Character Carved in Stone Cover

Character Carved in Stone

The 12 Core Virtues of West Point That Build Leaders and Produce Success

Pat Williams with Jim Denney

Revell, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2019, 224 pages

Book Review published on: July 24, 2020

Pat Williams is the senior vice president of the National Basketball Association’s Orlando Magic. With over half a decade of professional sports experience, he has endeavored to write about the twelve leadership virtues of the U.S. Military Academy. Williams spends each chapter describing a virtue and relating it to an individual who exemplifies it. These twelve leadership virtues are compassion, courage, dedication, determination, dignity, discipline, integrity, loyalty, perseverance, responsibility, service, and trust.

The simple organization of this book lends itself well to the reader. Historical aspects about West Point are highlighted and undergird the credence of each virtue described in the book. During the introduction, Williams describes how twelve benches donated by the class of 1984 are aligned by the Battle Memorial at West Point. Each bench is inscribed with one of the character qualities that should be exemplified by a military officer. One of the most compelling components of Character Carved in Stone are the historical figures who were graduates of the academy and little-known anecdotes that help to reinforce the leadership traits that Williams is highlighting.

Several anecdotes are worthy of mentioning that provide a glimpse of why this book necessitates consideration. One is Buzz Aldrin, one of few to step foot on the moon. But another aspect of Aldrin is that in 2016, he became the oldest human being to reach the South Pole at eighty-six years old. The character of dedication attributed to him is understandable when you realize Aldrin dedicated his life to reaching frontiers that few have even considered pursuing. Other historical figures who stand out are Ulysses Grant and Dwight Eisenhower, both West Point graduates. Not only were these generals responsible for major victories that turned the tide of the Civil War and World War II, but their character traits of compassion and integrity also continued as they both were elected president of the United States.

Character Carved in Stone is a fine reminder that the twelve characteristics instilled in West Point cadets from day one matter. The reason they matter is because such traits can become the foundation of how a person thinks, leads, and behaves in times of difficulty. If ingrained deeply enough, these characteristics can help guide a person when facing life’s challenges. Williams finalizes the book by describing fifteen-year-old Peter Wang, a Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps cadet who was tragically killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in February 2018 by a troubled former student. Cadet Peter Wang’s action that day saved the lives of many classmates but at the price of his own life. Wang’s chance to attend West Point was cut short, but his display that day of the twelve leadership qualities cannot be overemphasized.

Book Review written by: Gregory P. Bedrosian, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas