Several years ago, while I was stopped at the intersection of Cowell Road and Treat Boulevard, a school bus slowly passed me as it made a left turn on to Treat.

As the bus passed, I heard something hit the back window of my car followed by the sound of shattering glass.

Knowing that the projectile came from the bus, I began following it down Treat Boulevard. As I was driving behind the bus I could see the heads of children pop up and look back to see if I was following.

I knew that the kids in the bus were aware of what had happened.

When we reached the elementary school, I got out and explained to the unknowing bus driver what had happened. One of the school administrators entered the bus and asked if the child responsible would raise his or her hand and come forward.

I was doubtful that we would get a ready confession, but to my surprise a small, trembling hand rose above the crowd. A young, visibly shaken boy came forward to take responsibility for his actions.

I was so impressed by this boy's courage that this incident has stayed with me as an example of character in action. (Not the throwing something out the window part, but for taking responsibility.)

About four years ago, we began discussing the idea of creating an initiative in the Clayton community to foster and promote good character traits. A committee was formed with the principals from Mt. Diablo Elementary and Diablo View Middle School, representation from Clayton Valley High School (pre-charter), parent faculty club presidents, the chief of police, president of the Clayton Business and Community Association, and a few interested residents.

Over the course of a few months the Do the Right Thing program was formed in the city of Clayton.

The committee selected six character traits which are emphasized during the year:

  • January and February: Self-discipline

  • March and April: Integrity

  • May, June and July: Courage

  • August and September: Responsibility

  • October: Respect

  • November and December: Kindness.

    The committee felt that these are some of the character traits that benefit society and make for a good citizen. Of course, there are other important traits, but we wanted to limit the number to six.

    Since the formation of Do the Right Thing, each school has incorporated the program into its daily routine in unique ways.

    As a community, we display a banner with the current character trait and remind residents at our City Council meetings. Our police cars display the motto in the back window.

    Every couple of months or so, at the end of one of the character trait cycles, each school will recommend a couple of students to be recognized for exemplifying that particular trait.

    These students are recognized and given a certificate at a Clayton City Council meeting -- which are often the best meetings of the year.

    Hank Stratford is the mayor of Clayton. Contact him at hstratford@ci.clayton.ca.us.