Michael Josephson is an influential and internationally renowned champion of character education for youth and ethical conduct in business, government, policing, journalism, sports, healthcare and law.  He is credited by many as the person most responsible for reviving and professionalizing the character education in school and youth-serving organizations.

In 1987, after a distinguished 20-year career teaching law and as the CEO of a prominent legal education company (Josephson bar Review Center), he resigned his professorship and sold his business to found the Joseph & Edna Josephson Institute of Ethics, a nonprofit organization named in honor of his parents where he serves as the Institute’s president. All proceeds from his presentations and consultations go to the Institute.

In 1992, under the auspices of the Josephson Institute he created CHARACTER COUNTS!, the world’s most widely implemented character development initiative based on a common language of shared values – the Six Pillars of Character) and Pursuing Victory With Honor (1996)a companion program promoting ethics in sports. These programs reach about 8 million young people and their families each year. Every year since 1993, the U.S. Senate passes a joint resolution and the president signs a proclamation declaring the third week in October National CHARACTER COUNTS! Week.

Employing his groundbreaking insights and strategies, Mr. Josephson has assisted corporations, state legislatures, government agencies, and professionals in politics, education, sports, journalism, healthcare, law, and the nonprofit community to strengthen individual and institutional decision-making and create sustainable ethical cultures. Clients include many of the most influential companies, agencies and organizations.

He has authored more than a dozen books and major studies including biennial surveys and reports on the Ethics of American Youth (since 1992 these reports provide the benchmark for measuring the values, attitudes and conduct of high school students), a Model Code of Journalism Ethics for Associated Press Managing Editors, Olympism and Olympic Ideals for the U.S. Olympic Committee, Make US Proud (training program for all U.S. athletes participating in the 2012 Olympic Games); and the  Exemplary Peace Officer series (for police) In 2014, he wrote the Model Standards for Academic, Social, Emotional and Character Development providing a road map for educators for a comprehensive integrated student development model. He also maintains several social media communication channels.

He has been named the UCLA Alumnus of the Year, an honor given to less than 70 of the nearly 600,000 people who earned degrees from UCLA. He has also received America’s Award for Integrity presented by former President Ronald Reagan. In 2015 the U.S. State Department commissioned him to consult with government and educational institutions in Seoul, South Korea regarding their character education efforts.

Michael Josephson’s highest priority, however, is his family – his son Justin, and his four daughters Samara, Abrielle, Carissa, and Mataya.


All listed books, reports and programs were personally written, designed and delivered by Michael Josephson. The following is just a sampling of Mr. Josephson’s achievements and activities.

Updated through January 31, 2016

  • Personal (P)
  • Character Development (C)
  • Business (B)
  • Government (G)
  • Sports (S)
  • Law Enforcement (LE)
  • Law (L)
  • Healthcare (H)
  • Journalism (J)
  • Religion (R)

P 1942: Born in Brooklyn, NY. Raised in Los Angeles since 1946.

P 1964: B.A. UCLA.

P 1964-1967UCLA Law School.  American Jurisprudence Prize in Evidence. National Prize in Copyright Law (for proposing an alternative system). Chairman of the UCLA (university-wide) Board of Governors (he initiated a special book discount program for students creating a model still used at UCLA and other universities). Chief Justice Moot Court Honors Program and created, co-authored and published “The Handbook of Appellate Advocacy” a book used by moot court programs throughout the nation for over a decade (earned funds supporting the UCLA program).

P 1967: J.D.  UCLA Law School. Selected to deliver Valedictory address representing all graduate school departments (address selected to be reprinted in the Congressional Record).

P 1967-1968Instructor, University of Michigan Law School. (while hired to teach Legal Research and Writing he was promoted mid-year to teach Criminal Law and Appellate Advocacy courses – the youngest person ever to teach content courses at the law school).

P 1968-1971Associate Professor of Law, Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan.

P 1968Josephson Bar Review Center (BRC). Assembled most effective law professors in each major law subject to prepare uniquely designed study materials and lectures to assist law students succeed in law school and pass the bar exam. Introduced many innovative educational features resulting in unprecedented success including a “programmed learning system” using computer technology to track performance and audio tape lectures for law school courses.

P 1968-1985: Managed Josephson BRC. Expanded published materials nationally and bar preparation courses to 14 states. Business sold in 1985.

G 1969: Report on the Detroit Riots. Commissioned by New Detroit Commission to write report on causes of Detroit riots.

L 1970: Wrote Two-Volume Work, “Learning and Evaluation of Law School.” for the American Association of Law Schools.

P 1971: Granted Tenure as Full Professor.  One of youngest persons ever to receive a tenured law professorship.

P 1972 – 1987: Professor of Law, Loyola University, Los Angeles. Taught Criminal Law and Procedure, Evidence, Trial Practice, and Ethics, Counseling and Negotiation, a new course he created to integrate the teaching of ethical principles into practical functions of counseling and negotiation.

P 1985: Created the Joseph & Edna Josephson Institute of Ethics. (Named for his parents), a nonprofit 501c3 organization; donated $1 million to fund the Institute until it became self-sufficient.

P 1987: Resigned Tenured Law Position. To become full-time President and CEO of the Josephson Institute (serving without compensation)

P 1987-presentPresident and CEO of the Josephson Institute. (serving without compensation)

P 1987: World of Ideas. Selected to participate in Bill Moyers’ prestigious TV series and book.

P 1987: Nightline. Interviewed by Ted Koppel on moral malaise in America.

P 1988: Profile. extensive profile published in the Christian Science Monitor.

G 1990: Government Ethics Center/Five Principles of Public Service Ethics. Assembled committee of prominent public servants including former governors, legislators and members of Congress to formulate core ethical principles establishing the foundation for government ethics codes and training.

C 1990: Report on the Ethics of American Youth. Comprehensive study of the behavior and attitudes of young people that woke the nation to deteriorating ethics and established the platform for the modern character education movement.

G 1991: Internal Revenue Service. Designed and administered comprehensive survey and developed ethics program for all IRS executives and employees.

G 1991: Joint Session of Arizona Legislature. Invited by Governor of Arizona to address joint session to address legislative ethics after AZSCAM scandal.

C 1992: Launched Biennial National Survey to the Ethics of American Youth. This survey has become the gold standard study issued every two years.

C 1992: Aspen Declaration: Six Pillars of Character. Assembled leading experts in character development in Aspen Colorado to develop “The Aspen Declaration” the seminal document of the CHARACTER COUNTS! movement establishing a universally acceptable common language: The Six Pillars of Character.

C 1993: Organized the CHARACTER COUNTS! Coalition. Launched the modern character education movement by organizing the CHARACTER COUNTS! Coalition a consortium of educational and youth serving organizations (including National Associations of Secondary and Elementary School Principals, American Association of School Administrators, National PTA, YMCA, and 4-H) endorsing and committed to the CHARACTER COUNTS! strategy and principles of the Aspen Declaration.

C 1993 – Present: National CHARACTER COUNTS! Week. U. S. Senate unanimously passed resolution declaring the third week in October, National CHARACTER COUNTS! Week. Every year since the Senate has passed a similar resolution and the sitting president has issued a Proclamation.

C 1994 – Present: Certificated Training for Character Educators. Established training and a growing array of character education resources for schools and youth serving organizations including nation’s only certificated training for character educators (CHARACTER COUNTS! has certified nearly 15,000 educators).

S 1996: Pursuing Victory with Honor. Assembled leading amateur sports organizations, coaches, university presidents, sports journalists and game officials in Scottsdale, Arizona (hosted by the Governor) to develop “The Arizona Sports Summit Accord, the seminal document for Pursuing Victory with Honor character-building and sportsmanship programs.

P 1996: Awarded America’s Prize for Integrity. Presented by former President Ronald Reagan.

P 1996: CHARACTER COUNTS! Radio Commentaries. Commenced daily syndicated radio commentaries playing three times a day at Los Angeles CBS flagship station KNX-1070 AM and other cities throughout the country and worldwide on American forces network.  Received two Gabriel Awards for outstanding content. program ran until 2011 (the 15 year run made it one of the longest running features in radio history).

J 1998Journalism Ethics. Developed comprehensive journalism ethics program for Knight Rider which provided the basis for nearly a dozen major workshops and presentation to major media organizations (including Los Angeles Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, Miami herald) and associations of journalists, editors and publishers.

L 1998: ABA Judicial Code of Ethics. JI provided a grant to the ABA to re-write the Judicial Code of Ethics and Michael Josephson served on drafting committee.

G 1998: Social Security Administration: Making Values-Based Decisions.

S 2001: The Gold Medal Standards for Amateur Basketball. In partnership with the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) assembled leading sports organizations, coaches, university presidents, sports journalists and game officials to draft and issue “Pursuing Victory with Honor: The Gold Medal Standards for Amateur Basketball” detailing far-reaching and fundamental guidelines.

C 2001Parenting to Build Character in Your Teen.  Book published with Boys & Girls Town of America.

P 2001: You Don’t Have to Be Sick to Get Better.  Book of select radio commentaries.

P 2002: Cover Profile “The Indisputable Mr. Scruples.” 4000-word profile in L.A. Times Magazine.

S 2002: Gold Medal Standards for Youth Sports.  Assembled leaders from nation’s most influential youth sports organizations to focus on and craft solutions for (high school and below sports. Produced “Gold Medal Standards for Youth Sports” establishing a common framework.

P 2002: Making Ethical DecisionsBooklet adopted by dozens of college courses and company programs.

P 2002: The Best is Yet to ComeBook of select radio commentaries

P 2002: Governor Robert Ray Pillar of Character Award.

P 2003: What Will Matter” Poem. Poem and a video slide show have been viewed or downloaded hundreds of thousands of times.

B 2003: Living the Credo: Making Good Decisions at Johnson & Johnson. Commissioned by Johnson and Johnson to write a guide to decision making integrating the J&J Credo with JI’s Six Pillars of Character.

C 2003: CHARACTER COUNTS! for U.S. Army Youth Services. Developed custom version of CHARACTER COUNTS! for U.S. Army department of youth services at more than 100 Army installations for more than 100,000 children of soldiers.

LE 2003: Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department Command Officer Training.

J 2004: Moderated panel of Newspaper Publishers Association Panel. (aired by PBS)

P 2004: The Power of Character Book of 40 essays from prominent business, political and media leaders on character.

G 2004: Santa Clara County Public Employees Ethics Workshops.

R 2005: Menschlekeit Matters. Created Jewish education version of CHARACTER COUNTS!

C 2005: Assessment and Recommendations Concerning the Character Development of the United States Air Force Academy. Commissioned to evaluate character development efforts.

G 2005: Joint Session of Iowa Legislature and Statewide Officials. Invited by Governor of Iowa to address a special joint session of senators and house members on the issue of civility.

G 2005: Connecticut Legislative Leaders Conference.

G 2006: Defense Acquisition University. Entered MOU to assist the Department of Defense transform its ethics program from rule-based compliance courses to a broader values-based ethics initiative.

S 2006: Olympism and Olympic Ideals. Commissioned by to survey all major constituents of the U.S. Olympic Movement and present a report to the USOC Assembly on Olympism and Olympic Ideals.

LE 2006: Los Angeles Police Department, CA. Designed survey and training program for LAPD Command Officers.

B 2006 – 2008: Kroger Corporation. Commissioned by Kroger Corporation (20 store banners) to conduct values-based training for senior executives at various regional centers.

LE 2007: Becoming an Exemplary Peace Officer: An Introduction to Police Training (for police academies) and Becoming an Exemplary Peace Officer: The Guide to Ethical Decision Making (for in-service and academy training). Books published with California Police Officers Standards and Training Commission.

G 2007: Alaska Ethics Legislation. Commissioned to work with Alaska legislators to develop a “state-of-the-art” legislative package.

L 2007: Presentation to Council of Chief Judges.

S 2007: “True Champions” Coach Training Program for Los Angeles Public Schools. Developed weekly lessons for 1000 sports coaches.

S 2007: Appointed Board Member of National Association of Basketball Coaches Foundation. Conducted training for university basketball coaches at NABC annual meetings until 2012.

B 2007: Paul Harris Fellow Award. Rotary international’s special recognition award for distinguished service to the rotary movement.

S 2008: Model Code and Training for Coaches of U.S. Olympic Teams. Commissioned by Coaches Division of USOC.

LE 2008: Inglewood, CA Police Department. Assessment and Command leadership training.

S 2008: Making US Proud. Commissioned by USOC to develop and delivered training to all U.S. athletes participating in the 2008 Olympic Games.

B 2008: Keynote Speaker to Rotary International Assembly.

B 2009: NASBA (National Association of State Boards of Accountancy) Center for the Public Trust ‘Being A Difference’ Award.

C 2010: CHARACTER COUNTS! in Puerto Rico/Tus Valores Cuentan. At invitation of Governor of Puerto Rico developed a comprehensive state-sponsored Spanish version of CHARACTER COUNTS! for public schools – program grew to 316 schools and 109,000 students. Developed the cluster model achieving unprecedented transformational academic and conduct improvements.

C 2010: Rotary Youth Leadership Training.  Conducted national study of Rotary’s youth leadership programs (RYLA) and designed training modules integrating Rotary’s Four-Way test with the Six pillars of Character.  

G 2010: Bureau of Naval Personnel Command.

B 2011: Fleishman Hilliard Certification. Audited the ethics program of the international public relations firm and re-designed program to justify JI’s first official certification of a corporate program.

C 2011: CHARACTER COUNTS! Nigeria.  Launched CHARACTER COUNTS! program in Nigeria.

G 2011: Puerto Rico Office of Government Ethics. Developed comprehensive training programs based on the Six pillars of Character for mandatory annual ethics training of more than 200,000 government employees.

LE 2013: California Police Chiefs Summit. Sponsored by California Peace Officers Training Standards Commission, special meeting introducing chiefs to Josephson’s Exemplary Policing organization framework.

C 2013: CHARACTER COUNTS! COLOMBIA. Launched CHARACTER COUNTS! program for Colombia.

C 2014: Model Standards for Academic, Social, Emotional and Character Development. A road map for educators for comprehensive integrated student development model.

C 2015: CHARACTER COUNTS! Program for Catholic Schools. With CITRS (Philadelphia nonprofit) designed customized program for 15 inner city Catholic schools in Philadelphia employing the cluster model that achieved extraordinary results in Puerto Rico.

C 2015: District-Wide Cluster Implementation in Public Schools. Designed implementation of the cluster model for K-12 school in Culver City, CA.

C 2015: South Korea – Consulting on Character Education. Commissioned by the U.S. State Department to go to Seoul, South Korea to meet and consult with educational and legislative leaders concerning a mandatory character education program for public schools.

C 2015: Partnership with Drake University’s Ray Center. Negotiated a multi-year partnership with Drake University to promote and deliver CHARACTER COUNTS! in Iowa (more than 70% of schools in Iowa use CHARACTER COUNTS!.

LE 2015: Fresno Police Department, CA. Commissioned assess and report on the organizational culture and performance of the Fresno Police Department. Report resulted in major policy and organizational changes.

G 2016: Joint Session of the Indiana State Legislature. At request of Council of State Governments, delivered a 90-minute presentation on legislative ethics to the entire Indiana Legislature (joint session of the House and Senate).

G 2016: Civility in Politics Panel in Iowa. At the invitation of the Des Moines Register and the Ray Center of Drake University, led a discussion of “Civility in Politics” in Des Moines, Iowa just a few weeks from the Iowa caucuses.

B 2016: International Assembly of Rotary Keynote address.

More highlights …

    • Presentation (video) – California State University, Northridge, 10/9/12: The Importance of Ethics: An Inspirational Introduction
    • Keynote speech – Fresno, CA, 4/13/12: An address to the Conference on Character and Civic Education
    • Video interview – NBC4 Los Angeles, 12/25/10: Michael discusses 2010’s news stories.

Find Michael on Facebook, Twitter, and Wikipedia.

About Josephson Institute’s founder and president

Michael Josephson is one of the nation’s most sought-after and quoted ethicists. Founder and president of Josephson Institute and its CHARACTER COUNTS! project, he has conducted programs for more than 100,000 leaders in government, business, education, sports, law enforcement, journalism, law, and the military. Mr. Josephson is also an award-winning radio commentator.

Commentary broadcasts, blog, and newsletter

Michael Josephson’s daily commentaries on ethics and character are broadcast on radio stations around the U.S. and worldwide on the American Forces Network. He posts commentaries daily on hisWhat Will Matter blog and offers them in a free weekly e-newsletter that reaches over 30,000 subscribers.

Keynote speeches and customized programs

Michael Josephson continues to motivate audiences — from corporate executives to government leaders to police chiefs — with his powerful and engaging presentations. He also remains in high demand as a consultant for major companies and organizations. All fees and honoraria for his services support the nonprofit Josephson Institute.