Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Character Makes the Man

As any fan of David Archuleta knows, the young singer is a study in contradictions. One minute he can be a shy, humble boy, at a lose for words during an interview, and the next, he is a powerhouse, taking charge of the conversation and leaving the most seasoned interviewer wondering what just happened to them. He can transform from a modest, private soul tweeting inspirational quotes into a "smoking hot" performer rocking the stage in the blink of an eye. His voice can gently caress your soul and then rock you like there’s no tomorrow, all in the same song. And his music is just as diverse as he is; soothing love ballads, quirky pop songs, inspirational or spiritual messages, and smoldering R&B can all be produced by this same young man at any given time. You never know which side of David will hit you. Even a simple event like singing the National Anthem at a hockey game can leave his fans in a frenzy, wondering what just took place. But, although David can be many things to many people all at once, there is one absolute constant about him that his fans are sure of, David has impeccable character.

Character is defined in the Cambridge dictionary as "the particular combination of qualities in a person or place that makes them different from others." Character traits are what these different qualities and values are known as. There are a plethora of character traits that a person may possess, both good and bad, ranging from adventurous to mischievous to worried but there are, according to The Character Education Network, 11 basic positive character traits or values which are vital for us to teach to today's youth.

These basic positive (good) character traits include:

Responsibility: Being accountable in word and deed. Having a sense of duty to fulfill tasks with reliability,   dependability and commitment.

Perseverance: Pursuing worthy objectives with determination and patience while exhibiting fortitude when confronted with failure.

Caring: Showing understanding of others by treating them with kindness, compassion, generosity and a forgiving spirit.

Self-discipline: Demonstrating hard work controlling your emotions, words, actions, impulses and desires. Giving your best in all situations.

Citizenship: Being law abiding and involved in service to school, community and country.

Honesty: Telling the truth, admitting wrongdoing. Being trustworthy and acting with integrity.

Courage: Doing the right thing in face of difficulty and following your conscience instead of the crowd.

Fairness: Practicing justice, equity and equality. Cooperating with one another. Recognizing the uniqueness and value of each individual within our diverse society.

Respect: Showing high regard for an authority, other people, self and country. Treating others as you would want to be treated. Understanding that all people have value as human beings.

Integrity: A firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values. Being honest, trustworthy and incorruptible.

Patriotism: A love for and loyalty to one's country.


All of these are very good traits for a person to possess, though I wonder, when did we stop teaching our kids about these qualities? To me, all of these sound like normal things that parents should teach their kids at home, all the time, no matter what generation we are speaking about or what religious affiliation we have. These are traits that I was taught as a child and that I have tried to instill in my own children. These are traits that our country was founded on. These traits are basic to our human lives and livelihood. Maybe that's what is wrong with so much in our world today. Somewhere along the line, people forgot about these basic values that make us decent, caring people. Some people have decided that the world should revolve around them, and them alone, and that the rest of the people that God placed on this earth don't matter; these values don't matter. Even David himself recognizes this lack of values in today's society. While talking about his own participation in Boy Scouts, David states that Boy Scouts is "one of the greatest programs for developing character and values in youth, the things that are rarely addressed these days it seems."

In his autobiography, Chords of Strength: A Memoir of Soul, Song, and the Power of Perseverance, David Archuleta begins each chapter with an inspirational quote. These quotes speak to topics such as dreams, optimism, confidence, happiness, and success, to name a few. Two of my favorite quotes that David uses in his book are: "The aim and final end of all music should be none other than the glory of God and the refreshment of the soul." by Johann Sebastian Bach and "It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities." by JK Rowling. Each of the quotes used by David in Chords of Strength give us a glimpse into his heart, soul, and mind. They tell us about those things that David deems important. To me, the most telling of these deals with the topic that many fans believe sets David apart from most other people in the public eye - his character.

While following a code of ethics and values may not be the norm today, many fans believe that his adherence to a code of values is what makes David Archuleta different from so many others in the limelight. David does not just try to follow some of these values, he lives and breathes them each and every day. In February of this year, David sent this message to his followers on Twitter: "'Values are the principles and beliefs that guide your life... Honesty, integrity, respect, tolerance, kindness, solidarity, fairness, courage, and peace are some of the universal ones.' What values will you choose or have you already chosen to live by/for?"

David has obviously chosen his path, the values and beliefs that will guide his life and they are the positive character traits that we all should aspire to follow ourselves. Here are just a few examples of how, in my opinion, David Archuleta exemplifies a life lived using positive character traits.

Integrity:Whether he is singing a song, “tweeting” a message to his fans, answering interview questions or just grabbing a bite to eat, David is always the same person. He doesn't pretend to be someone or something he is not. "I’m not going to pretend to be somebody else just to humor society.” -David Archuleta, March 2010 (Brian Mansfield- Idol Chatter).

In chapter 10 of COS, David reminds us that "it's really important to do everything you possibly can to stay true to yourself." David tells us that "The greatest joy and satisfaction I feel is from trying to simply do what is right..."


Caring:
Also in COS chapter 10, David says that “to be a good person, means you think about others and care about them, usually before you worry about yourself." David lives this value to the highest degree. In the past year, David has given his time to countless charities. The list includes Children’s' Hospital of Dallas, Invisible Children, Rising Star Outreach, Children's Miracle Network, Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon, Stand Up 2 Cancer, Dream Foundation, Eunice Kennedy Shriver Challenge, Mentor's International, Duffy's Hope, Skate for the Heart, and Greenville Zoo's Zoo-A-Palooza, just to name a few.

"To serve others even when we expect nothing in return for ourselves, that is where the greatest understanding of love is gained." Twitter quote- Jan. 2011.


Courage:
Being intrinsically an extremely shy person, David has had to overcome a lot to even be in the public eye. “The main thing is, ‘So what if I’m nervous?’ Sometimes you have to take those risks, and sometimes you’ll be nervous, but why should that be an excuse? Some things, you need to do that way. And sometimes those are the most fulfilling things in life. -David Archuleta, March 2010 (Brian Mansfield- Idol Chatter)

In the introduction to COS, David reminds us that "Sometimes you just have to face your fears," and "If you want to get better at something, you need to start in the first place even when you don't feel like it..."


Self-discipline:
Although the pressures of life affect David just like anyone else, I have never heard of him uttering an unkind word to anyone. That doesn’t mean that it hasn’t happened, but that it would be a rarity for him to lose his cool or used inappropriate words. David sent out this quote on Twitter, "Be kind and courteous to everyone- no matter what they do to you, because at the end of the day, you have to sleep with all the choices you've made- not the ones they made."

I think that this statement could easily be my favorite quote David has sent out to his fans. "Your character is not based on what life gives you, but rather on how you handle what life gives you." -Twitter, Oct. 2010. Bravo, David.


Perseverance:
In chapter 10 of COS, David tells us that "...life isn't always pretty. Everyone knows that the human condition comes with all kinds of situations- the good, the bad, and the ugly... Rather than feeling sorry for ourselves when the chips are down, we should take stock of the things that we actually feel happy and grateful for... If we always focus on what hasn't worked out the way you wanted, you miss out on seeing those things that have... Without the struggle, we can't really appreciate the joy when it comes."


Respect:
It is general knowledge to all in the entertainment industry that David is kind to everyone. “We all have our own way of seeing the world and dealing with the ups and downs that life gives us, and I think that part of being able to relate to as many people as possible is in accepting the differences and imperfections in us all." -COS - chapter 8.

"Remember the decisions you make do not just influence your life, but also the lives that intersect with your life." -Twitter, Jan. 2011


Responsibility:
David has a strong sense of responsibility. He wants to do the right thing. "If we do not do what we are supposed to do then we should not be surprised when the end result is a disappointment- and we have no one to blame but ourselves." -Twitter, Oct.2010.


Honesty:
I feel that David's entire autobiography, Chords of Strength, and his openness in presenting his life story at such a young age, is a testament to his honesty. How many other people of any age would want their lives laid out like that for the world to critique? Not me, for sure.


Patriotism:
Whether it is taking to Twitter to thank the military for their contributions ("It's important to remember!! All that people have done for us to influence what we've become today. Happy Memorial Day!”) or starting an event off with a rousing rendition of the Star Spangled Banner (“Singing the National Anthem tonight for the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs!! Ducks vs. Predators") David never fails to amaze and show his passion for our country.

These are but a handful of the many examples that David shows us each day of how we too should live our lives and be the best people we can be. I believe that David has decided how he is going to live his life: A life filled with good morals, values, and character, as a person here to serve others, not himself. As a person not taking from society but contributing in every way that he can, and thanking God that he can do it.

Over the past two years, Twitter has become a vehicle for David to remind his followers of where he is, what he's doing, and, most importantly, what's on his mind. In July 2010, David sent out this quote for his fans to ponder. "Decide today how you are going to live your life. It could be simple but profound. You might want to raise a family, help spread the word for an organization, get more involved in your community or do something you never thought you'd be able to do... You'll look at the opportunities within each day in a different way that you may not have even noticed before, but start today."

Here is one last quote, attributed to HJ Brown, which David used in COS to remind us of the importance of having a good, positive character: “Good character is more to be praised than outstanding talent. Most talents are, to some extent, a gift. Good character, by contrast, is not given to us. We have to build it, piece by piece.” And that is exactly what David strives to do, build it piece by piece.