Seventeen years ago, the Orangeburg County Chamber of Commerce partnered with the Downtown Orangeburg Revitalization Association, the Orangeburg County Development Commission and The Times and Democrat to build a “Community of Character.”
The initiative was based on a similar program in the City of Aiken. In Orangeburg County, however, there was the ambitious approach of going countywide with a focus on building positive character traits among citizens. It worked, with all of the county’s municipalities signing on in support.
Over the years, the county's leadership role in character education, emphasized in schools and communities, has received statewide recognition in the form of resolutions from former Govs. Jim Hodges and Mark Sanford.
And Orangeburg County has modeled its program for others, holding statewide character conrferences in 2005 and 2009, events at which people from other locales came together here to learn more about the effort and assist it.
An important aspect is monthly emphasis on a trait that every person needs in his or her individual character portfolio.
In June, the trait is diligence, defined as "steady, earnest and energetic effort; persevering application." A second definition is: "the attention and care legally expected or required of a person (such as a party to a contract)."
Webster's offers examples:
- He/she showed great diligence in tracking down the story.
- He/she worked with diligence to scrub off the pain.
- Go, hence with diligence! — Shakespeare.
The late Austin Cunningham was known as a champion for Orangeburg, a dedicated man who did more than observe from the sideline. He was a driving force behind the Community of Character campaign. He was an avid reader, always an individual with wide knowledge and an ability to articulate it.
He wrote about different character traits.
Here are examples he offered pertaining to diligence and the related trait of perseverance.
"Diligence means resolution, determination, bravery, decisiveness, resolve, will, purpose, resoluteness, persistence, earnestness; that you’re serious, firm, staunch, unyielding.
"That you have spunk, pluck backbone, grit, stamina, guts, strength, moral fiber, a will of iron, a mind of your own, willpower, courage of your convictions, self-reliance, mean business, have constancy, dogged tenaciousness, endurance, diligence.
"You’re unwavering, know your own mind, put your shoulder to the wheel, take bull by the horns, hold your ground, stick to your guns, adhere to principles, take a stand, put your foot down, make no bones about it, keep the ball rolling, hang on for dear life, see it through, move heaven and earth, never say die, go through fire and water, go through thick and thin.
"If at first you don't succeed, try, try again."
The goal of enhancing the quality of life by teaching basic virtues and ideals, such as the importance of diligence, continues to be worthwhile here, around South Carolina and everywhere.