Support needed for mayor's new character plan

Published 6:48 pm Wednesday, May 16, 2001

By Staff
Monday, Atmore Mayor Howard Shell hosted a small gathering of community leaders Monday to discuss a program that has had a profound affect on businesses, organizations, families and communities throughout the nation.
Character First is a program that began 10 years ago when a corporate executive began looking at an excessive amount of cost associated with worker's compensation claims. Not being able to identify the source of the problem and not knowing where to begin, a program began to take shape that focused on "character training" for employees.
Through diligent administration of the training program, the company began to see a slow but steady decrease in worker's comp claims and an idea was born that has since been used to help other businesses, city governments and schools teach character traits in people across the nation.
It seems strange in this day and age when so much time is spent focusing on time management, job training, computer skill enhancement and a host of other "on the job" issues to employees that most of us seldom, if ever, recognize the need to teach "character."
There are leadership seminars, time management seminars, planning seminars that come along offered by Zig Zeigler, Franklin-Covey or Dale Carnegie, and businesses and people have seen a lot of good work come from those seminars.
Mayor Shell brought Atmore an idea that is fundamental in the implementation of all of the other programs when he held Monday's luncheon in which leaders from other communities discussed the importance of building character.
Character, more than any other single issue, cuts to the heart of what's wrong in our home, our community and our country. But because it is so fundamental so simple and uncomplex in this fast-paced world we often overlook it as something that should be developed in people. Generally, assumptions about character are that people have it or they don't.
Cynics may call it behavior modification or an attempt to manipulate people into adopting another's beliefs. It seems obvious that any program that teaches people the importance of honesty, loyalty, integrity, humility, perseverance and a host of other fundamental ideas is worthy of an investment of time, money and energy.
Behavior is generally changed only when someone wants it to be changed. It's up to each person to decide what to take and what to leave behind. We shouldn't let ignorance be our excuse for not trying to improve our community and the quality of life we offer our children.
We may not change the world. We may not even change our community. But if we choose to make character development as fundamental in our community as reading and writing, we can't steer our ship into choppy waters. We only stand to improve.
Mayor Shell was wise to share his idea with people in the community, and based on the results other communities have seen, we need to move swiftly and surely to adopt the program.
What our next step should be is not clear, but through more open forums, panels and discussions, we, as a united community, can make that decision. Our hope is that our collective decision will be to implement a character building program in Atmore and to use that program in our businesses, homes and schools.
We encourage everyone to get on board with the idea. Character counts. And as our world changes around us, we can't have too much of it.

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