Character: What Santa Claus is Looking for and How Destiny Orders Our Fortunes in Life

Here in Minnesota, we have a small group called the Minnesota Character Council, affiliated with the Caux Round Table, advocating the education of future citizens in good character.  I am its chair.  Here is a link to the current issue of our newsletter, with two statements of global relevance on character and leadership.

We cannot have a moral capitalism if there is no moral government.  We cannot have moral government if there is no moral society.  We cannot have a moral society unless people have good character. That has always been true, is true everywhere people live and will always be true.

To make the case for the human universality of benefiting from good character, let me quote Ptahhotep of Ancient Egypt, Mencius of ancient China and Heraclitus of ancient Greece.


The Vizier Ptahhotep, around 2375–2350 BC, during the rule of King Djedkare Isesi of the fifth dynasty of ancient Egypt, wrote out certain criteria to be followed by those of good character.  His text was discovered in Thebes in 1847 by Egyptologist M. Prisse d’Avennes.

“All conduct should be so straight that you can measure it with a plumb-line.”

“Punish with principle, teach meaningfully.  The act of stopping evil leads to the lasting establishment of virtue.”

“Do not gossip in your neighbourhood, because people respect the silent.”

“Listening benefits the listener.”

“If he who listens listens fully, then he who listens becomes he who understands.”

“To listen is better than anything, thus is born perfect love.”

“As for the ignorant man who does not listen, he accomplishes nothing.”

“He does everything which is detestable, so people get angry with him each day.”

“Only speak when you have something worth saying.”

“May your heart never be vain because of what you know.  Take counsel from the ignorant, as well as the wise.”

“Think of living in peace with what you possess and whatever the Gods choose to give will come of its own accord.”

“He who has a great heart has a gift from God.  He who obeys his stomach obeys the enemy.”


Mencius went to see king Hui of Liang.  The king said, “Venerable sir, since you have not counted it far to come here, a distance of a thousand li, may I presume that you are provided with counsels to profit my kingdom?”

Mencius replied: “If your Majesty say, “What is to be done to profit my kingdom?”  The great officers will say, “What is to be done to profit our families?” and the inferior officers and the common people will say, “What is to be done to profit our persons?”  Superiors and inferiors will try to snatch this profit, the one from the other and the kingdom will be endangered.  There never has been a benevolent man who neglected his parents.  There never has been a righteous man who made his sovereign an after consideration.  Let your Majesty also say, “Benevolence and righteousness and let these be your only themes.”  Why must you use that word – “profit?”


Ethos anthropos daimon – “For persons, ethics governs their fates.”

George Washington

“Since there is no truth more thoroughly established than that there exists in the economy and course of nature an indissoluble union between virtue and happiness; between duty and advantage; between the genuine maxims of an honest and magnanimous policy and the solid rewards of public prosperity and felicity; since we ought to be no less persuaded that the propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right which Heaven itself has ordained.”

In all that we do, let us think of character first and foremost.