"Real Character" by Marcus Garvey
Greatness, Marcus Garvey argued, could only be achieved through education, perseverance, and one's innate talents should not be squandered on distractions such as "trashy literature...that is to say, don't pay any attention to the ten cents novels, wild west stories and cheap sentimental books." The upliftment of the race could only be achieved by individual commitment to values that would benefit the community.
When wealth is lost, nothing is lost,
When health is lost, something is lost,
When character is lost, all is lost.
The greatest possession of man is character. He can well afford to lose his wealth, and even his health, because if he has character he can recover them. So few men pay attention to the most essential natural element in good living. If more people had devoted themselves to the development of good character there would have been less misery and less unhappiness in the world.
All men who have conquered in every walk and sphere of life, were fellows with good character, that is to say, they were men who found the noblest in themselves, who felt that self-development and self-growth were the greatest expression of a normal existence. Those who have failed to develop the meritorious character have become the stragglers who everybody passes on the wayside.
With sterling character you can destroy a world and rebuild it, you can go down into the depths and them rise to the heights, you can meet adversity and laugh at it on the way back to prosperity. It is only a characterless coward who goes down permanently. The fellow with the sterling worth, with the urge of honesty, of self-confidence, of nobility, sees no defeat, admits of no handicap, nor barriers, he must climb to the surface. Can we not inspire ourselves to develop the finest and nobler character that would make us builders, not only of ourselves, but to our country? Can we not point ourselves to the deeds of other men who have from obscurity lifted themselves to the highest of human usefulness all through the development of real character?
The chance of raising above the level of unfortunate men is for every one who will ennoble himself by forcing out the good that is in him. What good you have in you, please bring it out. Nature never made you so soul-less, so character-less, as not to have some virtue that can be brought to the surface... realize that you have something in you that is worthwhile. Search yourself and find it. It is a noble character that may mean a nobler life to be lived for the blessing of humanity. After reading this, make up your mind to come out of yourself and let the world know you and of you. You can do it.
Article in the New Jamaican, January 14, 1933
See also The Course of African Philosophy, ed . Tony Martin. Dover: Majority Press, 1986
Exonerate Marcus Garvey
To be delivered to President Barack Obama