Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Profiles in Courage, Part 2

Last week's blog post dealt with one of the most important virtues and characteristics a self-action leader can develop: COURAGE

If you missed that article, and would like to read Part 1 before you read Part 2, then click HERE.  

This week's article continues this theme.

One of the most courageous things any of us can do in any circumstance is to say, do, or pursue a course we know to be right, evenand especiallywhen it is unpopular to do so. And perhaps the most courageous thing one can say or do is to engage in right actions when the consequences of doing so will be negative, harmful, or even deadly—as is the case in soldiering and other, related occupations and endeavors.   

Such courage was highlighted in a famous book entitled, Profiles in Courage, written by then Senator John F. Kennedy—shortly prior to his ascendancy to the Presidency.

In the book, Kennedy chronicles specific instances from history where seven different United States Senators took a stand for conscience when it was politically unpopular—and in some cases politically disastrous—to do so.

These senators, who placed "their convictions ahead of their careers" (p. 192) included the famously circumspect John Quincy Adams, in addition to Daniel Webster, Sam Houston, Edmund Ross, Lucius Quintus Cincinnatus Lamar, George W. Norris, and Robert A. Taft.

Senator, and later President
Andrew Johnson of Tennessee

In a chapter that shares additional anecdotes of courage, Kennedy recounts an incident in 1860 involving Senator Andrew Johnson from Tennessee. Johnson, along with Sam Houston, was one of only two Southern Senators who remained loyal to the Union following Confederate secession in 1860-61.

As you can imagine, taking that stand south of the Mason-Dixon Line in 1860 took enormous courage. 

To illustrate, after courageously casting his lot with the Union in 1860, Johnson was assaulted, beaten, and nearly hung by an angry Confederate mob in Lynchburg, Virginia, during a train trip en route to his home in Tennessee. If that wasn't bad enough, he was then "hissed, hooted, and hanged in effigy" (p. 194) by citizens throughout his home State. Despite all this abuse, public derision, and scorn, Johnson remained true to his Union convictions, stating: "I am a citizen of the South and of the state of Tennessee....[But] I am also a citizen of the United States" (p. 194).

Johnson was later richly rewarded for his courageous loyalty to the Union when, in 1864, Abraham Lincoln asked him to serve as his running mate for a second term—an opportunity that led to his ascension to the Presidency itself upon Lincoln's assassination in 1865.

General Sam Houston
Congressman from Tennessee
Governor of Tennessee
President of the Republic of Texas
Senator from the State of Texas
Governor of the State of Texas
Like Johnson, Sam Houston of Texas similarly risked his career on the cause of the Union, albeit with far more grievous consequences. In a speech delivered at the Texas State Capitol in Austin on September 22, 1860, Houston—then Governor of Texas—courageously declared to his overwhelmingly pro-Confederate colleagues and constituency:

"It has been my misfortune to peril my all for the Union. So indissolubly connected is my life, my history, my hopes, my fortunes, with it, that when it falls, I would ask that with it might close my career, that I might not survive the destruction of the shrine that I had been taught to regard as holy and inviolable, since my boyhood. I have beheld it, the fairest fabric of Government God ever vouchsafed to man, more than a half century. May it never be my fate to stand sadly gazing on its ruins! To be deprived of it, after enjoying it so long, would be a calamity, such as no people yet have endured."

Sadly, Houston saw his beloved Union dissolved only a few short months following his speech. With its fall, he was also forced from his position as Governor of Texas. He died two years later at his home in Huntsville, Texas, on July 26, 1863—a true, proud, and willing Union Patriot living deep within the confines of the fledgling Confederacy.

Fortunately, the story does not end tragically, with Houston's and the Nation's death. A few weeks previous to his passing, the Union's Army of the Potomac defeated the Confederacy's Army of Northern Virginia in the epic Battle of Gettysburg, fought on July 1-3, in Southern Pennsylvania. Later, this battle would become famous not only for being the bloodiest battle in the history of the Western Hemisphere, but also for the role it played as a key turning point in America's devastating civil conflict that would eventually preserve the Union and end slavery in the United States. So, while Houston's vindication did not come fully in his lifetime, it did eventually come, demonstrating that karma is kind to the courageous.

At what points of your life have you taken the high road to courageously say or do the right thing—even when it was unpopular, or even risky or dangerous to do so? At what points have you taken the coward's pathway instead? Do you have any regrets for demonstrating courage? What about cowardice? If so, why? 

As you quietly query your own mind, heart, and conscience with the questions above, I challenge you to be more courageous in the future, regardless of the consequences. In the words of a favorite Christian hymn of mine, whose lyrical author is unknown:

"Do what it right; let the consequence follow. Battle for freedom in spirit and might. And with stout hearts look ye forth til tomorrow. God will protect you; then do what is right!"

Such a course is infinitely easier said than done. But I can say with confidence—and from personal experience—that it is worth it to embrace courage and eschew cowardice. Not only because of the personal esteem and confidence it builds within your mind, heart, and soul, but because as previously stated, Karma is Kind to the Courageous!  

Tune in NEXT Wednesday to read Part 1 of a 3-part series that answers the question: Why I Started My Own Education and Training Company.  

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