chapter  2
14 Pages

Character and the Presidency

The term character is derived from the Greek word meaning “engrav­ ing.”4 In his classic work on personality theory, Gordon Allport defined it as “a person’s patterns of traits or his lifestyle” (1937, chap. 1). He distin­ guished character from personality. Personality denotes “appearance, visi­ ble behavior, surface quality,” while character implies “deep (perhaps in­ born), fixed and basic structure.” 5

The early understanding of character reflected several basic clinical observations. First, character operates across a number of key areas of psychological functioning. Second, character elements produce observable, consistent patterns. A person who speaks in measured tones, uses precise words, is meticulous about arriving on time for appointments, and per­ ceives the world in detailed terms is not likely to be given to wild displays of public emotion. Third, because character is basic to psychological func­ tioning, it is present in a variety of social situations.6