Exploring the Road to Character


  • David Brooks New York Times
  • Christopher Miller United States Air Force Academy
  • Timothy Barbera United States Air Force Academy


In 2015, New York Times columnist David Brooks published an introspective, compelling survey of towering examples of character: Augustine, Dorothy Day, Dwight Eisenhower, George Marshall, Bayard Rustin, A. Phillip Randolph, Samuel Johnston, and others. In The Road to Character, he describes their extraordinarily diverse stories in order to synthesize a map of the paths that led them to praiseworthy character. Brooks himself notes that he “wrote it because I wanted to shift the conversation a bit. We live in a culture that focuses on external success, that's fast and distracted. We’ve lost some of the vocabulary other generations had to describe the inner confrontation with weakness that produces good character.” In the book, he concludes that the road to character in all cases is marked by profound internal struggle. Success in that struggle may or may not be extrinsically rewarded during the lifetime of the person
involved, but “joy is a byproduct achieved by people who are aiming for something else.” In this edited and condensed interview with the Air Force Academy’s Cadet Wing Character Officer Tim Barbera and JCLI Editor Christopher Miller, Brooks shares further reflections on character and the society in which we live, and touches on the challenges university-aged young adults face today in developing the character they will need to lead and live meaningfully.


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How to Cite

David Brooks, Christopher Miller, & Timothy Barbera. (2017). Exploring the Road to Character. Journal of Character and Leadership Development, 4(1). Retrieved from https://jcldusafa.org/index.php/jcld/article/view/174