Originally created 11/15/00

Character program wins leaders' praise



Responsibility, thoroughness, punctuality, diligence and dependability are among the 49 character traits emphasized in the Character First Augusta program.

On Tuesday, leaders in business, government and education met at a luncheon at Radisson Riverfront Hotel Augusta to tout the successes of the character initiative and look to its growth.

"It's encouraging to me to see some movement going back to the basics," said S. Truett Cathy, founder and chairman of Chick-Fil-A Inc., who was the keynote speaker for the event.

During the luncheon, representatives from each sector spoke about how the 18-month-old program had helped improve morale in departments and caused employees to become more efficient. Educators said they'd seen an improvement in test scores.

Tom Evans of the Augusta Utilities Department said his co-workers had an opportunity to test their training in the principles with the public during the recent water shortage.

He read a letter from a resident who expressed appreciation for a city employee who took the time to explain to her what the problems with the water were.

Although it hasn't solved all problems in the department, "Character First has been a healthy step in the right direction," Mr. Evans said.

In his keynote address, Mr. Cathy reinforced the importance of character in building a business and a life.

"Experience is not important to us; more important is character," said Mr. Cathy, who has created several programs to help develop character in children and young adults. One such program is Camp WinShape, which was started in 1987 with the philosophy that "it is better to build boys than to mend men."Mr. Cathy spoke on the value of hard work and the necessity of giving.

"When a person performs at his very best, it's fun. When they are doing less than what they are capable of, it's work," he said.

Mayor Bob Young ended the meeting by encouraging more businesses to become sponsors of the program and by asking those in attendance to "spread the gospel of good character throughout Augusta."

When Augusta became a part of the program, it was one of the largest involved. Now, the state of Georgia has been named a state of character, and the Philippines want to become a country of character.

The mayor has spoken on the character initiative in Warner Robins, Atlanta and Macon.

Reach Charmain Z. Brackett at (803) 441-6927.