Since I have been in Johnson County, I have met some wonderful people; people who are respected, people who are unselfish, people who are trustworthy, people who desire the betterment of those around them, and people who give of their time and money to help others. These are people whom I would classify as having good characters. In many ways, we are richly blessed to have individuals like these as our friends and neighbors. Too often, the news causes us to focus on the sad stories, such as unethical, immoral, and illegal acts of those who have positions of trust, and we then begin extrapolating negatively about people in general. But here at home, we have wonderful churches, schools, civic organizations, charities, chambers, clubs, etc. who convey core values to their members and community. In each of these entities, there are pastors, teachers, and directors who are committed to doing what is right and what is best for the community. I am thankful for these leaders and their positive influence on the citizens of Johnson County.
However, influence can go both ways. Years ago, I read a study of how we can be negatively influenced by those around us. The study goes like this. Nine people were asked to choose the wrong answer when they were presented a multiple-choice question. They placed a tenth person within this group; however, the tenth person didn’t know the group of nine had been given specific instructions to answer the question incorrectly. The question was asked of the group, “Which line segment was the longest?” All nine immediately chose the second longest line segment. Can you guess what the tenth person did? If you said they chose the second longest line segment, you are probably right. Seventy percent of the people tested went along with the others. Why? They did not want to be seen as wrong or they had a fear of not being accepted. This study says a lot about how people are influenced by others.
I see character as having the backbone to be truthful to yourself and to others. Character is about being honest, treating others with respect, having the courage to stand for the right no matter what the majority says, and being responsible and fair. Like many in our community organizations, Southwestern Adventist University faculty and staff are committed to helping students build good characters so they will be productive and respected citizens.
I am proud of our students who, instead of doing the popular thing like spending spring break or their summer vacation hanging out at the beach with their friends, chose to use their own money to meet the needs of others by going on mission trips to the Navajo Nation, Dominican Republic, Honduras, and Peru. I am also proud of our students who have embraced the diversity on this campus, who instead of sticking with the familiar and comfortable, have learned to appreciate, understand, and respect the cultures of the 16 nations represented here at this school. I am honored to work with faculty who care enough about the students that they model and teach the importance of responsibility, honesty, integrity and respect for others. As a result, our graduates are prepared to take their places in the community as leaders with good characters, with wholesome values, and with a desire to make a positive difference in the lives of the people they serve.
I am reminded of the quote by the renowned Christian evangelist, Billy Graham, “The greatest legacy one can pass on to one’s children and grandchildren is not money or other material things accumulated in one’s life, but rather a legacy of character and faith.” I am proud to live in a community that places value on good character.
This article is an opinion piece written by President Shaw for the Cleburne Times Review.