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The Road to Character

From USA Today (Lorenzo Reyes, USA TODAY, August 2, 2016):

        Pete Carroll called a meeting with eight of the most-trusted leaders on his Seattle Seahawks. It was the spring. Attendance: mandatory. The players huddled in a conference room at the team’s facility. The discussion, they were told, would impact the way they would be coached.

        There was no mention of offensive formations, blitz packages, play sheets, or practice drills. The meeting was about a book. A book that Carroll read and reread. A book he used to fill up a notebook with thoughts. A book whose meaning he wanted these players – Russell Wilson, Doug Baldwin, Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor, Bobby Wagner, Earl Thomas, Mike Morgan, and Steven Hauschka – to absorb and impart to the rest of the team.

        The Road to Character by David Brooks.

I’m through the first three chapters. It’s a fascinating read.  Each chapter is a description and discussion of a situation and/or individual who has struggled with character. Brooks writes, “I wrote this book not sure I could follow the road to character, but I wanted at least to know that the road looks like and how other people have trodden it.”

The first chapter is about the days just after the end of World War II.  He quotes Ernie Pyle, war correspondent who was killed just months before the end of the war: 

We won this war because our men are brave and because of many other things – because of Russia, England, and China and the passage of time and the gift of nature’s materials. We did not win it because destiny created us better than all other people. I hope that in victory we are more grateful than proud.”

I don’t know exactly why, but I’m connecting Brooks’ book with the letter to new students at the University of Chicago. If you haven’t hear, the author, John Ellison, dean of students, has been brought to task a bit about its content, especially this line: “Our commitment to academic freedom means that we do no support so-called trigger warnings, we do not cancel invited speakers because their topics might prove controversial and we do not condone the creation of intellectual safe spaces where individuals can retreat from ideas and perspectives at odds with their own.”

But not everyone, In response, Clayton Rose, president of Bowdoin College, said, “…a great liberal arts education and liberal arts experience must make you uncomfortable…If you hear something that really pushes your buttons, that makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up, you should run to it, embrace it, figure out why you are uncomfortable, unsettled, offended, and then engage with it. Engage with it in a thoughtful, objective, and respectful way."[1] He urges students to be “fearless” in their pursuit of truth and knowledge.

Brooks, in some ways, urges all of us to do the same thing, regardless of age, stage of life, or educational pursuits.  “Wisdom,” he writes, “isn’t a body of information. It’s the moral quality of knowing what you don’t know and figuring out a way to handle your ignorance, uncertainty, and limitation.”  I guess we are all on the same journey. Brooks encourages us to, “Start your work from where you live, with the small concrete needs right around you…we have a deep personal obligation to live simply, to look after the needs of our brothers and sisters, and to share in the happiness and misery they are suffering.”

The Road to Character is available from 16 libraries in Summit at the CWU Library.  I recommend it.



Staci, I love the new blog format! I always enjoy reading your Weekly Wisdom posts.

Another great article, Staci! I look forward to your posts. May have to add this book to my very long list of must reads.

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