Orangeburg County Courthouse square carries important messages for our society.

A monument to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is featured prominently. It includes a bronze statue of King speaking at a podium, along with a fountain and a marker referencing his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.

There is a quote from King: "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

Nearby is a sign that has been visible at the courthouse for years. It features the Ten Commandments.

While the sign is on private property -- St. Paul’s United Methodist Church – it’s hard to believe King would not have approved of a reminder of the commandments’ importance.

Cast aside controversy about the Ten Commandments as a religious display. The tenets therein are part of the teachings of all great religions, from Buddhism to Islam and Hinduism. They are basic to civilization.

That is why today's character education initiatives are not embroiled in debate about the Ten Commandments. They incorporate the commandments’ principles as integral to the education process and to solving societal problems.

The national Character Counts Coalition identifies "Six Pillars of Character": trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship. Trustworthiness is this month’s character trait for the Orangeburg County Community of Character campaign. The other five have been emphasized in other months.

And there are 10 basic rules that can form the foundation of character development.

1. Be honest: tell the truth, be sincere; don't betray a trust, deceive, mislead, be devious or tricky, or withhold important information in relationships of trust; don't steal, cheat, or defraud.

2. Demonstrate integrity: stand up for your beliefs about right and wrong; be your best self; resist social pressures to do things you think are wrong; walk your talk; show commitment, courage and self-discipline.

3. Keep promises: keep your word and honor your commitments -- pay your debts, return what you borrow.

4. Be loyal: stand by, support and protect your family, friends, employers, community and country; don't talk behind people's backs, spread rumors or engage in harmful gossip; don't violate other ethical principles to keep or win a friendship or gain approval; don't ask a friend to do something wrong.

5. Be responsible: think before you act -- consider the possible consequences on all people affected by your actions (''stakeholders''); be accountable, ''take your medicine,'' accept responsibility for the consequences of your choices; be reliable; set a good example; don't blame others for your mistakes or take credit for others' achievements; exercise self-control, be disciplined.

6. Pursue excellence: do your best with what you have; keep trying, don't quit or give up easily; be diligent and industrious.

7. Be kind and caring: show that you care about others through kindness, caring, generosity, sharing and compassion; live by the Golden Rule; don't be selfish, mean, cruel or insensitive to the feelings of others.

8. Treat all people with respect: be courteous and polite; judge all people on their merits; be tolerant, appreciative and accepting of individual differences; don't intentionally injure anyone; don't abuse, demean, or mistreat anyone; don't use, manipulate, exploit or take advantage of others; respect the right of individuals to make decisions about their own lives.

9. Be fair: treat all people fairly; be open-minded; listen to others and try to understand what they are saying and feeling; make decisions only on appropriate considerations; don't take unfair advantage of others' mistakes; don't take more than your fair share.

10. Be a good citizen: play by the rules, obey laws; do your share; respect authority; stay informed, vote, protect your family and community, report crimes; be charitable and altruistic; assist your community, school, or organizations you are interested in by volunteering service; protect the environment; conserve natural resources.

We're less concerned about what the teachings are called than we are about the tenets embodied in the Ten Commandments being taught. Whether they are verbatim from the Christian Bible or adaptations such as for character programs, the broader point is to see that people learn the rules and live by them.

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