“Officers of Character”: What it Means, Why We Need it, and How We Mandate it


  • Kathryn Toms Baylor University




Character, Character Education, Military Officers, Virtue Ethics


Our nation requires that service academies “develop officers of character.” But the term “character” seems shrouded in ambiguity and is thus dubiously enforceable. What is character? Moreover, in a society ruled by law, perhaps this clarion call to character is unnecessary. Perhaps assiduously specified posited law alone is sufficient to bring about society’s desired ends—character, then, is not needed. But if character is needed in a nation’s officers, it would seem fitting for that nation to mandate “officers of character.” If needed, does our nation have such a mandate, and if so, how is it manifested? I will address these questions in three parts. First, character is (1) deep and (2) inextricably linked to virtue. Centuries of classic moral philosophy inform this understanding. Second, character is needed because posited law can be (1) wrong, (2) absent, (3) underspecified, or (4) applied by wily scoundrels. Third, our nation does, in fact, mandate character. This is appropriate, in light of the fact that character is needed. This character mandate manifests (1) legally, (2) ethically, and (3) from common sense.


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How to Cite

Toms, K. (2023). “Officers of Character”: What it Means, Why We Need it, and How We Mandate it. Journal of Character and Leadership Development, 10(3), 60–70. https://doi.org/10.58315/jcld.v10.283