to judge well or perception in the absence of judgment with a view to obtaining spiritual direction. McCain points out to us that Leonardo da Vinci is the person who best portraits the trait of discernment. John says of da Vinci[1]:



He was a scientist who painted masterpieces as part of his grand ambition to see all that was visible in nature. He could see more than others could see, because he looked more intently and inquisitively than others looked, because he knew how to see. He would never need to rely on others’ experience. The rules of experience are all that is needed to discern the true from the false; experience is what helps all men to look temperately for the possible, rather than cloaking oneself in ignorance.” His education had not bred him to revere the classic artworks of the Greek and Roman age as the achievements of the highest aesthetic, the aesthetic rediscovered, reborn, in the Renaissance. He would draw, paint, and sculpt life as he observed it, as much of life as was visible to the human eye, without compromising his observations by imposing on them or his art the standards of expression of a past age. His ambition was all-encompassing. He intended to observe, comprehend, and explain nature with drawings, painting, and sculpture—not some of nature, such as the workings of the human body, for example, but all of it. He wanted to understand everything that his penetrating eye, his extraordinarily disciplined observation, could discern. He would lament later in life, “I have offended God and mankind because my work didn’t reach the quality it should have.” He was a scientist of every discipline, an artist of every medium. He was anatomist, botanist, biologist, physicist, aerologist, astrologist, paleontologist, mechanic, painter, sculptor, architect, engineer, mapmaker, designer of pageants, and more. All these creations of his hyperactive mind were conceived in service to an endeavor—war—that he loathed. In later years, he would draw a design for a submarine (like his tank, centuries before the first prototype was constructed) but would keep the plan secret lest anyone actually use it to harm another. He was, after all, a vegetarian who couldn’t bear to destroy a living creature to feed his appetite. I think it can be accurately said that Leonardo, whether or not he would agree, was a philosopher before he was an artist, scientist, or engineer. Central to his genius was his conception of a theory of knowledge that employed both science and art, to see, comprehend, and reveal the way nature worked. Leonardo was well read and sought to know how things moved, and why, which was an intense lifelong interest. Nothing, he thought, could be fully learned from books. Trying to acquire a complete understanding of a subject from a musty Latin text was a fool’s errand to him. “Anyone who conducts an argument by appealing to authority is not using his intelligence,” he argued. “He is just using his memory.” Experience, seeing the thing for yourself, and taking pains to make sure you see it clearly was the only sure way to acquire knowledge. “Although nature commences with reason and ends in experience it is necessary for us to do the opposite, that is to commence with experience and from this proceed to investigate the reason.”




22. Aspiration-Ferdinand Magellan

As we develop our own aspiration is to develop within ourselves the human characteristics that lead to greatness or in today’s study of the tragedy of Ferdinand Magellan. 

McCain states:

He left the service of one king and won the support of another so that he could pursue an ambition as big as the world he discovered. Ferdinand Magellan claimed the most daunting and marvelous prize. By the greatest feat of seamanship in history, he was the first European to go around the unknown world. At court, the young Magellan received an excellent education in the arts and sciences as well as the martial arts. In 1505, he joined the fleet of the first Portuguese governor of India, and over the course of several years’ service became a skilled navigator and a brave and capable soldier of fortune. Soldiers of fortune were constantly searching for a faster route to the prized Spice Islands. Whether Magellan had indeed reached them while he was in service to the Portuguese crown, there is little doubt that like all adventurers of the age, he held them as the richest prize on earth, and surely dreamed of sharing in the wealth and reputation they offered. Magellan believed that a passage between the Atlantic Ocean and that uncharted sea to the west, and through it a western route to the Spice Islands, existed at the unexplored end of the South American continent. He was determined to locate it. On September 10, 1519, five small ships, the San Antonio, the Concepción, the Victoria, the Santiago, and the Trinidad, carrying 265 men, a sizable arsenal of arms and munitions, and a less-than-adequate store of food and water, left the Spanish port of San Lucar de Barrameda for South America. The ships’ captains were Spaniards. The fleet’s ultimate destination was kept secret from the ships’ crews, who believed that they were sailing for South America, and not for the unknown world beyond its shores. It would not have been possible to find a crew willing to embark on such a perilous, if not impossible, journey. Their Portuguese commander, Ferdinand Magellan, sailed aboard the Trinidad, flying the imperial standard of Spain, the flag of Castile. Only one of the ships would ever return.





23. Excellence-Wilma Rudolph


Examining the life of Wilma Rudolph who was one of the fastest women on earth and is John McCain’s example for the characteristic of excellence. It is good to reflect that excellence is not achieved alone Wilma achieve greatness because of the love and support of her family and because of the creativity of herself and her family. Having a creative mind is essential to making right judgments which will be the next step up in our study of character. Now would be a good time to review our progress so far and realize that for one to have a creative mind they must first be curious (Darwin), enthusiastic (Roosevelt); discerning (da Vinci), and filled with aspiration (Magellan) are essential to come to excellence. 


McCain states that Wilma Rudolph:
Survived poverty, racism, and polio to become the fastest woman on earth and was known to journalists as La Gazelle Noire, the Black Gazelle and go on to win a gold medal in the 1960 Olympics. 
Blanche and Eddie Rudolph had already welcomed nineteen children into the world when little Wilma arrived on June 23, 1940, two months ahead of schedule. Blanche had fallen down and almost immediately gone into labor. Weighing a little over four pounds at birth, Wilma Glodean Rudolph wasn’t expected to live long. That the newborn survived those first perilous weeks was an early indication of the strength she would employ to see herself safely through the many crises of her childhood. Blanche and Eddie were extraordinary parents, hardworking and devoted to their children. But with twenty-two children (two more were born after Wilma), and each parent holding more than one job, Eddie as a railroad porter and handyman, Blanche a laundress and housekeeper, it was hard to give much attention to any individual child. Wilma would need a lot of attention, and would have little prospect of finding much help outside her family. The family’s poverty and the injustices of the segregated South offered scant encouragement to the Rudolph’s as they looked to their community in rural Clarksville, Tennessee, for the care that their lively but chronically ill daughter needed. But they did the best they could; for as poor as they were, they were rich in virtue, and gave their struggling child the love and encouragement she needed to believe she might one day be a healthy, happy little girl. Wilma suffered measles, mumps, chicken pox, and the whooping cough before she was four years old. Colds and the flu constantly plagued her. She spent most of her early childhood in bed. Shortly before her fifth birthday, Wilma became very sick with scarlet fever and pneumonia in both her lungs. Again, she was not expected to survive. Her family covered her in blankets, plied her with the usual remedies, comforted her, and prayed. But the illness persisted. Even as the crisis began to abate, a strange symptom occurred that caused her worried family even greater alarm. Wilma’s left leg began to twist to one side. When her parents encouraged her to move it, she told them she couldn’t. The doctor was called, and after examining her briefly, he informed Eddie and Blanche that their daughter had been stricken with polio, for which there was then no known cure. If she survived, he warned them, she would never walk again. But walk she did. Her family saved her. Their constant encouragement and care helped Wilma to overcome her despair, and summon such a great quantity of strength and courage, and an almost superhuman power of concentration, that she would in time become known as their miracle child. She attributed those qualities to the great fortune of having a loving family. “The doctors told me I would never walk,” she wrote in her autobiography, “but my mother told me I would, so I believed my mother.” One day, as Wilma felt the onset of another illness, she decided she would begin to fight. “Enough! No more taking everything that comes along, no more drifting off, no more wondering.”
During the long years of her rehabilitation, when few outside her family ever believed that day would come, Wilma had developed into a young girl with extraordinary reserves of strength, and had learned to pursue goals that were beyond the reach of most people with a tremendous intensity of resolve and concentration. She was not just a normal, healthy kid. She was special, and she knew it. Now that she had beat the odds and learned to walk again, she decided to focus her formidable strength on becoming an athlete. There are four things necessary to excel at a sport, or anything, for that matter: skill, concentration, willingness to struggle, and love. When she was only sixteen, she made the American women’s track and field team in the 1956 Olympic Games, which were held in Melbourne, Australia. Then in 1960, she was the first American woman to win three gold medals. And she was, beyond dispute, the fastest woman on earth. The girl had beaten polio, poverty, and racism to become the greatest female athlete of her time, and one of the most beloved people in the world.



F. Right Judgement




In our continued study of John McCain’s book, “Character is Destiny"[1] having reviewed the characteristics essential to a creative mind we now are ready to advance to those characteristic of character that are essential to a person making right judgments. The first characteristic we see from the graph is that of humility; it being the foremost crucial element of good judgment; which sadly many are much lacking in. John McCain’s example for us as the person who was a model of humility is that of Dwight D. Eisenhower. 


24. Humility-Dwight Eisenhower
McCain states of Eisenhower:

That Eisenhower rose from an obscure army officer from rural Kansas made the most important decision of World War Two and saved the world from Nazi tyranny as the Supreme Allied Commander for forces that stormed the beaches of Normandy to take back Europe from the forces of darkness. 

As the men of the 101st Airborne Division lifted their gear, packs weighing over a hundred pounds, and lined up to board the waiting aircraft Eisenhower shook the hand of their commander, Brigadier General Max Taylor, one young soldier stopped just before he entered the plane, turned, and snapped a crisp salute. Supreme Allied Commander General Dwight David Eisenhower returned the salute and smiled. Then he turned away, walked to his car, and wept. “It’s very hard,” he said, “to look a soldier in the eye when you fear you are sending him to his death.” It was seven o’clock in the evening, June 5, 1944. The men to whom he had just bid farewell were part of the initial stage of Operation Overlord. As the men of the 101st Airborne Division lifted their gear, packs weighing over a hundred pounds, and lined up to board the waiting aircraft, and he shook the hand of their commander, Brigadier General Max Taylor, one young soldier stopped just before he entered the plane, turned, and snapped a crisp salute. Supreme Allied Commander General Dwight David Eisenhower returned the salute and smiled. Then he turned away, walked to his car, and wept. “It’s very hard,” he said, “to look a soldier in the eye when you fear you are sending him to his death.” It was seven o’clock in the evening, June 5, 1944. The men to whom he had just bid farewell were part of the initial stage of Operation Overlord. One man, and one man alone, had made the now irreversible decision to launch the greatest air and seaborne invasion in history, Dwight David Eisenhower. Not all the leading figures in the Allied cause were as modest, collegial, and selfless as Ike. Some of them were downright prima donnas, like the vain British general Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery, who was never satisfied unless he received more glory and attention than any other general in the field; the prickly Free French General Charles de Gaulle, whose arrogance and sense of entitlement vastly exceeded the size of the force he commanded; the great Winston Churchill, whose sense of destiny, vast knowledge and experience of warfare, and potent personality could overwhelm the brightest star in his presence. Eisenhower would have to soothe their egos, take their criticism, settle their disputes, guide them, encourage them, disappoint them, defend them, and keep them all working in harness together. Like Marshall, he knew victory would have to be a team effort. The Allies would have to be far more unified than they had been in the last war, when jealousy, bickering, and suspicion had contributed to the deaths of the best part of a generation of the British and French. Many of the senior Allied commanders who were subordinate to him believed themselves his superior in experience and ability. Perhaps they were in some respects. But, as events turned out, no man could have done the job better. It took a humble man to lead these men and lead he did; not only saving us and the world from its darkest hour. 



25. Fairness-Martin Luther King, Jr.


According to John McCain a person or nations character determines its destiny. In our book study of Character is Destiny[1], John points out the person who most exemplifies the characteristic of fairness is that of Martin Luther King, Jr.  


John says of King: 

From a jail cell he wrote a letter that is one of the most celebrated documents in American history, and summoned his country to the cause of justice. “My Dear Fellow Clergymen,” it began. Recognizing that his correspondents were “men of genuine good will and your criticisms sincerely set forth,” he promised to respond in patient and reasonable terms. They were reasonable terms, and undeniably fair, but patient they were not.

We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God-given rights. . . . Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging dark of segregation to say, “Wait.” But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate-filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six-year-old daughter why she can’t go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing unconscious bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five-year-old son who is asking: “Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?”; when you take a cross-country drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading “white” and “colored”; when your first name becomes “nigger,” your middle name becomes “boy” (however old you are) and your last name becomes “John,” and your wife and mother are never given the respected title “Mrs.”; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of “nobodiness” then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair.

America still struggles internally and externally to arrive at the place Dr. King had summoned us to, that exalted place that had been the highest ambition of our Founding Fathers and the highest value we recommend to the rest of the world; the place where all people are recognized as equal, and endowed by their Creator with inalienable rights. African Americans recognize the debt they owe Dr. King’s courage, wisdom, and unshakable sense of fairness. But Americans of European descent owe him a greater one. At the cost of his life, he helped save us from a terrible disgrace, the betrayal of our country, and the principles that have ennobled our history. And that is a debt we must happily bear forever.


26. Gratitude-Tecumseh



Having and retaining a grateful heart is the key to making right judgments and being a person of character. Continuing our study of John McCain’s book, “Character is Destiny”[2]

John highlights the life of the Native American war chief Tecumseh as our example of a man that never lost his gratitude in life. 
Tecumseh was a great Indian leader who lost a war but taught even his enemies how to live. Everyone knew that the great Tecumseh, fearless warrior and visionary, steadfast leader, did not tolerate torture or murder, or suffer intentional harm to be done to innocents. He was a man of honor. Even his enemies knew that, especially the man who had fought him the longest, William Henry Harrison. However, as a youth Tecumseh was unnerved in his first encounter with organized bloodletting, and fled the battle. It was the only time in his life his courage failed him. In a later raid near the end of the war, the Shawnees attacked the crew of a flatboat on the Ohio River. All but one of the crew was killed in the encounter. The lone survivor was dragged ashore and burned at the stake. The atrocity left a deep mark on Tecumseh, who, though he was too young to intervene in the victim’s behalf, denounced the murder after it occurred, and swore he would never again remain silent in the face of such an injustice. He would live and die determined to defend Indian land from the insatiable appetites of American settlers. In the course of his crusade, he became the greatest Indian leader of his time. Many would argue, including Americans who fought him, that he was the greatest war chief of all time. Raised by his older brother Chiksika, he took special care of his younger brother Tecumseh. He taught him to hunt and fish, and to learn the fighting skills of a Shawnee brave. He raised him to revere the memory of their courageous father, and the virtues he had exemplified as a warrior who preferred death to dishonor. There was something in his character that repelled despair, finding in life, with all its many tragedies, a reason to be thankful for the very fact that he could remain true to himself. He was the kind of person for whom life was a gift that could not be diminished by suffering, and it gave him a unique strength, a confidence that was superior to most people. Tall and sinewy, with an erect bearing, a superior skill at arms, exuding a sense of command, and possessing a gift for oratory that earned him admirers even among his enemies, he was renowned as a capable provider and protecter of his clan, whose leadership had an ever-broadening appeal to neighboring tribes. Tecumseh delivered an address to his people as he prepared them for the coming struggle that has become famous not only as a measure of his own character, but as a code of honor that merits respect and emulation. So live your life that the fear of death can never enter your heart. Trouble no one about their religion; respect others in their view, and demand that they respect yours. Love your life, perfect your life, beautify all things in your life. Seek to make your life long and its purpose in the service of your people. Prepare a noble death song for the day when you go over the great divide. Always give a word or a sign of salute when meeting or passing a friend, even a stranger, when in a lonely place. Show respect to all people and grovel to none. When you arise in the morning give thanks for the food and the joy of living. If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies only in yourself. Abuse no one and no thing, for abuse turns the wise ones to fools and robs the spirit of vision. When it comes your time to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with the fear of death, so that when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way. Sing your death song and die like a hero going home.

On the day of his final battle never having despaired over the vicissitudes of life, he would not do so now. He arose in the morning and gave thanks for the joy of living. At the Battle of the Thames in Ontario on October 5, 1813, British General Procter and his soldiers fled the field after the first volley was fired. Tecumseh dispensed with his sword and British officer’s jacket, and charged, as always, into the thick of the battle. When a musket ball shattered his right leg, he told his braves to leave him. He kept fighting until a crowd of American soldiers surrounded him. He sang his death song and died like a hero going home.





27. Courtesy-Aung San Suu Kyi


John McCain in his book “Character is Destiny”[2] highlights the life of Aung San Suu Kyi, who was the Burmese wife of an Oxford professor who came home to free her people, and oppose the political tyrants who jailed her with courage and decency and yet despite her mistreatment is for us a modern example of courtesy. 

Aung San Suu Kyi returned to Burma in 1988, after years of living and studying abroad, only to find widespread slaughter of protesters rallying against the brutal rule of dictator U Ne Win. She spoke out against him and initiated a nonviolent movement toward achieving democracy and human rights. In 1989, the government placed Suu Kyi under house arrest, and she spent 15 of the next 21 years in custody. In 1991, her ongoing efforts won her the Nobel Prize for Peace, and she was finally released from house arrest in November 2010. She has since gained a parliamentary seat with the National League for Democracy party.[3]

McCain says of Aung San Suu Kyi:

In Burma, courtesy is a rebellious gesture to a ruling elite that has tried to terrorize such refined kindness from their culture, and make a world where only power matters, where there are only the fearsome and the fearful. Suu, as she asks Western visitors to call her, never reciprocates discourtesy. She is a practicing Buddhist who refuses to hate those who hate her because, she says, she cannot fear what she doesn’t hate. In a statement she had smuggled to the press, she explained her steady, almost cheerful resistance to the regime’s attempts to frighten her. “It is not power that corrupts but fear,” she wrote. “Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it, and fear of the scourge of power corrupts those who are subject to it.” She remained unmoved. (One must never mistake her good manners and delicate beauty for a lack of will and strength.) She was willing, as always, to show her persecutors every courtesy and to entertain a polite willingness to consider their concerns as they discussed the future of their country. “Confrontation,” she told a Time magazine reporter, “comes about because there is no other way to settle differences. If there is a channel open for settling differences, there should be no need for confrontation.” And when she was asked how cruelly she had been treated by the regime, she responded, “I have never been treated cruelly.” But the regime, the bullies who are destroying the country and are so afraid of this one small woman and her implacable determination, would not acquiesce to any plan that might result in their long-overdue loss of power. Recently, reports have surfaced that the tyrants are again considering the release of Burma’s national heroine. Perhaps they will soon knock at the door of her home again. I have no doubt that when they do she will receive them with perfect courtesy, not that they deserve it. But she does not extend her courtesy as a sign of respect for them or their power, but to show, yet again, that they cannot make her become the only type of person they understand, one of the fearful or one of the fearsome. She is merely, steadfastly, reaching out to beauty to banish ugliness from her sight and the lives of her countrymen.





28. Humor-Mark Twain #humor


To be wise is to not take ourselves too seriously and to have the ability to laugh at ourselves and to see the humor in our foibles. Humor is a gift from God.

I know our Lord does have a sense of humor which at times He has revealed to me. Life at times can be challenging and as every married man knows life with your spouse is even on good days challenging. One day was particularly perplexing and in a prayer to Our Lord I said, “Lord why is it that you have strapped me to the meanest, most cantankerous, nasty person on earth.” To which He responded, “Funny that’s the same thing she says about you.”   

Humor is God’s gift to us so that we do not take ourselves too seriously and it often helps us to make good judgments.

John McCain in his book “Character is Destiny”[1] expresses the value humor in leaders and portraits for us the life of Mark Twain as the person who used humor most effectively to change the world.


John says of Mark Twain:

He became the most famous person in the world, and he helped Americans live up to their promise by making us laugh at ourselves. One of the greatest American novels was published in 1885, by Mark Twain, after seven years of intermittent writing. Its title is The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. There had never been one as good before, and there has never been another as good since, or more American. Until he was twenty-seven years old, the man who wrote it had been known as Samuel Langhorne Clemens. Thereafter, he was Mark Twain. Rebellion was Twain’s salvation. His writings rebelled against social injustice, against the weaknesses of human nature, against life’s cruelest misfortune; against the heart’s own crimes. When confronted with the choice between what others thought was wrong but conscience insisted was right, “All right, then, I’ll go to hell,” was the rebel’s answer. Twain led no great protest movement, enlisted in no underground army, ran for no office, and joined no political party. He was, as has often been remarked, a “great noticer” of people, places, and things, and he told their stories, or variations of them. He told them with as much humor as he was capable of conceiving—humor that was, as it turned out, more entertaining and more meaningful than that of anyone before or since. He was the funniest man alive, and he made good use of the talent. “The human race has only one effective weapon,” he argued, “and that is laughter.” He was an American, a fact he was grateful for and proud of, but never conceited about. Human nature is flawed, wherever it resides, and he felt its flaws keenly in others and in himself. He knew his country was building a civilization better than the celebrated civilizations of the past, but that some aspects of human nature could never be changed. Human beings are apt to do as much bad as good. But Twain knew something else. They were apt to be funny as well, awfully funny. I think it could be fairly said of Sam Clemens, and the alter ego that was his great achievement, that he didn’t like people generally, but loved them well enough individually. And they loved him back. “An American loves his family,” Thomas Edison once observed. “If he has any love left over for some other person he generally selects Mark Twain.” Whether he even knew it or not, he was as a speaker and writer as instructive as he was entertaining. He helped Americans see the strengths and the foibles of our own peculiar, promising, but imperfect nature. He helped us see it because he recognized in himself those very same flaws and strengths. He helped encourage in us an honesty about the injustices we had committed or allowed to exist, and a desire to repair them. He made being human seem both a trial and a privilege, and a very funny joke. “God created man,” he said, “because he was disappointed in the monkey.” His admittedly dark view of human nature would have caused many others to shout denunciations at the world. Twain laughed at it, and made the world laugh back. “I have had a ‘call’ to literature, of a low order—i.e. humorous,” he wrote his brother Orion. “It is nothing to be proud, but it is my strongest suit.” As he often treated any personal fact, Twain exaggerated his own modesty. He knew humor to be life’s most necessary tonic, and employed to take the sting out of human folly and misfortune, “to blur the craggy outlines, and make the thorns less sharp and the cruelties less malignant.” He encouraged us to rebel against injustice and cruelty and falsehood, even when they were our own creations. “I have no color prejudices nor caste prejudices nor creed prejudices,” he once assured an audience. “All I need to know is that a man is a human being, and that is enough for me; he can’t be any worse.” 


G. Character of Destiny



29. Authenticity-Saint Joan of Arc patron of Soldiers


Isaiah, Chapter 40, Verse 29-31
29 He gives power to the faint, abundant strength to the weak. 30 Though young men faint and grow weary, and youths stagger and fall, 31 they that hope in the LORD will renew their strength, they will soar on eagles’ wings; they will run and not grow weary, walk and not grow faint.

This verse reminds me of Saint Joan of Arc who our Lord empowered in the great battle against the world and moreover the power of the evil one. Joan was faint yet through her authenticity to our Lord was given abundant strength for her hope was in the Lord. I can remember taking a trip with my oldest son Christopher and his Boy Scout troop to a military event in France to commemorate the battle of the Marne. We traveled from Belgium to France as I was stationed in Mons, Belgium. That night we slept in the trenches perhaps even over the bones of the broken men probably not much older than my son. Before nightfall we decided to explore the area and entered a small church where we found a very inspiring statute of a young girl in armor posed as if leading a charge: It was Joan. The next day my son and I both in our uniforms participated in the remembrance of the American Marines called the, “Devil Dogs of the Marne” and the victory over the forces of evil.

At the command of voices that only she could hear, she rode to battle and saved her country. SHE COULD NOT READ OR WRITE, BUT SAINTS AND ANGELS SPOKE TO HER. Michael the Archangel, and Catherine and Margaret, the patron saints of France, commanded the thirteen-year-old peasant girl to pray vigilantly and attend Mass regularly. She is remembered as very beautiful, a slight seventeen-year-old girl with black hair who could ride for long hours in heavy armor without any sign of discomfort. She kept silent for long periods, but could be roused to great anger at men swearing or behaving in some other sinful manner. She prayed and fasted often, and seemed most comfortable in the company of poor priests. Before they embarked, she had dictated to a priest a letter for the English commanders in Orléans, warning them to “go away back to England . . . or I will drive you out of France.” This is the first the English had ever heard of Joan of Arc. To the French, and their dauphin, who now placed their trust in her, she was becoming a saint. As they marched to Orléans, she saw to the spiritual needs of her soldiers, ordering them to abandon their vices, to refrain from looting and harming civilians, to confess their sins and attend Mass regularly, which they did. Men who had refused to serve Charles in what they believed was a losing cause now rushed to her standard, and prepared for battle. Whatever the case, legend has it that she responded to her soldiers’ fears by telling them to rally to her when they saw her banner strike the fort’s wall. And when they did see it, they recovered their courage and took the fort. The next day the English abandoned the siege. Orléans was saved. Both English and French generals gave the credit to Joan. She gave it to God. Then she rode to meet Charles. When they met, she bowed to him, and urged him to hasten to Reims, where his crown awaited him. But Charles hesitated. His will was weak, for he was not a man of great courage, and his advisors at court, some of whom resented Joan’s interference, cautioned him to proceed slowly, for there were still many powerful English armies in France that had to be destroyed. Joan was eventually betrayed by Charles and was captured by the English who released her to John of Luxembourg who took her to his castle, where, distraught over the fate of the people of Compiègne, she twice tried to escape, once by jumping from a castle tower into the moat below. The rules of war did not permit the English to condemn Joan for opposing them in battle. So they sought her death by falsely accusing her of witchcraft. Cauchon tried for weeks to compel her to confess, but despite threats of torture and execution, she steadfastly refused to divulge her conversations with Charles or to concede that the saints who spoke to her were demons or merely inventions of her own blasphemy. She was denied permission to attend Mass and receive the sacraments. She was often kept in chains and became very ill. Yet she stayed true to herself, and to her saints. She wore a dress when they brought her to a church cemetery to hear her sentence read, condemning her to be burned at the stake. She asked that her conviction be appealed to the pope. Her persecutors refused her. And then, Joan of Arc, for the first and only time in her brief life, tried to be someone she was not. Fearing the flames, she confessed to being a heretic, recanted her claim to have heard and obeyed her saints, and begged her enemies for mercy. Mercy they had little of, but having taken from her what their armies could not, they no longer thought her life such a great thing that it could not be spared. She was now nothing more than a confessed imposter. They had wanted to destroy her truth, that she was God’s messenger. Having done so, it mattered little whether she died or suffered long imprisonment. Their work done, they left her in her cell, to the taunts and abuses of the guards, and commanded her to dress only in women’s clothes. When they next saw her, a few days later, she was attired in the clothes of a boy. She had recovered her courage and her truth. Her saints had reproached her for denying them, and she had begged their forgiveness. She had become her true self again. She was the Maid of Orléans, a pretty, pious nineteen-year-old girl who had left her father’s house and taken up arms for more than a year, as heaven had commanded her. And with heaven’s encouragement she had defeated France’s enemies in battle after battle, frightened and awed the bravest English heart, rallied a nation to her banner, and made a weak, defeated man a king. God’s messenger went bravely to her death, forgiving her accusers and asking only that a priest hold high a crucifix for her to see it above the flames. She raised her voice to heaven, calling out to her saints and her Savior. Even her enemies wept at the sight. Her executioner was shaken with remorse, and an anguished English soldier who witnessed the crime feared for his soul. “God forgive us,” he cried, “We have burned a saint.”



30. Honesty-Sir Thomas More


Men of power like to pretend they are the maker of heaven and earth and without a cap on their power become men like Henry VIII of England. They take what they want, oppress; ignore problems that cause men to beg or succumb to food stamps. Free men are only prisoners when they are silenced by their own fears. Faith gave men like Thomas More a belief in truths that others were blind too, and although bowed down by Henry he still speaks to us today telling us to be “The Kings good servant; but God’s first.”
John McCain is his book entitled “Character is Destiny” tells us that Sir Thomas More surrendered everything for the truth as he saw it, and shamed a king with the courage of his conscience. Thomas was a brilliant student. He loved learning, and would for the rest of his life prefer the less prestigious but more satisfying rewards of a scholar to the riches and power of the king’s court. He was part of a movement called humanism, whose followers were faithful to the Church but hoped to encourage a better understanding of the Gospels and their more honest application to the workings of society. They studied the great Greek and Roman philosophers, whose views on morality and just societies they believed complemented their Christian principles. They were passionate in pursuit of the truth as revealed by God, and by discovery through study and scholarly debate and discussion. They thought the world could be made gentler with Christian love and greater learning—love and learning that served not only the nobility of court and Church, but all mankind. Thomas was a devout Christian, and for a time lived in a monastery with the intention of entering the priesthood. The monastic life was one of isolation and self-denial. And though he took his religious devotion seriously, he loved the comforts of family life, and the rewards of learning and earthly pleasures as well: music and art, reading and writing, friendship and conversation and jests. He loved his city, London, then the greatest capital of Northern Europe. He loved life. So he left the cloister for a wife and family, and returned to the worldly affairs of men. His love of learning and truth was second only to his love of God, and he encouraged his children, for the sake of their happiness, to seek truth through learning as well as scripture. He cultivated friendships, and exchanged letters with some of the greatest minds in Europe, including with the Dutch priest and famous humanist philosopher Erasmus, who became More’s greatest admirer outside his family, and whose description of More became the title by which he is still remembered to this day: “a man for all seasons.” His scholarly reputation and skill as a scrupulously honest lawyer first gained the attention of the king’s most powerful counselor, the lord chancellor of England, Cardinal Thomas Wolsey. An ambitious and shrewd politician, Wolsey recognized the younger man’s talents, and pressed him into the king’s service. Serving first as a diplomat, then in a series of increasingly powerful offices at court, knighted, and given lands and wealth, More became a favorite of Wolsey’s and Henry’s. And while he might have preferred the life of a philosopher, husband, and father to the rigors of public life, he no doubt took pride in the king’s confidence and favor. When Wolsey’s downfall came that would lead in time to Thomas’s death, Henry made his friend, Thomas, Lord Chancellor. It was the highest office at court, and Thomas More was the first layman to hold it. His appointment was greeted favorably by the court and public alike, for Thomas was known by one and all as an honest man, who would conscientiously discharge the duties of his office. As it turned out, he was too honest for his king. Thomas More waged an intellectual and judicial war against the followers of Luther that was at times surprisingly aggressive and even cruel for such a reasonable and just man. In the beginning, he had the king’s full support in his persecution and prosecution of “heretics.” More defended the Church out of religious principle, and because he and the king feared the uncontrollable social disorder that a permanent split among the faithful would surely cause. But his hatred, if it could be called that in such a mild man, was for the heresy and not the heretics. Death was the judgment for heretics in the courts that Thomas More governed, but he went to great lengths to encourage the accused to recant their views and escape their sentence. In fact, in the many cases he prosecuted, all the accused except for four poor souls, who went to their deaths rather than recant, escaped the headman’s ax. More was diligent in his duty, but a much more powerful threat than Luther’s protests had encouraged was growing to the Catholic Church in England. Henry’s queen, Catherine of Aragon, had failed to produce a surviving male heir. Henry was determined to have a new wife who could give him a healthy son. Other kings and nobles had received from the pope annulments of their marriage. But the most powerful king in Europe, the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, was Catherine’s nephew, and he had great influence with Pope Clement VII. He persuaded Clement not to grant an annulment that would remove the crown from his aunt’s head. Once Henry fell in love with Anne Boleyn, the fifteen-year-old daughter of a scheming courtier, he would no longer accept papal opposition to his desire to remarry. In this dangerous and growing conflict, Thomas More became a central figure, and he would struggle with all his intellect, lawyer’s skills, and courage to obey his king without forsaking his church. It would prove impossible. Initially More dutifully served the king’s wishes, arguing in Parliament that there were grounds to consider the marriage to Catherine unlawful. But when the king declared himself, and not the pope, to be the supreme head of the Church in England, More offered the king his resignation. Henry refused it, and promised his friend that he would never be forced to take any action that his conscience would not permit. But the king’s assurance was hollow, and soon both he and More realized that the king’s desires and More’s conscience could not be reconciled. More again asked the king to accept his resignation, and this time, Henry agreed. For many months, he was careful not to speak against the king’s wishes, in public or in private. But he declined to attend the king’s wedding to Anne Boleyn. When Parliament passed a law requiring the king’s subjects to sign an oath recognizing Anne as queen, and any children she might bear Henry as legitimate heirs to the throne, he refused to sign it because it denied the pope’s authority over the Church in England. He was arrested and imprisoned in the Tower of London. He remained there until his trial fifteen months later. The jury, which included Anne Boleyn’s father, brother, and uncle, found him guilty and sentenced him to be hanged, and drawn and quartered. Then More spoke his conscience, and said he could not in his own heart accept the king as head of the English Church. The death to which he was first sentenced would have been a far slower and more painful death than he was made to suffer in the end. Henry, mercifully, permitted his old friend and counselor to die by beheading. On the day of his execution, he had some difficulty climbing the scaffold steps. He thanked the guard who helped him, but joked that he should be allowed to “shift for myself” when he came back down. He recited a prayer of repentance. The hooded executioner, as was the custom, begged the condemned man’s forgiveness. More gave him a coin, kissed him, and thanked him for giving him a “greater benefit than ever any mortal man can be able to give me.” And then the man who had all his life loved to jest, made one last joke. As he knelt to place his head upon the block, he asked for a moment to arrange his long beard so that it wouldn’t be severed by the ax, observing that as far as he knew his beard had not offended the king. In his last address, spoken moments earlier, he had asked the crowd of witnesses to pray for his soul and for the king, for he died “the King’s good servant, but God’s first.” One swift stroke and the king’s will was done. The life on earth of honest Thomas More was ended. His glory had just begun.
Pray for the return of the Church of England to the fold.



31. Respect-Gandhi 

Gandhi could not harm a soul, but his heart would not yield to power, and would triumph over the empire that opposed him. It would have been hard to see any greatness in him as a boy or even later as an English-educated lawyer, practicing a profession without the necessary skills to impress anyone as an advocate or, for that matter, to make any impression at all. His first appearance in court was a disaster. His shyness was so extreme that he couldn’t open his mouth to argue his case. Yet he would find his voice, a voice like no other, a voice so compelling—not for its resonance or eloquence, but for the decent convictions it expressed—that he would become one of the most important figures of the twentieth century, and an inspiration to countless crusades for justice on all the continents of the earth. Gandhi’s character showed a sense of honor: respect for all human life, which began with self-respect. At his first appearance in a court, dressed in an English suit but now wearing an Indian turban rather than a top hat, Gandhi was instructed to remove his headgear, for Indians were forbidden to wear turbans in court. Gandhi refused and angrily left the court, feeling humiliated. Gandhi afterward wrote to a newspaper, defending his right to dress in the custom of his countrymen. “The question was very much discussed in the papers,” he recalled, “which described me as an ‘unwelcome visitor.’ ” The shy, awkward Gandhi had begun to find his voice, and his calling: a lifelong campaign for justice based, as all true justice must be, on respect for the natural rights and dignity of all human beings. 

20 Inspiring Quotes from Mahatma Gandhi

Mahatma Gandhi’s gentle approach to life is testament to the fact that strength does not equal physical capacity. In the western world, we are often taught that to be strong, we must be ferocious and vehemently go after what we want in life. Mahatma Gandhi showed that this approach is flawed. His life story has proven that it’s possible to remain gentle in spirit, yet simultaneously command a huge amount of strength and respect. In a world in which authority is valued over authentic leadership, I believe we have a lot to learn from the man who fought for a nation with his mind alone.

Gandhi’s philosophy was not purely based on theory; instead he lived by rules of pragmatism. He practiced what he preached every day of his life. 

  1.  “Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.”
  2. “A man is but a product of his thoughts. What he thinks he becomes.”
  3. “Be the change that you want to see in the world.”
  4. “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is an attribute of the strong.”
  5. “I will not let anyone walk through my mind with their dirty feet.”
  6. “Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.”
  7. “An ounce of patience is worth more than a tonne of preaching.”
  8. “Change yourself – you are in control.”
  9. “See the good in people and help them.”
  10. “Without action, you aren’t going anywhere.”
  11. “Take care of this moment.”
  12. “Be congruent, be authentic, be your true self.”
  13. “Continue to grow and evolve.”
  14. “A no uttered from the deepest conviction is better than a ‘Yes’ uttered merely to please, or worse, to avoid trouble.”
  15. “Glory lies in the attempt to reach one’s goal and not in reaching it.”
  16. "An eye for an eye will make the whole world blind.”
  17. “Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.”
  18. “A coward is incapable of exhibiting love; it is the prerogative of the brave.”
  19. “Nobody can hurt me without my permission.”
  20. “In a gentle way, you can shake the world.”

32. Loyalty-Sir Ernest Shackleton

Sir Ernest Shackleton like so many of his generation were ultimate adventurers – part hero, part daredevil – fighting the elements and the odds, too far from civilization to call for help – laying it all on the line purely for the love of adventure. Shackleton led a doomed expedition to miraculous survival through the sheer force of his motivational leadership. In 1914, he set out with a crew of twenty-eight men on a quest to be the first to travel across the entire Antarctic continent by way of the South Pole. His ship, Endurance, became caught in ice and was crushed. After abandoning the ship, he and his men faced incredible hardship from a variety of brutal Antarctic conditions – from shifting weather to shifting ice, along with the trials of hunger, illness and discouragement – for more than a year. Yet every man got home safely, when the entire expedition would have perished under weaker leadership. Incredibly, the only casualty was frostbitten toes on one man. He had passion for the adventure of the mission but he also had passion for the men he led. When he was forced to abandon his doomed ship and realized he would not achieve his goal of reaching the South Pole en route to the other side, he kept his disappointment to himself while he shifted his priorities to the well-being of his men. He said to another leader, F.A. Worsley, “It is a pity [to miss the crossing], but that cannot be helped. It is the men we have to think about. “He put his men above himself. He understood that the survival of them all might well depend on the quality of his leadership. He also realized that he could provide better leadership if he served as well as led. “Shackleton shared the physical labors as well as the watches…[He] would forego his own rations in order to feed the undernourished or the ill. And he often did so without anyone knowing it…Shackleton always put the needs of his men ahead of his personal comfort, and as a result he saved them all.” He realized that in order to survive they would have to stay healthy – mentally as well as physically. When we are trying to survive, having fun is the farthest thing from our minds. It may even be seen as trivializing the suffering. But during harsh tribulation it is more important than ever to find something to enjoy. During hard times we need to find a source of joy in order to maintain a healthy perspective. As a leader, Shackleton accepted responsibility for maintaining the spirits as well as the health of his men. Yes, they were brave adventurers just as Shackleton was, well able to take care of themselves. Still, Shackleton knew that as a leader he could provide a unique kind of influence that would be empowering, energizing and uplifting. He continually sought out ways to boost morale. He set aside time for recreation. They improvised various forms of entertainment. Several of the men had chosen books among the possessions they salvaged, and they read aloud to each other. They played soccer on the ice. “Humor…played a role, with Shackleton telling stories or teasing his men. What Shackleton was doing was keeping his men alive inside; by encouraging them to read or sing, he was keeping their spirits from sagging or dwelling on the inhospitalities that in other circumstances might have overwhelmed them.” He Inspired Loyalty. Shackleton’s passion for his mission and for his men, his passion for leadership, and his passion for motivation were a source of energy and courage during times of severe adversity. These virtues made him a leader that people wanted to follow. Even when his men may not have wanted to do something for themselves, they would do it for him. He inspired this kind of loyalty because he gave it to his men. They respected and trusted him because he respected and trusted them. They took care of him because he took care of them. They put him first because he put them first. He was a wonderful example of what a role model should be. (www.tillerleadership.com/past-and-present/sir-ernest-shackleton)
Shackleton dedicated South, the book he wrote about their extraordinary exploits, “To My Comrades.” In one especially moving passage he observed: “In memories we were rich. We had pierced the veneer of outside things. We had suffered, starved and triumphed, groveled down yet grasped at glory, grown bigger in the bigness of the whole. We had seen God in His splendors, heard the text that natures renders. We had reached the naked soul of man.” Sixty years after they had been rescued, the expedition’s first officer, Lionel Greenstreet, was asked how they had done it, how had they survived such a deadly misadventure. Greenstreet gave a one-word response: “Shackleton.” 



33. Dignity-Viktor Frankl


John McCain in his book “Character is Destiny” points out the work of Viktor Frankl as a man who best portraits the virtue of dignity. Viktor was before World War II was a prominent Jewish psychiatrist who lost everything during the Nazi takeover of Germany. The Nazis had taken his freedom, his vocation and everyone he loved. They starved him, beaten him, cursed him and worked him almost beyond human endurance. They had set his life upon a precipice from which at any moment they chose, they could push him as they had pushed thousands. Yet as they drove him out one winter morning into the fields like an animal, striking him, his mind rose above his torment and his tormentors, taking leave of the cruelty to contemplate the image of his wife. He did not know if she was alive or dead, but in his heart he heard the words of the eighth Song of Solomon; Set me like a seal upon thy heart, love is as strong as death. “My mind clung to my wife’s image, imagining it with uncanny acuteness…Real or not, her look was more luminous than the sun which was beginning to rise…Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: the salvation of man is through love and in love,” Frankl relates in Man’s Search for Meaning. Throughout his captivity he held on to his love and with his love he kept from his captors the thing they thought they destroyed, the one thing that no human being can take from another, for it can only be surrendered, but not taken: his dignity.

Here are 12 thought-provoking passages from his book:[2]


“Don’t aim at success — the more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side-effect of one’s personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself, or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself.”
“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing; the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances.”



“Everyone has his own specific vocation or mission in life to carry out a concrete assignment which demands fulfillment. Therein he cannot be replaced, nor can his life be repeated. Thus, everyone’s task is as unique as is his specific opportunity to implement it.”


“Live as if you were living already for the second time and as if you had acted the first time as wrongly as you are about to act now!”



“The prisoner who had lost his faith in the future — his future — was doomed. With his loss of belief in the future, he also lost his spiritual hold; he let himself decline and became subject to mental and physical decay.”



“I consider it a dangerous misconception of mental hygiene to assume that what man needs in the first place is equilibrium or, as it is called in biology, “homeostasis,” i.e., a tensionless state but rather the striving and struggling for a worthwhile goal, a freely chosen task. What he needs is not the discharge of tension at any cost but the call of a potential meaning waiting to be fulfilled by him.”


“Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual.”



“Man has suffered another loss in his more recent development inasmuch as the traditions which buttressed his behavior are now rapidly diminishing. No instinct tells him what he has to do, and no tradition tells him what he ought to do; sometimes he does not even know what he wishes to do. Instead, he either wishes to do what other people do (conformism) or he does what other people wish him to do (totalitarianism).”



“A man who becomes conscious of the responsibility he bears toward a human being who affectionately waits for him, or to an unfinished work, will never be able to throw away his life. He knows the ‘why’ for his existence, and will be able to bear almost any ‘how.’”



“What matters, therefore, is not the meaning of life in general but rather the specific meaning of a person’s life at a given moment. To put the question in general terms would be comparable to the question posed to a chess champion: “Tell me, Master, what is the best move in the world?” There simply is no such thing as the best or even a good move apart from a particular situation in a game and the particular personality of one’s opponent.”



“When we are no longer able to change a situation — just think of an incurable disease such as an inoperable cancer — we are challenged to change ourselves.”
“Freedom, however, is not the last word. Freedom is only part of the story and half of the truth. Freedom is but the negative aspect of the whole phenomenon whose positive aspect is responsibleness. In fact, freedom is in danger of degenerating into mere arbitrariness unless it is lived in terms of responsibleness. That is why I recommend that the Statue of Liberty on the East Coast be supplemented by a Statue of Responsibility on the West Coast.”

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