City of Character
Simply put, character is the inward motivation to do what is right, no matter the cost. When allowed to grow and develop within an individual, it enables that person to make good and decent decisions for life. How do you apply that virtue to a city of individuals? Can you broaden its concept and practice to encompass a whole community as if it were a common thread running through the entire group? Can a city literally possess character? If so, what would that city look like?
The International Association of Character Cities (IACC) was formed in 1998 with a twofold purpose and strategy: equipping families to build character and helping communities reinforce character among their citizens. A city will invariability take on the identity and reputation of its leaders. It will be defined by the integrity these individuals exhibit and practice. It’s the values for which these front line officials stand that set the tone and temperament for this group called citizens.
Crime, corruption, gangs, drugs, alcohol abuse, juvenile delinquency and pornography are just a few of the many devices that derail the decency of any city and overshadow its productivity, ingenuity and prosperity. Could it be the lack of individual character that is the driving force behind the rise in so many degenerate practices? When leaders are motivated to do what is honest and noble at every level and in all aspects of government, a city reflects this higher calling to decency. Cities do not necessarily teach this basic virtue, rather influence and foster a community-wide culture where good character is acknowledged and rewarded. John Jay, the first Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court said, “It is the duty of all wise, free, and virtuous governments to encourage virtue.”
McDonough, Georgia is just such a city. Its leaders and citizens look to the future while holding to the values and traditions on which it was built and that have been passed down from generation-to-generation. It is a town that has grown into a city by virtue of its proximity to Atlanta, the modern day hub of the world. Yet, it continues to offer all the charm and quaintness of a small, southern town while possessing all the modern technologies of a major metropolitan city.
Grouped with these amenities are leaders who nurture and encourage stability, honesty and integrity within each family and within the city’s government. McDonough is still small enough to attract hundreds of its citizens to wholesome entertainment on the Square as well as a variety of other family friendly activities and events throughout the year. It is a city of faith-based families who still put their trust in God and never hesitate to help a neighbor or even a total stranger just passing through. Its citizens take pride in a hard fought football game on a Friday night; show support for their favorite college team in the fall; enjoy a Fall Festival and Chili Cook-Off; celebrate Kindness Week each November; line the entire route of the city’s Christmas parade every first Saturday in December; treasure a visit by the Traveling Vietnam Wall that brought both memories and tears; gather on the Square to honor our nation’s veterans, our heroes, on Veterans’ Day; a city that always puts out flags for major holidays and whose citizens truly believe old glory is still worth fighting for; pauses in silence to remember every September 11th; is the host city for the annual Geranium Festival in May; enjoys an Ice Cream Social on the 4th of July; and is a city whose citizens are never too busy to stop and spend some time in conversation with friends or to stoop down when a child needs lifting up. We are America at its best in McDonough, Georgia, and we are A City of Character.
Yet, we are far from perfect in our beautiful and historic community. There are divisive forces, hostilities, broken homes, there are many struggles that distract and destroy. Someone penned these words: We have taller buildings but shorter tempers. We have more conveniences but less time. We have more knowledge but less judgment. We have fancier houses but broken homes. We clean up our air but pollute our souls. We travel to the moon but not to our neighbors. We add years to life but not life to years. Maybe, when all is said and done, it is truly adversity that tests your character, and how you handle adversity that defines your character. Could it apply to cities as well? I think so.
Casey Case, Media Relations, City of McDonough 11-5-08