Teaching of Virtue

By | January 2, 2020

[January 2, 2020]  “It’s more than checking the box.”  And so it began, my cohort of new general officers was beginning their journey of senior leadership with a fundamental truth.  Only by learning to be courageous can we truly be genuine leaders of those on the battlefield.  It is, therefore, our sacred duty to be involved in the teaching of virtue to those we lead in combat.

In the military, we teach virtuous behavior.  We may not call it that.  Often, we say we are teaching core values, those characteristics that help us achieve the mission of our organization or of the groups to which we belong.  Consequently, a virtue is a quality that allows people to succeed with their purpose.  But what is our “purpose?”

According to Aristotle, the proper purpose of human life is exercising a well-lived life (he called it Eudemonia).  He advised us that a well-lived life is achieved only in the presence of other humans.  That may seem obvious to the casual observer but this was a new idea that we humans could change our character, learn, and teach it.  In the ancient world, our way of life was predetermined and unchangeable.

Life presents us, at every moment, opportunities to practice virtuous behavior.  How we chose to act is a measure of our virtues.  Like a musical instrument, the more we practice, the better we become.  It takes practice to master anything and the virtues are no exception.1  It means more than checking the box by being present; we must also be part of the solution.  That is why it is of the highest responsibility of all leaders to teach virtue.

The teaching of virtue comes with an elemental supposition.  That supposition is that everyone can be taught and can learn virtuous behavior.  One does not have to be a great mind, or famous, or a great philosopher.  Anyone can learn.  Everyone can learn virtue, if only we put aside our negative emotions and look to a bright future.

One does not have to be a leader of men on the battlefield to gain an appreciation of such an idea.  The teaching of virtue begins at home and is reinforced in a formal educational system.  Any system of education that does not teach virtue as a specific goal is not teaching.  That is why we find that soldiers who are cowards in combat, corrupt politicians, and people who commit a crime have rejected virtuous behavior for a quick-fix to their problems.

The teaching of virtue is an occupation of the utmost consequence.  None of us in my class of newbie generals would ever forget our lessons in virtue.


  1. http://beliefcloset.com/resources/articles/the-master-list-of-virtues-and-vices/
Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article everyday on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

22 thoughts on “Teaching of Virtue

  1. Mikka Solarno

    If only, if only our teachers who teach our young children could see the damage they are causing the world, maybe they would step up and stop the indoctrination of socialism.

    1. Mr. T.J. Asper

      True and something I never gave much thought to. Thanks Albert.

  2. Valkerie

    Thank you General Satterfield for reminding us of what we should be doing as leaders. Supporting efforts to teach virtue in our school systems is what it takes to ensure the good life in those that follow us.

  3. Max Foster

    Let’s not miss the point that Gen. Satterfield is trying to set out for us. Actually he has two points and one can be easily overlooked. The main point is that virtue can and should be explicitly taught to kids from a young age. Second, and less obvious, is that the point of life is for well-being (not happiness that shallow thinking proposes). To achieve well being means to adopt responsibility and to tell the truth. That, my friends, is what makes us good people. I could go on and on about politicians who have sold their soul to the devil but that would waste my time. Keep up the great works here, Gen. Satterfield. 😊

    1. Harry Donner

      Excellent observation, Max. I too saw what he was trying to say. What is the purpose of life? Philosophers have tackled that question since the beginning of mankind. Let us not get hung up on it but know that to live a good life means to adopt responsibility and tell the truth.

      1. Len Jakosky

        True. Thanks for supporting Max on this issue.

    2. Willie Shrumburger

      Well said Max. I too believe that Gen. Satterfield has developed a great baseline of virtues for all of us to follow. But he is only pointing out what used to be taught and reinforced in the lives of people. Now, ‘modern’ individuals reject goodness like religion and community service and have substituted things like protesting for compassion. What a reversal!

  4. Kenny Foster

    When a person lacks the moral courage to act virtuously, bad things happen. Just look at the US Embassy in Baghdad Iraq when Iranian-backed “protesters” stormed the compound grounds. The US is seen as a paper tiger. That is largely the fault of US Pres Obama. He was the apology-president. That was a bad time for the US and the West.

    1. Deplorable John

      Unfortunately, Obama’s terrible legacy continues to hurt the people of the U.S. and the rest of the world. When a senior leader apologizes for the good that has been done by his nation, evil grows. Obama helped evil grow across the world. He is complicit. Of course, now he is a multimillionaire and is enjoying his “retirement.”

      1. Darryl Sitterly

        So very true and will hurt good people for many years to come.

    2. Janna Faulkner

      Obama was a good talker and that was his virtue. But he lacked the strength and soul of a leader who could unite.

      1. apache2

        For Pres Obama, the ends justified the means. That is why he set the US DOJ and FBI onto Donald Trump and spied on him. That is undoubtedly the greatest scandal in American history. But the lying media is ignoring it.

  5. Linux Man

    Thank you, Gen. Satterfield for an enlightening article this morning. What a great way to start the new year but with the idea that virtue can be learn, if only we put our mind to it.

  6. Fred Weber

    I only wish for the new year is that our primary and secondary educational systems would teach virtue. That, I’m afraid, will not happen. There is no moral courage anymore in our schools.

    1. JT Patterson

      I’m afraid that you are right about the observation that moral courage is lacking in our pre-college education system. Even when colleges and universities try to brainwash young minds, one antidote would be a virtue education that prevents such socialist ideology.

      1. Doc Blackshear

        Good point JT. We are still looking for the antidote and ‘courage’ is it.

    2. Jonnie the Bart

      Not all minds of our young are full of garbage that our formal education puts out. I find, every day, young folks who are not fully indoctrinated. I’m sure their liberal teachers hate them. I use the term “hate” specifically because that is what drives them. That is why Marxism works so well. Hate is an emotion that can motivate even the laziest person.

      1. Yusaf from Texas

        Spot on comment, Jonnie. Hate does motivate. It works because it is the base of our human emotions and something that is easy to do when the minds of the young are constantly trained to accept anything that passes as “compassion”.

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