Group photo from the C2C in Princeton, NJ on April 12, 2019

A group of Wake Foresters gathered over dinner in Princeton, NJ on April 12, 2019 to discuss Leadership & Character.

Overview and highlights of our Call to Conversation:

  • We shared personal examples of character in action, commonly with reflections about a close friend, family member, or colleague. One participant shared an idealized form of character from a fictional novel.
  • Most examples involved displays of integrity, honesty, compassion, empathy, selflessness, and citizenship. We agreed that observing character in action can be humbling, especially if the context may have involved an incident that involved fear or trepidation. We also agreed that a display of character may have a social “cost”, and we discussed that this dynamic may manifest itself more among younger people given peer dynamics.
  • We also defined character beginning with its etymology as a Greek stamping tool, suggesting that there is (or should be) an indelibility, sustainability and durability to the traits underpinning one’s character. This sentiment was reinforced by the notion that displays of character should not be “transactional”.
  • We reached some consensus in drawing a distinction between character as “something that you are” versus one’s reputation which is “something that you have done”. This raised a eulogy vs. resume observation. We did not seem to reach an agreement on whether character is “teachable” or is something more innate.
  • Near the end of our evening we introduced how a display (or absence) of character is revealed by incidents of racism; this led to a lively discussion around the country’s legacy of and struggle with equality, and Wake Forest’s ongoing challenges to address it satisfactorily within its own community.
  • We concluded that we all found it surprisingly easy, if not natural, to engage in this conversation and that we all felt like we were able to participate fully and honestly, notwithstanding the fact that most of us were strangers before the evening commenced.