Tiffany Shlain is an Emmy-nominated filmmaker, founder of The Webby Awards, co-founder of The International Academy of Digital Arts & Sciences, and co-founder of two global initiatives, Character Day and 50/50 Day — unified days of film and discussion about important issues shaping our lives that unite over 100,000 live events all linked together online with speakers and one theme.
As we absorb the disturbing news these days, it’s clear that it’s time to recalibrate and revisit some fundamental questions that humans have been asking since the beginning of time: What kind of people do we want to be? What values do we want to bring to the world — as individuals and as a society? How do we ensure that our behavior reflects the best outcomes not just for us but for the world as a whole? How can we be good and do good in this new environment? The Internet has made collaboration possible on a universal scale. It has never been more important to focus on team cooperation, connection, stress management, mindful leadership, and developing emotional intelligence.
We may be talking about corporate values, neuroscience, politics, emotional learning, our constant “busyness”, psychology, or mindfulness, but at the core, we’re really talking about the same concept: strengthening our character.
Four years ago, our filmmaking team began an experiment. We had just completed a film called The Science of Character, which explores recent breakthroughs in the neuroscience and social science of character development — concepts like our proven ability to strengthen qualities including persistence, kindness, creativity, courage, and humility. So we thought, what would it look like to have people around the globe all premiere the film, for free, on the same day — one day devoted to talking about character from all different perspectives.
Character Day was born. We hoped, that first year, to engage 250 groups with the film, accompanying discussion materials, and a unified conversation. We were blown away. 1,500 screenings in 31 countries The second year, participation was even more widespread. There were over 6,700 Character Day events in 41 countries. From entire school districts like San Francisco Unified to public libraries to congregations to organizations around the globe. Millions of people joined in. The third year the event skyrocketed with over 93,000 events in 125 countries! We are expecting over 100,000 this year. Clearly, we as a human race are craving this conversation. It’s for all of us — our students, our companies, our employees, our communities, our families. We are at a critical point where we need to bring “developing our character” back into the conversation.
When we started to dig deeper into the history of character, what we learned was fascinating: Character education used to be part of the standard curriculum. But when the separation of church and state happened, character education was deemed “religious,” and was relegated to religious settings. And that’s where it lived for quite a while. But today it’s a bit more complicated. Religious affiliation around the world, and particularly in the United States, is at an all-time low. So where’s our character education? Where are our systems of checks and balances, our tools for guidance and growth and accountability with character?
For this coming Character Day, participants will be able to:
While Character Day is only one day a year, thousands of participants are using it as a jumping off point for an ongoing conversation about character and not just a single discussion day. There is a larger trend building within schools, corporations, companies, congregations, and families around the world. It is time to bring character back, and return focus to the values we want to contribute to the world.
We’ve seen the difference it can make. This year, we expect the impact to be even larger. We invite you to join us as we see what millions of minds, all focused on character, can do. Please sign up at characterday.org. Everything is free thanks to generous grants and donations. To #CultivatingCharacter!