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OVERVIEW BY ROBERT A. WILSON

Creator of the "Character Above All" Project


The "Character Above All" initiative began as an act of defiance against the usual suspects. Political consultants, campaign managers, journalistic potentates, all those who think our interest in those who govern, or want to, is superficial at best and voyeuristic at worst. Who act like it's their business to elect candidates, not ours.

During the last Presidential election, Presidential character seemed to be defined narrowly, if not myopically, by how well candidates scored on marital fidelity. Granted, we've had a long history of finding secret hilarity in politicians caught with their pants down. From Wilbur Mills tripping the light fantastic with Fannie Fox in Washington's Tidal Basin to Gary Hart relaxing with a friend on the stern of the good ship, Monkey Business, from JFK to Jefferson -- we've read the stories. But character in a President is more complex than being a good husband or good family man.

Wouldn't our ability to judge the character of those who seek the Presidency be improved by listening to and reading historians and journalists, who had a genuine insight into those character traits which seem to matter most to a President's ability to lead? It was worth trying to find out.

With David McCullough's words, "Count me in," I was on my way. The result was a lecture series at the LBJ School of Public Affairs, University of Texas at Austin, the "Character Above All" book by Simon & Schuster, the PBS special with Jim Lehrer... and now the web site! What started as a voice crying in the wilderness is now reaching a growing audience who believe that the issue is character above all. And it's an obligation conferred on us as citizens to focus on it.

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