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Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Character Building – July, 2004

There has been a lot of discussion recently about Character. Certainly, political commercials have been either emphasizing character, or questioning character, depending on whether touting their candidate, or denigrating the opposition candidate. The core values that define Character are still unchanged from those espoused by Plato. Honesty, courage, virtue, loyalty and compassion are still the measurement of a persons Character.

My Grandfather perhaps said it best. He told me that Character can be measured by what a person does when no one is looking. I bring this up because of a conversation I recently had with my youngest son.

He calls me every week, from his current assignment at an Air Force Base on the East Coast. E-mails and snail mail are fine, but nothing beats the sound of your child’s voice, telling you that everything is OK. Parents can tell from their sons and daughters voices if things really are OK. Anyway, it is always a joy to hear from your child, no matter their age or distance.

He told me he was going to Baltimore over the 4th of July weekend, to pick up two Fraternity brothers from College. From there, they were going up to Washington, to meet with another other Fraternity brother, who was flying in from Georgia, to join them in Washington. Four Iowa boys, Fraternity brothers and graduates of Iowa State University, spending the weekend in Washington. I suppose there was a chance they would spend the time in a two-day party, as a kind of carryover from college days. But somehow, I doubted it. And I have specific reasons for saying that.

Of these four young men, three are former Boy Scouts, two (including my son) reaching the rank of Eagle. While students at Iowa State, these four joined three other Fraternity brothers, and spent Spring Break in their Junior year at a Youth Camp outside Champaign-Urbana Illinois. They had heard about a former Boy Scout Camp that had been given to a Youth Group that wanted to rebuild the camp for children with disabilities. The young men spent their Spring Break that year rebuilding cabins to make them wheelchair accessible, installing showers with handicap assists, replacing windows and installing guide bars for visually impaired campers. While we read in the newspapers about college students who use Spring Break as an opportunity to display behavior that many of us would find immature, these friends and my son were displaying what I would call Character.

So what are these four young men doing now, that makes me think this weekend get together would not be a two day exhibition of youthful indiscretion? Well, the young man flying in from Georgia is an officer in the US Army Airborne. The two young men in Baltimore work for the NSA. My son is in the Air Force. In other words, all four of these young men are involved in service to their country, although the roads they chose are different. All of them have in the past displayed, and continue to display, the personal behaviors that can be counted as Character.

What caused these four to turn out the way they are? Family influence? Involvement in Scouting? The influence of religion? Perhaps the fraternity in college that they joined? The college itself? Maybe growing up in Iowa?

Frankly I don’t have an answer, although I suspect it is all of the above. What I do know is that we are still raising children who understand what Character means, and are living examples that many things about America still work. Pride in our country begins with pride in ourselves. The Character of our country begins with the Character in ourselves. And Character is still defined by how we behave, even when no one is watching.

Post Script

I received another call from my son on the 4th of July. He called me about 6:00 PM Iowa time, an hour before the start of ‘A Capitol 4th’ Program. He said that from where he was standing, he could see the stage with the National Symphony being seated, and could also see the White House, Capital Dome, Washington Monument, and World War II Memorial. He wanted to wish the family a happy 4th, and also said that every American should spend this particular Holiday in Washington DC at least once in their lives. What a Character.


Tom Glennon recently retired as a Manager with an international bank. A Chicago native, he retired at the location of his last assignment, in the Des Moines, Iowa area.

His 38 year career spanned numerous assignments with a major oil company, an international finance company, and lastly with a major banking company. Most of his working experience was with credit card operations and technology.

He is an award winning speaker for the Volunteer Oil Industry Communications Effort, an industry advocacy group, and writes essays and opinion pieces for a variety of on-line and print publications.

Tom has served on his County Republican Committee, as well as having served as the County Campaign Chair for Senator Charles Grassley (R-Iowa). His volunteer work has covered a variety of community based efforts, including youth athletic organizations, Junior Achievement, Youth at Risk, and the Boy Scouts.

Married for 40 years to Judi, they have five adult children, and three grandsons.

Tom can be reached at tglennon@netins.net or through the contact link page at his BSA District website http://www.rrv-bsa.com

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