By: Charlotte A. ’17
What is Character?
As the pre-Socratic Greek philosopher Heraclitus once said, “Good character is not formed in a week or a month. It is created little by little, day by day. Protracted and patient effort is needed to develop good character.” So today think of me as a Greek philosopher, minus the beard and the toga, as we touch on the universal question: What is character?
Character is defined as “the mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual.” Every single person has their own set of beliefs and guidelines for how to treat other people, behave in certain situations, and make ethical decisions. These beliefs and guidelines for our emotions and behaviors that we display on a daily basis are what give us our personalities and our “character.”
Throughout your education everyone here has certainly had at least one English teacher who has talked about the importance of “characterization” in a story. “Characterization is the process by which the writer reveals the personality of a character.” I remember one author who wrote, “Unfortunately, characterization is one of the most difficult aspects of creative writing to master, because authors tend to naturally fall into the fatal trap of creating two-dimensional, cardboard characters. We may describe the grandmother in our story, for example, as kindly, with softly-curled gray hair, and a preference for polyester floral prints. Isn’t that how all grandmothers look? Of course not; that’s a stereotype. Good stories feature characters who turn the stereotypes upside down — people who defy expectations.” This quote really made me reflect upon Staten Island Academy and the character of the students that attend here. We defy expectations.
I am what the Academy calls “a lifer.” I have been enrolled here since Pre-K. As I look toward senior year, I realize I have never once regretted staying at my home on the hill, because in my opinion, the community here defies those previously mentioned “expectations.” I have had the privilege of being raised in this community, and my character was shaped and molded as I made my journey through each grade. Kids who start attending SIA in middle or upper school are quickly integrated into our family and embraced with open arms, as we help them to understand how our community works – how our character evolves.
A person of character exhibits kindness, creativity and respect. They are accepting and nonjudgmental. They are principled, and have integrity. I am proud of my friends, the Academy community who are truly people of character. Teddy Roosevelt once said, “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again. Who knows great enthusiasms; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.”
Staten Island Academy students do not sit on the side lines. As Teddy Roosevelt said, we are actually “in the arena.” And whether that arena is a stage, basketball court, lacrosse field, art studio, or a classroom, we defy expectations, we strive valiantly, and even if we fail, we fail by daring greatly. We are in the arena, an arena of great character.