Baby Boomers vividly remember documenting in our personal essay for admission to college evidence of our "good character." Teachers who submitted our recommendations also had to note how solid our character was.
Then the U.S. economy took off. Even we first-generation college kids had a shot at wealth, status and influence. Women were allowed into the workplace in Corporate America. I was so taken with myself that I, a poor female from the mean streets of Jersey City, New Jersey, was writing speeches and articles for executives at Chevron.
The preoccupation with character fell off the radar. In its place was the hunger for more.
Had the ethos of good character prevailed, amid affluence, ambitious professionals like Bernie Madoff and Rajat Gupta might never had crossed the line between ethical, legal choices and unethical, illegal ones.
Has America finally reached the tipping point? Do we recognize that good character is critical to faith in capitalism? And have we begun to struggle to find that road rarely traveled in the recent past? Can being good become cool again?
The New York Times columnist, David Brooks, has arrived with some help. His book is "Road to Character." It was published in mid April. It remains at 14 on Amazon.com and has received 228 reviews.
On the other hand, Jack Welch's book "The Real Life M.B.A." is at 2,311 on Amazon. There are 45 reviews. It was released about the same time as "Road to Character."
America knows how to do business. What we don't know is how to help our best and brightest stay out of prison. The sad irony here is that Welch, with so much broad experience, could have given America a disruptive book on values.