CHARACTER COUNTS! is a project of the nonprofit, nonsectarian Joseph & Edna Josephson Institute of Ethics, a public 501(c)(3) charity based in Los Angeles CA.


The Institute was founded in 1987 by Michael Josephson, a law professor who established the Institute in honor of his parents, Joseph and Edna with funds generated by the sale of a private legal publishing and bar preparation business. Since its inception, Mr. Josephson, with a brief hiatus in 2014-2016 has served as a full-time volunteer president and CEO of the Institute and CHARACTER COUNTS! He has authored a number of books, including The Best Is Yet to Come, You Don’t Have to Be Sick to Get Better!, Making Ethical Decisions and Becoming an Exemplary Peace Officer. He also coauthored Parenting to Build Character in Your Teen. (see full biography)

The Aspen Declaration & Creation of CHARACTER COUNTS!

In July 1992, the Josephson Institute of Ethics hosted a 3-day summit of prominent youth leaders, educators and character education scholars in Aspen, Colorado. The result was this declaration, which provided the guiding principles for the CHARACTER COUNTS! movement that currently reaches about 8 million young people. It is clear that the eight sentences making up the Declaration is as profound and pertinent as it was 21 years ago.

CHARACTER COUNTS! was created in 1992 with a coalition of 17 nationally prominent youth serving and educational organizations. Today there are hundreds of member organizations and CC! serves millions of children and their families every year. It is, by a very large margin, the largest character development organization in the world. The program, initially focused exclusively on the development of core ethical traits – trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship (the Six Pillars of Character) –  has continually evolved reflecting current research and best practices to become a comprehensive student development program embracing academic, social and emotional skills and traits as well as the Six Pillars.

1. The next generation will be the stewards of our communities, nation and planet in extraordinarily critical times. 


2. In such times, the well-being of our society requires an involved, caring citizenry with good moral character.


 3. People do not automatically develop good moral character; therefore, conscientious efforts must be made to help young people develop the values and abilities necessary for moral decision making and conduct.
 4. Effective character education is based on core ethical values rooted in democratic society, in particular, respect, responsibility, trustworthiness, justice and fairness, caring and civic virtue and citizenship.
 5. These core ethical values transcend cultural, religious and socioeconomic differences.
 6. Character education is, first and foremost, an obligation of families and faith communities, but schools and youth-service organizations also have a responsibility to help develop the character of young people.
 7. These responsibilities are best achieved when these groups work in concert.
 8. The character and conduct of our youth reflect the character and conduct of society; therefore, every adult has the responsibility to teach and model the core ethical values and every social institution has the responsibility to promote the development of good character.

About Josephson Institute

The Josephson Institute develops and delivers services and materials to increase ethical commitment, competence and practice in all segments of society.  A nonpartisan and nonsectarian 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, the Institute is funded by individual donations, foundation and corporate grants, fees and contributions for services, and sales of publications, curricular materials and other products. The mission of the Josephson Institute is “To improve the ethical quality of society by changing personal and organizational decision making and behavior.”