We just wrapped up an outstanding first day at the 2012 the National Forum on Character Education – #cep2012. The day was filled with lots of excitement and energy.

The day kicked off with some attendees getting an inside look at Mount Vernon where our first president George Washington made his home. Attendees that participated in CEP’s “Educators Walking Tour of Mount Vernon” got the pleasure of hearing Dr. Peter Henriques share about George Washington’s principles, philosophies, and leadership qualities.

“Leadership is so clearly communicating someone’s value to them that they begin to believe it themselves.”  – George Washington 

Other attendees toured various National Schools of Character to get a firsthand look at the tremendous impact Character Education has on these schools. They toured schools like Washington DC’s Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology which has been consistently ranked as one of the top schools in the country.

Afternoon sessions were filled by various In-Depth workshops. Workshops such as “Teaching Kids to Be Good People” led by respected educator, Annie Fox, gave participants in this dynamic, provocative workshop an opportunity to explore how to help students internalize positive character traits. In addition to exploring methods in character education, Fox also clearly laid out a clear and compelling message to parents. In her words, “If you don’t teach your kids how to behave, who will?”

Also in the afternoon, CEP was proud to host the first ever International Summit – pulling together representatives from 12 countries in hopes of unleashing a coordinated global character education effort. Kenya, Japan, Singapore, Canada, USA, Mexico, Colombia, Philippines, Indonesia, Taiwan, Turkey, and Australia were all present and discussed character issues facing their particular cultures. The discussion was facilitated by Nathan Rosenburg from Insigniam and featured “musical chairs” type of discussions where educators moved to different groups for each specific roundtable question. It resulted in excellent considerations and next steps for building a strong international character education movement.

One key recurring theme: how does the definition and education of character differ across cultures? Are there things we can agree on? What are pitfalls to avoid when attempting a coordinated effort? Huge thanks to the talented and committed international representatives who lent their passionate voices to the conversation!

To wrap up a packed day, Peter Yarrow of famed folk group Peter, Paul and Mary, shared a wonderful, intimate song session with attendees. Peter has dedicated his life to spreading the message of respect and compassion. You can check out more of what he’s doing by going to operationrespect.org

“Development happens in parallel. We don’t grow academically for a while, then grow social skills, then later grow character.” -Peter Yarrow