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Character And Greatness

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Character and Greatness

Great men do not do great things by accident. If you look at great men like Abraham Lincoln and George Washington, you will find they did not invoke change in our generation by chance, rather, they were driven by an inward need to make things rightÐ'--possessed with a rock-solid character formed from solid values. Abraham Lincoln did not wake up one day and decide to focus his efforts on passing legislation to free the slaves, he was driven by a value system that knew it was not right for a man (or woman) to be forced to serve another without payment or regard. Washington is said to have adopted Charles Moore's "Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation." Detailing Washington's recreated rules, the University of Virginia writes: "Washington wrote out a copy of the 110 Rules in his school book when he was about sixteen-years oldÐ'...these maxims were so fully exemplified in George Washington's life that biographers have regarded them as formative influences in the development of his character." Rules such as: "Superfluous complements and all affectation of ceremony are to be avoided, yet where due they are not to be neglected" (no. 25); "Think before you speak" (no. 73); and "Rinse not your Mouth in the Presence of Others" (no. 101)" were lived out by Washington and the foundation of his actions in daily life.

These are more than neat colloquialisms or steps for good behaviorÐ'--these men had a passion for rightness, a continual desire to improve themselves, and the knowledge of the responsibility of their existence. Deep within laid a value system, a personal, ethical philosophy of thinking and conduct. Every thought and action was involuntarily matched against the "rules" written on the heart--to violate the inward law could be deemed sacrilegious.

I have always admired heroesÐ'--great men and women who could stand against immeasurable odds and come out victorious. Those who would risk their lives for another, father a cause and see it through no matter what, or stake their very lives on something they knew to be true. I cannot say my life was built one character principle after another, on the contrary, by the time I was 18 years of age, I did not have a very good outlook on life, nor did I possess a notable character. My life changed however, in 1990 when I met Jesus Christ for the first time in my life. In the past I had known about him, but I never knew him. A hunger developed within meÐ'--a hunger to be right, to think right, to act right, and to do right in every case. The bible became a manual for my life and many of its passages are now my ethical standards. Jesus taught the golden rule, "Do to others as you would have them do to you"Ð'--this scripture, along with others such as: "There is neither Jew nor GreekÐ'...all are one in Jesus Christ," teach that we should not discriminate or think of others more highly than some. The Ten Commandments lay out the very core of my ethics/values system:

1- Thou shalt have no other gods before me

2- Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image

3- Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord in vain

4- Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy

5- Honor your father and your mother that your days may be long upon the earth

6- Thou shalt not murder

7- Thou shalt not commit adultery

8- Thou shalt not steal

9- Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor

10- Thou shalt not covet your neighbors house, or anything that it thy neighbors

The first three of the Ten Commandments speak of man's relationship with God, while the rest speak of his relationship with his fellow man. Jesus summed up the commandments in Matthew 22:37: "Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second [is] like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." Jesus went on to say that when you follow these two laws, you fulfill all of the original Ten Commandments.

We have three core values in the Air Force: Integrity First, Service Before Self, and Excellence in all We Do. I wholeheartedly agree with and promote these core values; they fall right in line with my personal value system. Integrity is what you do when no one is looking. It is what I believe Shakespeare meant when he said in Hamlet, "To thine own self be true." I believe

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