The following thoughts are based on my recent commencement speech for the graduating class of the Institute for Corporate Social Responsibility at John Hopkins University in Washington, DC.
In Timothy Snyder’s book On Tyranny, he outlines 20 lessons from the 20th century with which we can fight oppression and progress as a society. The last one is “Be as courageous as you can.”
Dictionaries often define “courage” as “the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger or pain without fear” and list “fearlessness” as a synonym. Philosophers, including Plato, Socrates, Aristotle, Cicero and Thomas Aquinas, have studied and remarked on the concept of courage, often separating ideas of physical courage from moral courage or fortitude. Plato writes about “civic” courage as a sort of “perseverance,” and Aristotle refers to an excess of courage as “recklessness.”