85. Why Does Character Matter?

On today’s episode, Larry Reed, President Emeritus of the Foundation for Economic Education, joins Connor and Brittany to talk about the role character plays in advancing the principles of liberty.



Here’s a transcript of our conversation:


Brittany: Hi Connor.

Connor: Hi, Brittany.

Brittany: So today we are so lucky to have one of my personal heroes joining us on the show. He was the longtime president and now president Emeritus of the Foundation for Economic Education or Fee. As some of you might know it. he is a brilliant writer and one of the best living speakers and ambassadors of individual liberty that we have. So, Connor, please join me in welcoming Lawrence Reid or Larry as I call him to the show. Larry, we are so happy to have you here with us.

Larry: Hey, thank you very much, Brittany and Connor, it’s an honor to be with you.

Connor: We’re glad you’re here.

Brittany: We are. So, you know, there are so many topics we could have invited you on here to chat about because you’ve covered so many things. But one of my favorite topics that you’ve talked about, and something that I don’t think we talk about enough in this space, is the role that character plays in advancing and helping bring other people to what was called the freedom philosophy sometimes. So let’s start off by saying this. What do we mean when we talk about character? Cause we’ve talked about fiction on past episodes and different characters and books, but when we talk about building character, what, exactly does that mean to you, Larry?

Larry: Yeah, we do use that term in different ways, don’t we? Yep. You, can actually be a character and not necessarily have any or very much important, but I think, a character in terms of a cluster of personal attributes can either be, good or bad. You can be a person of bad character, but I tend to focus in my writing and my research on, people of good solid character, who by virtue of that fact, are very good examples for all of us. People who have been courageous, people who have been humble, who have been honest, who speak truth to power, people who are responsible, people that leave the world a better place because of the personal characteristics and high standards that they tried to keep.

Connor: I think that’s so important, Larry because especially with social media, I think kids today are exposed to all kinds of, poor choices in character, and it seems problematic because oftentimes people with poor character are the most popular. They’re, the most vocal. so what, why should kids who are being exposed to all these bad character role models, what are the incentives for them to learn the good character, or do they need to like, just work extra hard themselves to seek out the good role models? what’s that dynamic like when we’re being exposed to a lot of bad examples of character? How, how can kids today think about and focus on people of good character as examples?

Larry: I think, to begin with, Connor, young people should recognize and understand that a character is probably their best, their single best investment, especially at a young age, if they work to make their character, something that others will look up to, it’s something that they will never regret in the rest of their lives. And that means a number of things. It means, first of all, reading, good biographies of great men and women who have been of solid character, people who have practiced the virtues that have made their lives so fulfilling, not only to themselves but to other people too. And also it means, you know, avoiding, others who may be of lousy character because they rarely can teach you very much, or they can teach you bad habits and bad character. So I think it’s important that we look up to those, either in history or around us who have solid character and, try to,  respect them and try to be like them. In the long run, you will look back on your life and say, if you were able to maintain high character, you will look back and say, wow, I’m so glad I did. I was of greater influence, with others than I could have otherwise have been. My life was more fulfilling and I can someday go to my reward knowing that I was as good as I, you know, as, I could possibly be.

Brittany: You know, Larry, you wrote a whole book about people we could luck up to. It’s, you know, about heroes that we can use to emulate in our own lives. If you had to pick a couple of ’em to talk about today, who, would you suggest that the listeners go and maybe research after this episode is over?

Larry: Well, may I share one at first That is actually not in the book, but

Brittany: Absolutely.

Larry: Okay. This is one that just recently I finished an article about what a remarkable woman, her name was Bessie Coleman. She lived, just about a hundred years ago. She was the first African American and the first Native American to earn an international pilot’s license, to fly a plane. Well, there’s more to her story than just that, but if that’s all she had done, you’d have to look back and say, wow, what a remarkable feat for someone of a minority background who was born poor in Georgia, moved at the age of two with their parents to a very poor part of Texas, and grew up in poverty to then go on and decide she wanted to be a pilot in her life. at the age of 18 or 19, she left Texas to go to Chicago, because she wanted to find ways to improve herself and, to learn some skills. And while she was working briefly at a barbershop, she learned, from some customers about men and women in Europe during World War I, at that time, flying airplanes. And it struck her fancy, she decided at that moment, I’m gonna become a pilot someday. Back then, if, you were a black woman or a Native American woman, she was of both, ancestors, you had to go to Europe. nobody here would teach you how to fly. So she saved her money. After four or five years of doing that, she went to France. In less than a year, she earned her pilot’s license, and she came back to America. And for about five years, she was the most celebrated, stunt flyer in the United States. She could do barrel rolls and loop the loops, and you name it. And audiences came from all over the country to see her perform. and she was a remarkably solid character too. She would only perform at events where all people were permitted to attend. If any events didn’t allow a minority group to come, she wouldn’t go. she was just an incredible woman who proved that you can overcome tremendous obstacles if you have the willpower to do so and accomplish great things. Unfortunately, she died in an accident when she was thrown from a plane about five years into her, experiences as a stunt pilot. And she was only 34 years of age. But what a great woman, Bessie Coleman was.

Connor: Larry, these, stories are important because I think as we learn about others, we see ways that they stood up against wrongdoing or, feats of bravery or how they rose to the occasion. And we try and place ourselves in their shoes, right? It’s kind of like when you go to a sell your home, the adults will know this. You, do something called staging, right? That this is kinda the best way of doing it. Where if someone came into my home right now to think about buying it, they would see all my family photos, they would see all my knickknacks. It would be hard for them to visualize themselves living in my home because my life is, on the walls. It’s everywhere. And so with staging, you take down those family photos, you just, you know, put furniture and things where someone can kind of see themselves living there, and it makes them more likely to, potentially buy the home. And what I like about stories of people with character, these heroes that you talk about in your book, real heroes, is we can kind of project a little bit and see ourselves in them and ponder how would I act? How, if I were in those circumstances, if, that person is kind of staging for me, if, I were in their shoes, how would I act? I mean, I love. I pulled up here just the description from, your book, and we’ll link to this, you can find it on Amazon Real Heroes, search for Larry Reed, or we will link to it on the show notes page Tuttletwins.com/podcast. But I’ll rattle off a couple quick bullet points and then invite you to, to comment some more, Larry. Okay. That these HEROs include. And it says the 19th-century American educator who was vilified and threatened for daring to teach black girls the unsung British activist who fought for decades to end slavery, the courageous Cambodian who alerted the world to pull pots killing fields. And finally, as one of the other examples, a Polish soldier who volunteered to go to the notorious concentration Camp Auschwitz to expose Nazi brutality and defend the liberty of its people. How, are these stories like, this seems so impactful as you yourself have been immersed in learning about the character of these people. How has it impacted you?

Larry: Well, it’s impacted me tremendously. It’s reminded me that it’s not the common people around us, who make the greatest difference. It’s the uncommon people. In fact, I would guess every young person who’s listening to this podcast has heard, teachers or other people say very positive things about the so-called common man or the common woman. And, you know, that’s alright as far as it goes, but we should recognize that it’s not the common people to whom we owe, I think our greatest gratitude, it’s the uncommon people, the ones who stand out from the crowd, who work harder, smarter, better than other people, who really try to be not just average or common, but try to be the best that they can be. Best that anything they tackle, those are where the real lessons are. Those are the models we should be looking to. so every time I hear somebody say, oh, isn’t it great to be a part of the common man or common people? I always say, act actually, it would be better to be uncommon, uncommonly good, uncommonly courageous, uncommonly honest. Those are the things that, uh, propel people to great lives of great influence over others.

Brittany: You actually just led right into my next question, which was, what values do people of good character possess? And I know you just said courage, which is one of my favorites. What are some more that people just these principles or these qualities that you can, you know, look for in people with good character?

Larry: Well, I think one, Brittany is certainly the desire to pursue truth and to be faithful to truth for its own sake. Now, that is to be contrasted, let’s say, with the attitude of, well, I’m for truth, as long as it seems momentarily to, put me at some advantage or I’m for truth as long as it makes me richer. but, you know, a truly good per person of solid character values truth in and of itself, because it is, one of our greatest values. The idea that you should be honest, faithful to what is true, that is a spectacular, character attribute. And it’s a challenge sometimes for people to live up to it. But if you do, you’ll never regret it. truth is one of the most noble things to be committed to. but you also have other important, attributes of good carriages, such as responsibility. Responsibility means you don’t try to, put your mistakes onto other people. you don’t say, you know, well, yeah, I may have made a mistake, but I want to take the consequences of that and force them on someone else. that’s being irresponsible. Being irresponsible means expecting someone else to give you a living, give you a subsidy, take care of you, and instead of you, doing your best to take care of yourself. There are many others that I talk about in my book, real Heroes and in other writings, but certainly among the most important additional ones, would be courage, because we live in a dangerous world. And, if you value such things as your personal independence and your liberty, the liberty of your country, you’re, gonna have to show some courage from time to time, step up to the plate and be, brave when it comes to speaking, the truth and defending it sometimes perhaps even giving your life, on behalf of, what you know to be right and true.

Connor: That also segues into the question I had, Larry. It seems to me that in a lot of these stories you’ve shared and others that, exist, and plentifully so that the people who have been called on to act on based on their character, to stand up against something or fight for something or, you know, work towards some goal when they find themselves in these circumstances, it seems like their character is a reflection of a long time of preparation. In other words, like think I might think of it like going to a bank you’re with, like when there’s a controversy or when there’s an event happening, you’re having to make a withdrawal from your account. Yeah. In order to spend your currency, your, your character currency. And that requires that you have something saved up that for a long while, that you’ve been making little deposits in preparation for that day in the future when you need to have some savings to cash out and use. Why, is it important for the kids and the younger people listening to think about it like that, they don’t know what their future is going to be. They don’t know what the future of the world is going to be, that it’s important to invest in character for that long-term potential, where someday in the future we may be in a circumstance, we may be called upon to make a big withdrawal and use it to stand up for something. That’s right.

Larry: You know, Connor, in all the stories of heroes, that I’ve written about, I did not find one who ever thought consciously in their early age that someday I want to be a hero. that’s my goal in life. Most, if not all of the people I regard as heroes never really started out with that as their intention. What they did do was invest in the most important thing that they called upon at a later date, as you suggest. And that is their personal character. If they had character by the bushel because they worked on it, they were conscious of it, they knew what it was in, what it involved, then when the time comes that they’re confronted with a situation where they can make a big difference, it’s that character that,  they call upon, not, the desire to be a hero. most heroes are very humble people who never really intended to be heroes, but they had that character investment. They were honest, they were responsible, they were courageous, they were humble, they were good people who believed in the truth of what was right. And that’s what they called upon, and that’s what made their heroic deeds ultimately possible.

Connor: This is such important stuff, and I’m sure the parents listening or nodding their heads, trying to help their kids understand the importance of starting early, to build good character, to make those good choices, especially as we become teenagers and young adults, there’s gonna be plenty of circumstances where our character comes at, you know, a test, maybe, being misleading or cheating on a test, or, you know, lying to someone or stealing or whatever. That’s those little, challenges that help define who, we are going to become and whether we’ll be, ready later in life. I think to make that big withdrawal, should it ever be needed, and how our character really tested, really encourage everyone listening to check out Larry’s book, real Heroes, a fantastic book. We will again link to it at the show notes, Tuttletwins.com/podcast, as well as a couple, of other of Larry’s articles that are worth reading. Larry, again, thanks for joining us so much. This is such a good topic.

Brittany: Yes, it was

Connor: about, and really appreciate your time.

Larry: Hey, thank you Connor and Brittany. I enjoyed it very much.

Brittany: Well, Larry, thanks for joining us. You know, I am very lucky because I got to sit next to Larry for two years in the fee office and just kind of absorb all his knowledge and greatness. So very excited to have him on the show

Connor: Today. Absolutely. And, as I said, just really good topic, especially for the parents to be thinking about other ways to teach their kids these ideas. It’s one thing to sit down, with your kids and say, you know, you should be, courageous. You should be honest, you should be truthful. It’s another thing to not only lead by example, but share through stories. And that’s why I love his book, real Heroes, wink, wink Na Na. There’s actually some TuttleTwins content, coming out here pretty soon on a similar topic. In fact, we’ve recorded this in advance. It may be that by the time this recording is out, that book is out all about exciting, courageous heroes as well. So stay tuned. Or maybe it’s already out depending on the timeline of the Episode but such an important topic because through storytelling, when we help kids and even ourselves learn from other people and see the circumstances that they faced, it’s very inspiring to us to kind of think about how we might act and, I think much more motivating for us to build good characters. So yeah, thanks again to Larry for joining us. And next time Brittany, we’ll talk to you later.

Brittany: Talk to you later.


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