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May 21, 2017

Character Counts

I have attended the Robert D. Ray Pillar of Character Award’s “All-Star dinner” for many years now. The annual dinner raises funds for the Robert D. and Billie Ray Center at Drake University, which provides character and leadership development strategies through Character Counts and other educational programming for children, families and communities.

It has been inspirational watching amazing people like Casey Blake and Aaron Kampman walk onto the stage and receive The Ray Exemplar Award, an award that is Presented to individuals who consistently demonstrate good character as a visible role model.

This year the award was given to Ashton Kutcher. The award recognizes Kutcher’s humanitarian, educational and entrepreneurial efforts around the world — from co-founding the Native Iowa Fund to aid Iowans in need, especially in the aftermath of natural disasters, to Thorn: Digital Defenders of Children, developing software to help combat human trafficking and the sexual exploitation of children.

“Ashton is a leader in the next generation of Americans who are passionately working to bring positive change to the world,” said former Governor Robert D. Ray. “Ashton continues to be guided by his Iowa values and puts his character into action with efforts such as funding 132 Iowa school projects or helping Iowans after natural disasters. We are honored to have the opportunity to celebrate his achievements as a philanthropist, activist and thought leader.”

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One thing I loved about Ashton receiving this award was how honest he was, citing a few wild mistakes, needed failures, and fun risks that he embraces because they helped shape his character through real life lessons. However he did also credit his family and Boy Scouts for ultimately shaping his character, instilling in him the need to give back.

Another cool thing was when Mila Kunis received an “Honorary Iowan” certificate from Gov.

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Mila Kunis is now an Iowa girl!
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Looking like a child during school photos as I point out my husband to Sage Rosenfels
Robert D. Ray Pillar of Character Award
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What is Character Counts?

It is not a one-size-fits-all program nor a scope & sequence curriculum. Instead, their strategy focuses on the root of change – mindset & behavior modification. Their framework called The Four Wheels of Success (which includes The Six Pillars of Character) provides a common language and expectations that helps develop Academic, Social, Emotional skills and Character traits. =


What are the six pillars of character?

The Six Pillars of Character are the framework for teaching good character and is composed of six ethical values (characteristics) everyone can agree upon: Trustworthiness; Respect; Responsibility; Fairness; Caring; and Citizenship. Each of the six character traits are used within our CHARACTER COUNTS! program to help instill a positive learning environment for students and a “culture of kindness” making schools a safe environment for students to learn. The Six Pillars of Character values are not political, religious, or culturally biased. In fact, every year since 1995 our program has been officially recognized and endorsed by the U.S. Senate and The President of the United States.

Trustworthiness: Think “true blue” •  Be honest – Don’t deceive, cheat, or steal • Be reliable — do what you say you’ll do • Have the courage to do the right thing • Build a good reputation • Be loyal — stand by your family, friends, and country.

Respect: Treat others with respect; follow the Golden Rule • Be tolerant and accepting of differences • Use good manners, not bad language • Be considerate of the feelings of others • Don’t threaten, hit or hurt anyone • Deal peacefully with anger, insults, and disagreements.

Responsibility: Do what you are supposed to do • Plan ahead • Be diligent • Persevere • Do your best • Use self-control • Be self-disciplined • Think before you act • Be accountable for your words, actions, and attitudes • Set a good example for others.

Fairness: Play by the rules • Take turns and share • Be open-minded; listen to others • Don’t take advantage of others • Don’t blame others carelessly • Treat all people fairly.

Caring: Be kind • Be compassionate and show you care • Express gratitude • Forgive others • Help people in need • Be charitable and altruistic.

Citizenship: Do your share to make your school and community better • Cooperate • Get involved in community affairs • Stay informed; vote • Be a good neighbor • Obey laws and rules • Respect authority • Protect the environment • Volunteer.


What is the Robert D. Ray Pillar of Character Award?

The Robert D. Ray Awards are our organization’s highest honor and reflect former Governor Ray’s lifelong commitment to civility and character development.The Pillar of Character Award was presented to Governor Ray in 2003 for his visionary leadership and inspiration to meet their mission as well as the exemplary character he demonstrates. The Award was then named in honor of Governor Ray as the founder and board chairman of The Ray Center.


A little more about the dinner:

Every year there is an auction, this year (2017) the event generated more than $450,000.

Each All Star can donate as many things as they wish to help raise money with the auction. This year I donated our Miss US ring, but there are always really cool sports things up for auction like signed jerseys or season tickets.

miss us ring

basketball jerseys football jerseys autographed

Aside from walking away even year from this dinner knowing it is all to better the children of our future and making me want to be a better person, I look forward to this dinner because of so many personal reasons as well.

One, it brings me back home

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Two, I love getting to know the people at my table each year


Three, I get to reconnect with some pretty amazing people

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Four, it always brings back good memories from the years before.

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