Eight Sentences That Changed the World: The Aspen Declaration

In July 1992, the nonprofit 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.


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.

Comments 3

  1. Kia ora,

    I am in NZ and working with youth who have little or no values. Part of the programme is to teach the students cultural values as well as ethical values. I like the look of the Aspen Declaration and would like to refer to it in my modules please. I work for a non-profit and the sale price – if any – would be to recuperate printing, editing and design costs of my modules, thanks Cindy Mokomoko
    Post-grad Dip Soc Sc; MSW; Post-grad Dip Child and Adolescent Mental Health; Post-grad Business Management in Health; Post-grad Dip Social Sector Evaluation Research

    1. Just saw your comment, Cindy.

      It might be unfair to say that your students have “little to know values.” They obviously do have values, passed down to them from their parents and communities, so it might be more accurate to say that they don’t have values that would be seen to be produce adults who can be constructive members of society, and who can be resilient and proactive in the face of the coming challenges, to bring about positive change.

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