Character Award

“First, let me say how truly honored and humbled I am to receive a Character Award from the Santa Clara County Boy Scouts.

We should all be humbled by the word “character.” And, by that, I don’t mean character like when you say, “That guy is a real character” to you describe someone who is odd, but still likeable. At least I hope that’s not why I’m up here.

I mean the word character that relates to the tenor in which someone lives their life, and that other people have come to expect from them. It’s sometimes hard to assess a person’s character, but you can tell a lot by the company they keep. When I look around this room, I feel truly honored that so many people of character, especially my co-awardees, would spend an evening with me.

That is especially the case when I look at my family table that lent so much to our community and to me personally. My dad, Rod, and his wife, Gloria. My mom, Mary Ann. Jill and Sheldon Carter who took care of me when I was a kid. Coleen Hurley and Mike Foulkes and Mark McKenna and Dennis DeMelloPine and Bob Kieve and so many other folks here that are close enough that they might as well be my family.

And, let me mention Peter and Kim Delevett. Peter is a reporter, so is more used to writing about other people that hearing his own name, so this is kind of fun. He’s someone who (while I may not always agree with what he writes) has consistently reinforced my faith in what the American media can be at its’ best. If I’m at all deserving of this award, it is because of those people, who have nurtured and mentored, and challenged me to be a better person.

In my mind, character is what happens when you do what is right, consistently, and with good intent. True character is that brilliance that peaks out, when you do what is right, even when it is hard or when no one’s watching. I mean, really, if doing the right thing was always easy, everyone would do it all of the time. Heck, I’d volunteer to eat apple pie 8 days a week… no problem. But when it’s brussel sprouts, it’s a different story.

Character is my girlfriend, Sabra Foley, who has given her all to a job and a team that she believes in. She was up until 2:30 in the morning on Monday night, to do work that she could have delegated, but that she knew was critical enough for the well being of her team and their endeavor that she should do it herself. If everyone were that hard working and conscientious of their responsibility, America’s enterprises would be even further ahead than they are today. That is true character. Of course, some people would say that her true show of character is putting up with me every day … and some days I’d have to agree … I’m really am a very lucky guy.

Character is when Jamie Matthews started to adopted a child from Africa about the same time that civil war broke out a decade ago in Sierra Leon. Remember, this was well before Angelina Jolie and Madonna made this a stylish thing to do, and Jamie may be a handsome guy, but he’s no movie star. When the State Department put a hold on travel and the adoption agency was rendered useless, most people would have moved on. But Jamie, who had never met or seen the child knew, in his heart, that that child was meant to be here with his family. He did not give up. Jamie, though not a wealthy man, hired the Missouri State Militia to go in, get his child, and bring him home. And, when the media picked up on it, instead of agreeing to a self-aggrandizing story, he gave them the wrong flight number and a different airport so his child could be greeted peacefully by America. If everyone had that determination as a parent, our families would all live in harmony. That is true character.

Character is April Grolle, Lauren Chief Elk and Lauren Bryeans, three 20 year old soccer players from DeAnza College. These three young scholar-athletes stood up against a group of drunk baseball players (their peer athletes and students), helped a young girl who was being assaulted, and spoke out against the assailants. And, character is our Sheriff, Laurie Smith, who stood up and was counted this week saying, “These individuals got away with sexual assault. And if they try to sue me for libel, bring it on. I’ll prove it in a court of law. It’s time someone spoke up for the victim.” If all of our young people were that courageous, and elected officials that decisive, our world would be a better place. That is true character.

Character is the Santa Clara County Council of the Boy Scouts of America. I cannot think of a time when I was more singularly proud of an organization as I was of the Santa Clara County Boy Scouts when they allowed people to serve as Scoutmasters, regardless of their sexual orientation. When they said that the caliber of your character is not defined by the gender of the person you love, but by how you live your life. I had never thought of the BSA, necessarily, as a civil rights champion, but I do today. That is true character.

Let me take a minute to recognize the BSA, each of the people I have mentioned tonight, and the 100s of people in this room who I’ve left unmentioned (in my 4 minutes of glory), who have shown a greater combined sense of character than any of us up here today. To you …

I’d like to hope that folks who chose me to receive this award think that I have even a sliver of the character of the people I mentioned. And I don’t know, but I am honored and humbled just to stand in the same room with them. I do know that at 37 I still have a lot of years ahead to prove my mettle. And, you have my word that I’ll continue to work hard to prove to each of you that I’m deserving of this honor tonight. And, with that, God bless each of you and those who you hold dear. Live well and thank you.”

— Rod Diridon, Jr.,
Character Awards Ceremony