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Richard Weissbourd, Mann Rentoy, Dr. Thomas Lickona and Dr. Arthur Schwartz congratulate Dr. Michele Borba for receiving the 2021 Sanford N. McDonnell Lifetime Achievement Award.

Read our official press release.

Dr. Michele Borba

Tribute from Richard Weissbourd

Richard Weissbourd is Senior Lecturer and Faculty Director of Making Caring Common at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. He is also a Senior Lectureer at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.

Tribute from Mann Rentoy

Mann Rentoy is the Founding President of Character Education Partnership Philippines and Executive Director of Center for the 4th & 5th Rs Asia.

Tribute from Dr. Thomas Lickona

Michele Borba’s lifelong work in the cause of character makes her, in my humble judgment, an unsurpassingly worthy recipient of the “Sandy.” She is an educational psychologist, best-selling author, and regular TODAY show contributor who has spoken to more than a million participants in 19 countries on five continents.

If you’ve read any of her 24 books, you know that no one is better at providing take-aways you can use tomorrow. If you’ve ever heard her speak, you know that no one is more inspiring. She also has given long and generous service to many organizations and to Character.org as a Board member, Forum keynoter, and informal advisor. Former Character.org CEO Mark Hyatt says, “Whenever I needed advice on the toughest issues, Dr. Borba was who I called first. After the Sandy Hook tragedy, I was invited to help write a report for the President about the ‘way ahead.’ Dr. Borba was the first I asked for advice, and the President used some of what she provided in his speech to the nation.” Her earlier proposal, “Ending School Violence and Bullying,” had been signed into California law.

No character educator has a stronger media presence. She has been on NBC’s TODAY show more than 150 times and has appeared on Dr. Phil, The View, NBC Nightly News, Anderson Cooper, MSNBC, Fox & Friends, and CNN. Her work has been featured in publications such as TIME, Washington Post, Newsweek, and The New York Times.

Our Center’s character education library included a half-dozen of her books. The first one I read was Parents Do Make a Difference, named one of Child Magazine’s “Top Ten Parenting Books of the Year.” Amazon’s Parenting Editors named her next book, Building Moral Intelligence, one of their “Top Ten Parenting Books of the Year.” More recently, in 2017, Publishers Weekly gave UnSelfie, on fostering empathy, a starred review: “Parenting expert Borba traveled the world and researched for decades before writing this fresh and powerful primer on raising caring kids.”

For me, the most persuasive praise for a book comes from people who make use of it. Here are just two of UnSelfie’s more than 500 Amazon reader reviews:

As a parent, I love being able to use the strategies in this book to teach my daughter to be an empathic and compassionate person. As an educator, I can’t wait to use these strategies with my students. They show how to use everyday life to teach empathy.


I have always been a fan of Dr. Michele Borba and have heard her speak many times. I have admired her passion about and insight on reducing bullying in schools, and now this book—I am promoting it everywhere! I will buy it as a gift for all new parents I know and will share this information with educators in my work on developing positive school culture.

In 2021 Dr. Borba published Thrivers on the importance of resilience. Here’s what two readers said:

As an elementary educator for the last 15 years, I finally found a book that helped me understand why kids come to school struggling, drained, and overwhelmed. Thrivers not only provides readers with current research but has practical tips that both parents and educators can use. If you are worried about your children’s mental health, depression, anxiety, and stress, you must read this life-changing book.


As a practicing licensed psychotherapist, I find this book a must-have for working with families and children. Dr. Borba has perfected the art of simplifying the complexity of childrearing into steps for the best outcomes.

If you haven’t yet had the pleasure of learning from Michele Borba, I hope you soon will.

Thomas Lickona, Ph.D. is the Director of the Center for the 4th and 5th Rs and Professor of Education Emeritus, State University of New York at Cortland.

Tribute from Dr. Arthur Schwartz

Several weeks ago I had the honor to inform Michele Borba that she is our 2021 “Sandy Award” recipient. She started to cry, and then I started crying. We were shedding tears of joy, in part  because we were sharing “Sandy” stories. In so many ways, Sandy McDonnell served as a mentor and inspiration to us both.

I’ve known Michele for many years. When it comes to standing up for character development, she is a fearless warrior. Michele has empowered millions of parents to make a positive difference in the lives of their children. Each of her 24 books, 18 of which are on my bookshelf, overflow with practical tips on ways to foster character strengths in young people.

Years ago I had a conversation with Michele that still stirs my soul. We always found a time to get together during Character.org’s Annual Forum. This one year Michele had recently returned from a war-torn country where she had given a series of talks to civic leaders, educators and families. I could hear in Michele’s voice how emotionally-draining the experience had been for her. But that’s not what Michele wanted to tell me. Rather, with her face beaming with hope and optimism, Michele wanted me to know about the steeled resiliency of the teachers she met and how the parents she was supposed to inspire had inspired her. It was at that moment when I realized that Michele doesn’t have a career; she is one of the few people I know who has truly used her gifts to serve a noble calling. Michele is passion-fueled and purpose-driven.

Empathy is Michele’s signature gift. Each of her books are prophetic dispatches to nurture and support young people who are the “last, lost, or least” among us. Every speaking engagement and media appearance is another opportunity for Michele to let her audience know that empathy and caring are the two touchstones of positive youth development.

On behalf of the board and staff at Character.org, thank you Michele for being an advocate for character. Your voice has inspired millions.

Dr. Arthur Schwartz is President of Character.org.

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