William Damon

Senior Fellow
Research Team: 
Virtues Task Force (inactive)Member
Awards and Honors:
National Academy of Education
American Academy of Arts and Sciences

William Damon is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, the director of the Stanford Center on Adolescence, and a professor of education at Stanford University.

Damon's research explores how people develop integrity and purpose in their work, family, and civic life. Damon's current work focuses on civic and entrepreneurial purpose among the young. He examines how young Americans can be educated to become devoted citizens and successful entrepreneurs. Damon's work has been used in professional training programs in fields such as journalism, law, and business and in character and civic education programs in grades K–12.

Damon’s most recent book is Failing Liberty 101 (Hoover Press, 2011). Other recent books include The Path to Purpose: How Young People Find Their Calling in Life (2008) and Taking Philanthropy Seriously (2006); Damon’s earlier books include Bringing in a New Era in Character Education (Hoover Press, 2002); Greater Expectations: Overcoming the Culture of Indulgence in Our Homes and Schools (1995); and The Moral Child (1992).

Damon is editor in chief of The Handbook of Child Psychology, fifth and sixth editions (1998 and 2006). He is an elected member of the National Academy of Education and a fellow of the American Educational Research Association.

Damon has received awards and grants from the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the John Templeton Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Spencer Foundation, the Thrive Foundation for Youth, and the Pew Charitable Trusts.

Before coming to Stanford in 1997, Damon was University Professor and director of the Center on the Study of Human Development at Brown University. From 1973 to 1989, Damon served in several academic and administrative positions at Clark University. In 1988, he was Distinguished Visiting Professor at the University of Puerto Rico, and in 1994–95 he was a fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences.

Damon received his bachelor's degree from Harvard College and his PhD in developmental psychology from the University of California, Berkeley. He is married and has three children.

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Recent Commentary

Blank Section (Placeholder)Featured

Giving Thanks In Hard Times

by William Damonvia Defining Ideas
Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Americans have plenty to be grateful for, like living in a country that cherishes liberty and opportunity.

Analysis and Commentary

Honesty Can Be Cultivated, Despite Cynicism

by William Damon, Anne Colbyvia The New York Times
Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Honesty, like all virtues, requires cultivation. The first rule of cultivating honesty is to believe in truthfulness; the second is to practice it until it becomes habitual; the third is to resist life’s frequent temptations to gain advantage through deception.

Classroom students

Special: Moe, Evers, and Damon on the John Batchelor Show

by Terry M. Moe, William Damon, Williamson M. Eversvia John Batchelor Show
Friday, May 9, 2014

In conjunction with a special live taping of the John Batchelor Show at the Hoover Spring Retreat, John Batchelor and Mary Kissel of the Wall Street Journal hosted a discussion on education reform, featuring Hoover senior fellows Terry Moe and William Damon and Hoover research fellows Williamsom Evers.

moral compass

The Death of Honesty

by William Damonvia Fellow Talks
Monday, May 5, 2014

William Damon, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, gives a psychologist’s perspective on the value of truth in his talk entitled “The Death of Honesty.” 

American Dreams and Visions

by William Damonvia Hoover Digest
Monday, April 21, 2014

The American dream isn’t just about riches. Even in the twenty-first century, it’s still about freedom.

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Blank Section (Placeholder)Analysis and Commentary

A Nation of Entrepreneurs?

by William Damonvia Defining Ideas
Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Our economy relies on innovation but our schools are failing to cultivate it.

American Flags
Analysis and Commentary

Underestimating the American Dream

by William Damonvia Wall Street Journal
Thursday, December 26, 2013

The American public has been subjected to a seemingly endless stream of books, articles and commentaries on the downsizing or outright death of the American dream. A Google search for "the death of the American dream" yields more than 276 million citations.

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Blank Section (Placeholder)In the News

Why We Can't All Just Get Along

by William Damonvia Defining Ideas
Thursday, June 14, 2012

A review of Jonathan Haidt’s The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion.

Calligraphy 101

A Curriculum for the Curious

by William Damonvia Hoover Digest
Monday, January 23, 2012

Innovators shouldn’t have to drop out of school to follow their dreams, but schools seem almost designed to stand in their way. By William Damon.

In the News

The Death of Honesty

by William Damonvia Defining Ideas (Hoover Institution)
Thursday, January 12, 2012

The failure to cultivate virtue in citizens can be a lethal threat to any democracy...