Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.
Few are willing to brave the disapproval of their fellows, the censure of their colleagues, the wrath of their society. Moral courage is a rarer commodity than bravery in battle or great intelligence. Yet it is the one essential, vital quality for those who seek to change a world that yields most painfully to change.
— Robert F Kennedy, quoted by his brother Edward at Bobby’s funeral 1968
Bobby Kennedy’s depiction of moral courage being a ‘rare commodity’ echoes his brother John F Kennedy’s admonition (which he wrongly ascribed to Dante, as it turned out):
The hottest places in Hell are reserved for those
who in time of moral crisis preserve their neutrality.
Taken in a pair, these expressions of sentiment (available at www.jfklibrary.org) speak loudly to me about what motivates and galvanises heroic ‘outsiders’ and truth-tellers — and the whistle blowers or crusaders we’ve been thinking about recently.
It takes courage to be willing to bear the disapproval, the scorn, or the censure of others. Continue reading →