“ere’s a lot of people worse off than we are. And just because things ain’t easy, that don’t give you the excuse to take what’s not yours, does it? at’s steal- ing, right? We don’t steal. No matter what happens, we don’t steal. Not ever. You got me?”
His son replies, “Yes,” but Braddock presses the point, two more times: “Are you giving me your word?”
“Yes.” “Come on.” “I promise.” Braddock’s character ascends to new heights later in the film when he does what no welfare recipient is ever asked to do and what perhaps not one in a million has ever done: He pays the taxpayers back. Now that is character! And he certainly knew how to encourage those qualities in his son — both by his words and by his example.
Hollywood turns out so little these days that in- spires character but in 2005 it did produce another movie that I rank among the very best of all time. It’s “e Greatest Game Ever Played,” the true story of the son of an immigrant, Francis Ouimet, who won the 1913 U.S. Open Golf Championship at the age of 20. Buy it, or rent it, and watch it as a study in char- acter. Both the main figure, Francis, and the story’s secondary hero, Harry Vardon, ooze character from every pore. e traits they so magnificently exhibit include professionalism, perseverance, integrity, sportsmanship, loyalty and honor. You watch that movie and you’ll come away with boundless admi- ration for Francis and Harry and it’s not so much
Th e S to r y o f N i c h o l a s Wi n to n a n d Th e I m p o r t a n ce o f C h a ra c te r
for their great golf abilities as it is because of their sterling characters.
In history, the men and women we most admire and best remember are those whose character stands out because they lived it 24 hours every day and did not compromise it. ey are not like that fictional character played by the great comedian Groucho Marx, who said, “ose are my principles! If you don’t like them, well, I have others.”
George Washington was perhaps our best presi- dent because he knew at every moment that main- taining the highest standards in every aspect of life, public and private, was critical to putting the new nation on the right path. A man of lesser character might not have carried us through such a critical period, or would have put us on a different and more perilous path.
Washington understood the link between charac- ter and liberty. Listen to him speaking to the nation in his Farewell Address of 1796:
“It is substantially true that virtue and morality is a necessary spring of popular government. e rule, indeed, extends with more or less force to every spe- cies of free government. Who that is a sincere friend to it can look with indifference upon attempts to shake the foundation of the fabric?”
And Washington was not alone. James Madison wrote in 1788 that “To suppose that any form of government will secure liberty or happiness without any virtue in the people, is a chimerical idea.”
Mackinac Center for Public Policy •