Written by: Joy Dong
If we look back at various historical figures, those who fought for equality, shaped our everyday life, and have changed the world for the better; a consistent trait that all of them share is courage. Courage to me has multiple definitions, including: bravery, compassion, consideration for others, leadership, strength, and being able to work through fear. It can be shown through many different deeds, varying from ordering at a restaurant by yourself, to being a doctor battling COVID-19. Courage is an incredibly valuable characteristic, and shouldn’t be taken for granted.
One of the most influential and revolutionary figures in the Civil Rights Movement was Rosa Parks. Parks was devoted to standing up against the unfair treatment of African Americans during a time of inequality, in the 1950’s. It is important to note that during this time, buses, like many other things, were segregated. Only white people were permitted to sit at the front of the bus, while Black individuals needed to manage with the back seats. There was also an expectation that if a White passenger wanted to sit, and all the seats were taken, a Black person would stand and let him/her take their seat. The bus Rosa boarded that day was no exception. When it became overcrowded, she was asked to give up her seat, in which she firmly refused.
According to the article, An Act of Courage, by Lauren Green, “She knew that the bus driver’s request was not right or fair and, even though she knew her resistance would not be well received, she defended her beliefs.” This is one of the many acts that demonstrated Parks’s extreme courage. Though she knew the negative consequences that would come, she stood up for herself, her community, and what was right. She wasn’t afraid of what people would think, say, or do, which takes a great deal of strength and bravery. Parks also knew that most people would disagree with her, and instead of giving in, she vowed to share and preach her controversial opinion, and wasn’t afraid of being different.
Parks was also courageous by being a leader. She encouraged other African Americans to fight for justice, as well, by standing up for herself. The author of the text writes,“Her actions inspired other African Americans to rally for equality. They organized a peaceful boycott of Montgomery’s buses, led by a young and still mostly unknown minister named Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.” The boycott and protests lasted 381 days, and contributed to the unconstitutional ruling of bus segregation by U.S. courts; and, the ultimate end of segregation altogether. Another way she was a leader was by taking initiative to end the injustice she and too many others experienced. Parks served as the secretary of the NAACP (Nation Association for the Advancement of Colored People), and was heavily involved in multiple other organizations. Parks inspired and influenced so many, changed peoples’ lives, and in the process, changed the world; all by being courageous. Clearly, the nickname, “the mother of the freedom movement” was well deserved.
Ten remarkable women from around the world are given the International Women Courage Award, by the U.S. Department of State, annually. All of the women show limitless amounts of courage, and as remarked by Michelle Obama in the article International Women of Courage Awards, “show leadership, bravery, and a willingness to sacrifice for others”. One example of this is a quote by Beatrice Mtetwa, a Zimbabwean human rights lawyer. She states, “This has to be done. Somebody’s got to do it, and why shouldn’t it be you?” This is the type leadership and courage shown by so many of the honorees; taking up a challenge, working hard, and creating change, to not only help yourself, but others, too. These women also encourage and uplift others, by leading by example. As noted by Michelle Obama, “I always walk away feeling inspired by these women, determined to reflect their courage in my own life.” By showing courage through their own actions, they influence other people to do the same in the process.
Rosa Parks, Beatrice Mtetwa, MLK, Harriet Tubman, Abraham Lincoln, Susan B. Anthony, Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi, and so many more, are all people who have shown courage, and in turn, have changed the world. You don’t need to be anyone special to be courageous; “Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes it’s the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, ‘I will try again tomorrow.’” True courage is being able to take risks, challenge yourself, show compassion, help people, show bravery and strength, become a leader, overcome obstacles, and push through fears; no matter how small or big an act.