People Who Put Character First
by Isabel Lyman
23 April 2000
I am allergic to self-help advice.
Oprah, don't teach me to be assertive.
Dr. Laura, don't tell me the stupid things women do to mess up their lives.
And who cares, Stephen Covey, how many habits it takes to become a highly
Sometimes I just want to muddle through life.
So, why did I enthusiastically go to hear Tom Hill, the creator of Character
First! and chief operating officer of Kimray Inc. speak at the Edmond Area
Chamber of Commerce luncheon last week?
By the way, Character First! helps individuals develop 49 positive qualities,
like patience and boldness. The program is very popular with management
personnel who are eager to find ways to reduce workplace headaches, like
harassment accusations and accidents.
It wasn't to hear some of Edmond's movers-and-shakers, like City Manager
Leonard Martin and attorney Lloyd McAlister, gush to the crowd how Hill's
character training methods have benefited their work environments. The City
of Edmond, McAlister's legal firm and Edmond Medical Center, by the way,
utilize the program.
It wasn't because of what David Frederick, the assistant director of the
Character Training Institute in downtown Oklahoma City, shared. Dave, wearing
a snappy Character First! golf shirt, sat with me at the luncheon, and
offered tidbits of information.
It is used by 450 companies and in 60 city governments ... incorporated in
over 700 schools ... remember we hire for skills, fire for character ... more
important to recognize character over achievement ... has helped families
become stronger ... yada, yada, yada.
It wasn't even because of Tom Hill's speech, although what he told the
audience was impressive. He said companies that use Character First! notice
a marked decline in workers compensation, a rise in productivity and morale
and an improvement in profits. As he put it, When we teach character, we are
dropping a plumb line that says, 'This is wrong, this is right.'
No, I didn't come to hear anybody's running commentary.
It's this: To meet the people who represent Character First! And, if you live
in central Oklahoma, you can't avoid stumbling into them. They aren't slick.
Or lazy or as cynical as I am about self-help formulas. I am a pushover for
unpretentious, hard-working folks. They do put character first.
Ponder a Dave Frederick success story. He organized presidential hopeful Alan
Keyes' recent visit to Oklahoma and was given, oh, six days by the
candidate's handlers to plan the event. Six scant days to find lodging for
the Keyes entourage, secure venues for his speeches, schedule interviews,
create fliers, marshal volunteers, find drivers, and pray that more than 20
Oklahomans showed up for this campaign stop.
Well, 1,700 people turned out to hear Alan Keyes orate at Christian Heritage
Academy and nearly 300 stayed for the accompanying fund-raiser. Connie Hair,
Keyes' spokesperson, said it was one of the very best-organized events the
campaign staff had attended. Thanks to humble, industrious Dave.
Then there's Tom Hill himself. The man doesn't know how to spin the media.
Corporate America, I asked him, now bears the burden of teaching employees
how to conduct themselves?
Yes, Hill answered. The problem is that 30 or 40 years ago, when we pulled
the Bible out of schools, we never put anything back in. Now Mr. Hill is
cheerfully filling the void.
He's also creating a long-overdue debate on the touchy subject of morals. How
very resourceful, wise, diligent, and responsible of him. A man of character.
May his tribe greatly increase.
This column appeared in The Edmond Sun on April 23, 2000.
Isabel Lyman lives in Edmond, Oklahoma. A former editorial columnist for the Daily Hampshire Gazette of Northampton, Massachusetts, her views have appeared in various national publications, including the Wall Street Journal and Investors Business Daily. She may be contacted via e-mail by clicking here.
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