Gift Guide

Character Is Destiny: Inspiring Stories Every Young Person Should Know and Every Adult Should Remember


John McCain and Mark Salter have written three acclaimed bestsellers, but Character Is Destiny may be their most influential and enduring book yet -- a work for parents to share with their children, and, for Americans of all ages to read for inspiration and guidance.

McCain has been called "one of the most inspiring public figures of his generation" by The Washington Post. In Character Is Destiny, he shows us why, by telling the stories of celebrated historical figures and ...

See more details below
$18.81 price
(Save 21%)$23.95 List Price

Pick Up In Store

Reserve and pick up in 60 minutes at your local store

Other sellers (Hardcover)
  • All (184) from $1.99   
  • New (16) from $1.99   
  • Used (168) from $1.99   
Character Is Destiny: Inspiring Stories Every Young Person Should Know and Every Adult Should Remember

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 7.0
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 10.1
  • NOOK HD Tablet
  • NOOK HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK eReaders
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
$14.99 price
Sending request ...


John McCain and Mark Salter have written three acclaimed bestsellers, but Character Is Destiny may be their most influential and enduring book yet -- a work for parents to share with their children, and, for Americans of all ages to read for inspiration and guidance.

McCain has been called "one of the most inspiring public figures of his generation" by The Washington Post. In Character Is Destiny, he shows us why, by telling the stories of celebrated historical figures and lesser-known heroes whose values exemplify the best of the human spirit. He illustrates these qualities with moving stories of triumph against the odds, righteousness in the face of iniquity, hope in adversity, and sacrifices for a cause greater than self-interest.

In Character Is Destiny we meet:

  • Pat Tillman, whose patriotism obliged him to leave the riches and celebrity of the NFL for a soldier’s life in defense of his country
  • Empress Theodora of Byzantium, whose courage shamed her husband and his court into defending their faith and civilization
  • Winston Churchill, who, in a renowned eighteen-word remark, counseled schoolboys to "never give up"
  • the Catholic priest in Auschwitz who offered to take a condemned man’s place
  • a nun, formerly a comfortable Beverly Hills housewife, who works with prisoners in Mexico’s worst jails
  • George Washington, whose wisdom and hard-earned self-control helped him survive the chaos of war.

These are just a few of the heroes of exemplary character whose portraits McCain offers here. With Character Is Destiny, John McCain interprets Shakespeare’s immortal advice, "To thine own self be true," as an eloquent restatement of the golden rule and the very definition of integrity. The tributes he pays here to men and women who have lived truthfully will stir the hearts of young and old alike, and help prepare us for the hard work of choosing our destiny.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
John McCain's inspiring anthology for youngsters pairs 34 heroic men and women with the exemplary qualities that defined their lives. These well-written stories introduce historic and contemporary figures -- from Joan of Arc to the anonymous prison guard whose random act of kindness strengthened McCain during his ordeal as a POW. With no political agenda to taint its message, this wonderful book plumbs the real meaning of family values: It is not fate but character that determines who we are.
E. J. Dionne Jr.
It is hard to imagine any other politician writing this book: a series of morality tales pitched at America's youth, built around an eclectic collection of heroes who embody a not entirely predictable set of virtues. But John McCain is not just any politician. Having previously penned Faith of My Fathers, Worth the Fighting For and Why Courage Matters, he has now created this surprisingly interesting collection with his longtime aide Mark Salter (who is generously acknowledged by McCain as his effective co-author and literary muse). This book is intended to inspire kids, but it will be of great interest to adults, including those trying to figure out how McCain might fare in the 2008 presidential election.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
With the optimistic, confident delivery (occasionally peppered with a slightly precious, "for children" tone) familiar to viewers of Sunday morning political programs, Senator McCain serves up an admirable family recording with bipartisan appeal. Beginning with his own parents (a mother who is always eager to learn and "a stickler for good manners," and a father whose integrity shone in his dedication to military service, at one point a commander to his son in Vietnam), McCain profiles individuals who he feels exemplify attributes of good character. Thomas More was a great example of honesty; Ernest Shackleton exhibited loyalty, Victor Frankl dignity, and McCain himself clung to faith during his time as a prisoner of war. McCain's overriding message, that character is all about choices, and that one's character-not looks, abilities or possessions-determines one's happiness in life, is certainly an inspirational one that listeners from any political orientation can get behind. (Dec. 2005) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Traits to have and the people who exemplify them (e.g., Elizabeth I displayed confidence), from the busy senator who gave us books like Worth the Fighting For. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781400064120
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 10/25/2005
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 285,181
  • Product dimensions: 8.24 (w) x 9.53 (h) x 1.13 (d)

Meet the Author

After a career in the U.S. Navy and two terms as a U.S. representative, John McCain was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1986 and reelected in 1992 and
1998. He and his wife, Cindy, reside in Phoenix, Arizona.

Mark Salter has worked on Senator McCain's staff for more than 15 years. He lives in Alexandria, Virginia, with his wife, Diane, and their two daughters.

Read More Show Less

Read an Excerpt

Character Is Destiny

By John McCain with Mark Salter

Random House

John McCain with Mark Salter
All right reserved.

ISBN: 1400064120

Chapter One

part one


Greatness knows itself.

-henry iv


Thomas More

He surrendered everything for the truth as he saw it,and shamed a king with the courage of his conscience.

Such a scene it must have been, that it broke the hardest heart that witnessed it. Margaret More Roper, beloved oldest daughter of Sir Thomas More, pushed through the crowd and past the armed guards to embrace and cover her father with kisses as he was escorted to his place of imprisonment, from where, in six days, he would be executed for the crime of being honest.

Thomas More blessed his daughter and tenderly consoled her before she reluctantly let go of him, and the somber party resumed its progress to the Tower of London. But her distress was too great to be restrained, and she again rushed to his side, to hold and kiss him. Her husband, William Roper, remembered that most of the large crowd that had gathered in curiosity to see the famous prisoner, who had been one of the most powerful men in England, wept at the sight of this sad parting of a loving father and daughter.

Thomas More was born in 1478 into a prosperous London family, but not part of the nobility that ruled England in the fifteenth century. The Mores had no inherited titles to ease their way in the world. They succeeded by their own industry, intelligence, and character. Thomas's father, John, was a successful and influential lawyer, who could afford to send his oldest son to a good school, St. Anthony's, where young Thomas impressed his tutors as a gifted, hardworking, and good-humored boy.

At the recommendation of St. Anthony's headmaster, Thomas was sent to serve as a page to the second-most-powerful man in England, Cardinal John Morton, the archbishop of Canterbury, at the archbishop's court, Lambeth Palace. It must have been a dazzling experience for a young boy, for only in the royal court was there greater splendor or more important activity; the old archbishop managed, on the king's behalf, and his own, to restrain the power of the feudal lords, who had made England in the past nearly impossible to govern. Morton was a wise and great statesman as well as a faithful prince of the Church. Thomas closely observed, admired, and learned from his master's genius for politics, which in those times was a dangerous profession, and his sincere priestly devotion. For his part, the archbishop felt great affection for his cheerful and precocious page, who he proclaimed would someday "prove to be a marvelous man."

He was so impressed by young Thomas's talents and character that he sponsored his education at Oxford University, where Thomas was a brilliant student. He loved learning, and would for the rest of his life prefer the less prestigious but more satisfying rewards of a scholar to the riches and power of the king's court. He began his studies at Oxford in the same year Columbus discovered the New World, and the Renaissance was flowering in Southern Europe. In England, the era of feudalism, when nobles ruled their lands with the power of life and death over the serfs who slaved for them, was approaching its end, and the influence of merchants, lawyers, and other prosperous commoners was on the rise.

More's father gave him only a small allowance while he was at Oxford so that he wouldn't have money to tempt him toward "dangerous and idle pastimes." Despite his poverty, Thomas couldn't have been happier. He thrived among his fellow scholars, who were making their presence felt in this period of historic change, as the dark and brutal Middle Ages began to give way to a more hopeful age of learning and reason.

He was part of a movement called humanism, whose followers were faithful to the Church but hoped to encourage a better understanding of the Gospels and their more honest application to the workings of society. They studied the great Greek and Roman philosophers, whose views on morality and just societies they believed complemented their Christian principles. They were passionate in pursuit of the truth as revealed by God, and by discovery through study and scholarly debate and discussion. They thought the world could be made gentler with Christian love and greater learning-love and learning that served not only the nobility of court and Church, but all mankind.

Thomas's father didn't approve of this new thinking, and after two years ordered him to leave Oxford and study law in his offices. Thomas obeyed his father's command, for he was an obedient man all his life, not without regret, but without complaint. He became a successful lawyer, even more so than his father. But he remained a dedicated scholar and a humanist also, and that calling would bring him more lasting and widespread fame than the high offices he would gain as an honest and admired man of law.

Thomas was a devout Christian, and for a time lived in a monastery with the intention of entering the priesthood. The monastic life was one of isolation and self-denial. And though he took his religious devotion seriously, he loved the comforts of family life, and the rewards of learning and earthly pleasures as well: music and art, reading and writing, friendship and conversation and jests. He loved his city, London, then the greatest capital of Northern Europe. He loved life. So he left the cloister for a wife and family, and returned to the worldly affairs of men.

His first wife, Jane, bore him three daughters and a son. It was a happy marriage, but brief. Jane died at the age of twenty-two. He knew his children needed a mother, and he a mistress to manage his household, so he quickly married again to a widow seven years his senior, Alice Middleton. It, too, was a happy marriage, marked by mutual affection and deep friendship. In an age when a man could legally beat his wife, with a "stick no wider than his thumb," he was a tender and respectful husband. Their large and comfortable home on the banks of the River Thames, in a part of London called Chelsea, then still countryside, was a warm, loving environment where his children thrived and he sought refuge from the increasing demands of his growing public life. It had a beautiful garden that opened to the river, and was filled with many different kinds of birds and animals, which fascinated him. There he supervised his children's education, although it was unusual for women of that time even to learn to read, and when they had grown, his home served as a school for his grandchildren. His love of learning and truth was second only to his love of God, and he encouraged his children, for the sake of their happiness, to seek truth through learning as well as scripture. Margaret, his oldest and favorite child, would become a woman of great learning, perhaps the most celebrated female scholar in all of Europe.

He was devoted to his children, and prized their company above all others. He engaged their minds with his great wit and skill in conversation, and by the example of his own serious scholarship. He wrote a book, Utopia, about an imaginary and idealized civilization that won him wide praise and international fame. He cultivated friendships, and exchanged letters with some of the greatest minds in Europe, including with the Dutch priest and famous humanist philosopher Erasmus, who became More's greatest admirer outside his family, and whose description of More became the title by which he is still remembered to this day: "a man for all seasons."

The Mores' house was often filled with guests, who were as often his poorer neighbors as the rich and powerful, and were attracted by the family's well-known hospitality, high spirits, and witty conversation. The young king himself, Henry VIII, who, although temperamental and selfish, admired learning and wit, visited often. Henry took great pleasure in the company of his honest, loyal, and amusing host, and valued not only his opinion and his service to the crown but his friendship.

Thomas More would have preferred never to leave his home if he could have secured the means to support his family without venturing outside it, and if he could have been spared the attentions and the needs of his king. But that was not to be.

His scholarly reputation and his reputation as a skillful and, more remarkable for those times, scrupulously honest lawyer first gained the attention of the king's most powerful counselor, the lord chancellor of England, Cardinal Thomas Wolsey. An ambitious and shrewd politician, Wolsey recognized the younger man's talents, and pressed him into the king's service.

Serving first as a diplomat, then in a series of increasingly powerful offices at court, knighted, and given lands and wealth, More became a favorite of Wolsey's and Henry's. And while he might have preferred the life of a philosopher, husband, and father to the rigors of public life, he no doubt took pride in the king's confidence and favor. All the more so because the king and he, for much of that time, shared the same philosophical and religious views.

When Wolsey's downfall came, from the same source that would lead in time to Thomas's death, Henry made his friend lord chancellor. It was the highest office at court, and Thomas More was the first layman to hold it. His appointment was greeted favorably by the court and public alike, for Thomas was known by one and all as an honest man, who would conscientiously discharge the duties of his office.

As it turned out, he was too honest for his king.

The protests of a devoted and tempestuous priest in Germany by the name of Martin Luther against the corrupt practices of the Catholic Church had set in motion a conflict that would rip apart Europe for centuries. The Protestant Reformation that Luther began was the lasting tear in the unity of the Catholic Church, and the beginning of the end for the old order in Europe. In time, it would set kings against kings, families against families, and cause wars that would last for generations.

Thomas More waged an intellectual and judicial war against the followers of Luther that was at times surprisingly aggressive and even cruel for such a reasonable and just man. In the beginning, he had the king's full support in his persecution and prosecution of "heretics." More defended the Church out of religious principle, and because he and the king feared the uncontrollable social disorder that a permanent split among the faithful would surely cause. But his hatred, if it could be called that in such a mild man, was for the heresy and not the heretics. Death was the judgment for heretics in the courts that Thomas More governed, but he went to great lengths to encourage the accused to recant their views and escape their sentence. In fact, in the many cases he prosecuted, all the accused except for four poor souls, who went to their deaths rather than recant, escaped the headman's ax. More was diligent in his duty, but a much more powerful threat than Luther's protests had encouraged was growing to the Catholic Church in England.

Henry's queen, Catherine of Aragon, had failed to produce a surviving male heir. Only their daughter, Mary, lived to adulthood. Henry was determined to have a new wife who could give him a healthy son. Other kings and nobles had received from the pope annulments of their marriage. But the most powerful king in Europe, the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, was Catherine's nephew, and he had great influence with Pope Clement VII. He persuaded Clement not to grant an annulment that would remove the crown from his aunt's head.

Once Henry fell in love with Anne Boleyn, the fifteen-year-old daughter of a scheming courtier, he would no longer accept papal opposition to his desire to remarry. In this dangerous and growing conflict, Thomas More became a central figure, and he would struggle with all his intellect, lawyer's skills, and courage to obey his king without forsaking his church. It would prove impossible.

Initially More dutifully served the king's wishes, arguing in Parliament that there were grounds to consider the marriage to Catherine unlawful. But when the king declared himself, and not the pope, to be the supreme head of the Church in England, More offered the king his resignation. Henry refused it, and promised his friend that he would never be forced to take any action that his conscience would not permit. But the king's assurance was hollow, and soon both he and More realized that the king's desires and More's conscience could not be reconciled. More again asked the king to accept his resignation, and this time, Henry agreed. Thomas More, no longer a public man, was content to return to his home and loving family, his friendship with his king at an end.

For many months, he was careful not to speak against the king's wishes, in public or in private. But he declined to attend the king's wedding to Anne Boleyn. When Parliament passed a law requiring the king's subjects to sign an oath recognizing Anne as queen, and any children she might bear Henry as legitimate heirs to the throne, he refused to sign it because it denied the pope's authority over the Church in England. When shown the long list of those who had already signed it, he responded, "I myself cannot swear, but I do not blame any man who has sworn." He gave his conscience as the reason for refusing, but he would not say what he thought of the king's actions. On that he kept silent. And for this modest act of conscience, a mere "scruple of faith," as it was remembered, Thomas More was prepared to face the king's anger in an age when, he was reminded, "the King's wrath is death."

He was arrested and imprisoned in the Tower of London. He remained there until his trial fifteen months later. He was allowed to attend Mass daily, to keep and read books, and to write. For a time he was allowed regular visits by his family and to exchange letters with them. They begged him to sign the oath, and by so doing, return to their home. Margaret expressed her fear that his health was being ruined by imprisonment. He responded by reminding her that but for his love of his family, he would have chosen to live in even worse circumstances as a monk. When Alice criticized him for preferring to live among filth and rats than among his loving family, he gently countered that this home was as near to heaven as his own.

Eventually, his books and writing material were confiscated, and most of his visitors refused. His health declined in the damp and cold of the Tower. His hair and beard grew long and unkempt, and he became thin and aged.

Excerpted from Character Is Destiny by John McCain with Mark Salter Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 14, 2008

    Obama voter, McCain admirer

    You can get really good insight into how a person's mind works by looking at what they write down. John McCain writes a didactic book of stories aimed at parents. Barack Obama writes an action plan that calls for adults and students to get involved in their communities. I recommend you turn off the TV -- especially the propaganda channel -- and read both authors to get a sense of who they are and their predispositions. What's the gist of McCain's book? Stories that you can retell and integrate into your daily life, that illustrate how to be a good, decent, loving, courageous person. Much like William Bennett's younger-oriented book on morality, this strikes me as a gesture of love for people. While I'm not giving Senator McCain my vote, he has my unconditional respect. Among the many stories that hit me where I live, the most wrenching ones are where he states, explicitly, that perhaps the most inspiring demonstration of character is to love one's enemy. I have to thank the Senator for giving me quite a few stories that I will never forget, particularly his own, where a North Vietnamese prison guard risks punishment to ease McCain's suffering.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted August 9, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Great reading/sharing material

    I didn't know that McCain was such a prolific historian. This book sets up the reader to learn about 34 people in history who exemplified a wonderful character trait.

    I will be using this book to help my middle school advisory program find responsible, caring, excellent people to study.

    This book is a wonderful asset to invest your heart in. :)

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 28, 2007

    Some incredible people...and great philosophy.

    This was an incredible book beacause it showed the qualities that we can posess and the people we can become. McCain relates events in his life to this book. After reading this, I do believe that Character is Destiny, that what you are is what you can become.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 6, 2007

    self sacrifice and honor

    I just finished reading john mccains book 'character is destiny' it is a very special collection of biographies of people who put their lifes on the line for other people and the special thing about this book is that all of these great people left their comfortable surroundings and because of their commitment to their faith and wanting to make a difference in the world and putting their lifes below someone elses so that persons life can be free. the favorite section in the book was very moving to me was the one on tolorence it was on some very special chaplins who volunteered for active combat duty and they were out in the atlantic ocean were the german submarines were threatening there comrades and these clergy offered great peace to all the sailors who inspired great hope to all of the navy personel on board who were being threatened by the germans and because of the character and hope that the clergy were able to bestow on the sailors hope and peace.I was very impressed with these chaplins who ministered great courage to their fellow shipmates whean the ship was sinking they offered great comfort and strong peace and hope that I felt eased alot of these peoples fears in their time of need.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 20, 2006

    great read that you'll have a hard time putting down

    Character is Destiny is a book I recommend to everyone, whether young or old, male or female. The stories and topics covered are relevant to all age groups. As explained in McCain¿s introduction, the book is an attempt to reach out to the American public and especially American teenagers who still have a full life ahead of them to decide their fate. McCain reinforces the idea that everyone has the ability to decide their own destiny. He states that our destiny is not predetermined, but instead affected by our actions and character, hence the title for this book. Character is Destiny by John McCain follows a design where seven selected topics are touched upon and then reinforced using real life stories. The importance of these topics, which include honor, strength, judgment, and love to name a few, are shown through the retelling of events from the lives of both famous and unknown people. The variety of people used as examples ranges from George Washington and Dwight D. Eisenhower to Mark Twain and Charles Darwin to Gandhi and Nelson Mandela. These selected individuals are then used to teach a certain point or quality within the broader topic. For example, George Washington is under the topic of strength and his story is used to teach the lesson of self-control. Through the use of real life stories to display each important lesson, McCain is able to get his message across to the reader clearly and without losing the reader¿s attention. The carefully picked stories pass by quickly once you begin reading. As I was reading the book, I found that whenever I would finish one story I would end up moving quickly onto the next. This provides the book with a short story feel that causes it to be a quick read. Lastly, the actual writing of Character is Destiny is easy to read and understand without being childish. While the book may be aimed to a younger crowd, McCain and his co-author, Mark Saltar, make sure to keep the writing, vocabulary, and overall tone at a high, intellectual level. With all of this in mind, I fully recommend this book to anyone looking for an inspirational piece of literature.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 7, 2005

    Too Little Too Late

    The genesis of such books can be traced to emotional health, which our system of education and Nation in general ignore more and more.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 23, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)