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April 2005 Character Quality -- Virtue
the following editorial article was written by Gloria Cooper for publication in The Paris News --
A young man stopped another on the streets of Philadelphia and asked, “How did this city ever
get the name of “The City of Brotherly Love”?  “It was because of the upright and moral man,
William Penn,”  the other replied.

William Penn, the founder of Philadelphia, believed in doing what was right, not what was
popular or what the common expectations were.  When he worked with the North American
Indians, he bought their land at a fair price – not looking to see how much he could pull out of
them.  Even though he was jailed in England several times because of his ‘unpopular’ beliefs, he
never wavered in doing what he knew was right.  When he came to America and developed
colonies, he insisted that the government take care of every individual citizen – not only the
upper or lower class – not only the English or the French, but the Indians and others as well.  
Pennsylvania became a haven of religious and civil freedom.  Thomas Jefferson called William
“The greatest lawgiver the world has produced; the first, either in ancient or modern times, who
has laid the foundation of government in the pure and unadulterated principles of peace, of
reason, and of right.”  Philadelphia became the first seat of America’s new government and the
Declaration of Independence was born here as well.  

Virtue may sound a bit old fashioned, but as Edmund Burke once said, “If you can be well
without health, you may be happy without virtue.”  What is virtue?  It is the moral excellence and
purity evident in my life as I consistently do what is right.  It is not appearing to be right, but
growing in real maturity and responsibility; working on living to the highest standards of good
character.  Virtue is, basically, always being a good example to others.  One of the first things
we must do to build virtue in ourselves is to recognize our shortcomings.  The old saying goes,
“The things we hate the most in others, we soon become ourselves.”  That is a good start in
recognizing our own blind spots – look for what most ticks us off in other people.  Freedom is not
the right to do what we want, but the ability to do what we ought.  

Discover what the correct way is and stand firm in it, then lead others by the good conduct in our
lives.  Consistency is vital in virtue – without it, virtue is nothing.  Here are some suggestions for
building a good foundation of virtue:  do what is right and encourage others to do the same.  
Guard your eyes, ears, words, and thoughts from things that could harm you morally.  Abstain
from anything that might damage or pollute your mind or body.  Treat others the way you would
like to be treated.  

The power of virtue is lost when it is defiled through lust or immorality – whether it is thought
about or actually done.  Those who lose their virtue will mock them that retain their virtue
because they will feel ashamed.  However, if you remove those things that could harm it, you are
able to experience the benefits of your actions.  We have protection, leadership, the power of
good health and vigor, endurance, and many other benefits.  Others will see the goodness of
virtue in your life and will greatly respect that in you.
Portions of this article have been adapted from Character First! material.  For more information about the
Character First! program and resources contact:  Character Training Institute, 520 W. Main Street, Oklahoma
City, OK  73102,  (405) 815-0001. Visit the Character Council of Red River Valley at
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