July Pillar of the Month – Citizenship

By: Ashley Winterstein

The Character Counts! Six Pillars of Character (Trustworthiness, Respect, Responsibility, Fairness, Caring, and Citizenship) are ethical values that are not related to politics or religion, but instead are designed to help build character in all people.

The National Character Counts! website, www.charactercounts.org, explains, “A person’s “character” is the summation of his or her habits, attitudes and attributes. Because those qualities are learned, they can also be purposefully taught. And they should be — because good character doesn’t happen automatically, and it’s too important to be left to chance. The effectiveness and well-being of individuals, their organizations and their society depend on it.”

Character Coaches in Queen Anne’s County volunteer time each week during the school year to share character building lessons with local students. Although students are out of school for the summer, coaches are hoping that the lessons they have shared will serve as helpful reminders throughout the year and ideally, for the rest of their lives.

At the June 22, 2010 meeting, the Queen Anne’s County Commissioners proclaimed Citizenship as the Pillar of the Month for July. With Fourth of July Celebrations on the horizon and campaign plans beginning for the Midterm Election in November, there could not be a better focus for this summer month.

As former United States Supreme Court Justice, Louis D. Brandeis, once said, “The most important political office is that of the private citizen.” The Character Counts! Citizenship Pillar emphasizes the importance of exercising one’s right to vote and more notably, being an informed voter.

Researching, listening to debates, and forming an independent opinion are important steps before heading to any poll. One way Character Coaches have illustrated this idea to students is by setting up mock elections in the classroom. The subject being voted on has varied from choosing a favorite season to deciding on a flavor of ice cream for a year end party. Some coaches have even invited a few students to campaign for their opinion before the voting commenced.

Throughout the entire process, Character Coaches stress that while voting does not necessarily mean you will get what you want, the only way to influence the outcome is by voting. These mock elections are also excellent opportunities to demonstrate to students how to share their own opinion, while still respecting the opinions of others.

Although these valuable life lessons are taught in our schools, the messages apply to citizens of any age. The Character Counts! Advisory Council wishes everyone a safe and happy Fourth of July and encourages the citizens of Queen Anne’s County to become informed voters in November!

For more information about the Character Counts! program in Queen Anne’s County, please contact Jacki Carter at 410-758-6677 or jcarter@qac.org.  Queen Anne’s County Character Counts! is a part of QAC Community Partnerships for Children and Families, our local management board.