Trump last week put out a proclamation declaring October 15 through October 21 National Character Counts Week.

The first, tone-setting paragraph:

We celebrate National Character Counts Week because few things are more important than cultivating strong character in all our citizens, especially our young people.  The grit and integrity of our people, visible throughout our history, defines the soul of our Nation.  This week, we reflect on the character of determination, resolve, and honor that makes us proud to be American.

Note the impoverished idea of “character.” Note how militaryesque it is. Note how easily it can be adopted by bullies. Strength, grit, integrity, determination, resolve, and honor. Those are all useful qualities, to be sure, but only used for the right purposes, only combined with better, more generous, more other-regarding qualities. They’re useful qualities for bullies and fascists and criminals, too.

As President Reagan declared, “There is no institution more vital to our Nation’s survival than the American family.  Here the seeds of personal character are planted, the roots of public virtue first nourished.”  Character is built slowly.  Our actions — often done first out of duty — become habits ingrained in the way we treat others and ourselves.  As parents, educators, and civic and church leaders, we must always work to cultivate strength of character in our Nation’s youth.

Emphasis added. That’s the only mention so far of what should be the core of character: treating others decently.

Character can be hard to define, but we see it in every day acts — raising and providing for a family with loving devotion, working hard to make the most of an education, and giving back to devastated communities.  These and so many other acts big and small constitute the moral fiber of American culture.  Character is forged around kitchen tables, built in civic organizations, and developed in houses of worship.  It is refined by our choices, large and small, and manifested in what we do when we think no one is paying attention.

As we strive every day to improve our character and that of our Nation, we pause and thank those individuals whose strength of character has inspired us and who have provided a supporting hand during times of need.  In particular, we applaud families as they perform the often thankless task of raising men and women of character.

Emphasis added. Those three bolded bits are the only mentions of altruism as character.

Maybe it had to be this vague and empty because of the guy who was signing it. Trump has a gruesomely selfish and belligerent character, so maybe his speech people were trying to keep the ironies to a minimum.

Anyway, this past week was National Character Counts Week. That went well.

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