Moral Courage

I’m late with this blog, and I have no excuses. I do, however, have a reason. I had an idea for this post. I had a fair amount of material to include, but it just wasn’t coming together. I really couldn’t feel it, if you know what I mean. That is until the middle of the week.

You see, I have been following the political situation, and maybe that is part of what was getting me down. Mitt Romney and Joe Manchin have exhibited what is commonly called moral courage. Both stood against the majority and voted Trump guilty.

Mitt Romney

In his speech before the vote, Romney said he had taken an oath before God (as had all the senators) to be a fair and impartial judge of the evidence against Trump. Already the backlash has started. Some news sources have called him “flip-flop” Romney based on his vote and stands he has taken in the past. Trump excoriated him at what was supposed to be a prayer breakfast on Thursday saying, “I don’t like people who use their faith as justification for doing what they know is wrong.” (various sources). Many pundits expect further consequences from Trump.

Joe Manchin

Although Joe Manchin voted with his party in a unanimous guilty vote, he is the only Democrat senator/representative from a red state. West Virginia, which historically, had been a heavily Democratic state, began to turn more towards the Republican party around the turn of this century. Manchin tends to lean towards being conservative, and some have said that Trump expected a not-guilty vote from him.

These two senators exhibited moral courage in voting for impeachment against expected backlash. Others—representatives and witnesses—are already having consequences for their actions, which Trump sees as personal attacks on him.

My New Hero

In recent months, I have become more aware of the concept of moral courage. It started with the discovery of my new hero, Irshad Manji. She was a guest last March 22 on Real time With Bill Maher. Irshad Manji is an educator, writer, activist, Muslim reformer, and several other things. I was blown away by her message and the energetic presentation. I immediately bought her  book Don’t Label Me. Here is the link to the short interview that so impressed me. [Sorry, I tried every way to give a direct link, but many outlets won’t allow this. What you have to do instead is click Media in the box below. That will take you to Irshad’s website. Once there, click the box that says Real Time With Bill Maher the entire program should come up. The interview begins about 6:35.]


The interview inspired me to start thinking about moral courage and people who had exhibited this admiral quality. That’s when I started the original article that didn’t quite work. Now it is a topic of discussion on most news programs and newspaper articles. [Even if you are not a fan of Bill Maher, please watch the interview part of the show. 

The people I originally wrote about are:

Socrates (c. 470 BCE-399 BCE) Accused of corrupting the young people of Athens was condemned to death. He could have chosen exile or allowed friends to break him out of prison, but he drank the hemlock ordered by his jury, who had found him guilty. (The website)

Etty Hillesum (1914-1943) Etty, part of an intellectual Jewish family in The Netherlands, earned a degree in Dutch Law. Her diaries record the worsening conditions of the Jewish people in The Netherlands. Instead of leaving the country, she chose to stay with her people. She died in Auschwitz in 1943.

Rosa Parks (1913-2005) became, in effect, “the mother of the civil rights movement.” You could say she took a stand by refusing to give up her seat in the “colored” section of a bus to a white person.

Nelson Mandela (1918-2019) spent 27 years in South African prisons for his protests against apartheid, an extreme form of segregation. Released by President F. W. de Klerk, he worked with de Klerk to end apartheid and encourage reconciliation between the two races. Mandela served as president of South Africa.

Jane Fonda (b. 1937) has been an activist most of her life. Most recently, Fonda was arrested on five occasions for protesting in DC with other climate change activists. Her intention is to use her celebrity status to bring attention to the world climate crises.

None of these people had to take the chances they did. They stood for the position they considered right. They had the moral courage to take a stand, to attempt to make a difference.

Final Questions:

When I think of the people I have discussed in this post and the many others who risked death, loss of reputation, and other consequences, I wonder, who finds the strength to defend what they think is right, either in action or conversation?

Could you?

Could I?

This article was written by Margie Campbell

I have been "writing" since I could first hold a pencil. I would fill lines with squiggles thinking that could convey my ideas to the world. As I grew, so did my interest in writing. It really helped when I learned to make letters and to combine them into "real" words. I have a degree in creative writing and a Master's in English (tech writing specialty). I am retired from teaching all types of writing as an adjunct at community colleges in VA, MD, Ohio, and WV.

6 thoughts on “Moral Courage”

  1. Wow, Margie, I have been thinking so much about Mitt Romney and yes, W. VA
    and Joe Manchin. Both have so much courage. I guess I would say that moral items that you mention, I feel strongly about. I also feel strongly about the dangers of our immoral president and I do speak out about that. I am back on my church Parish Council and I am going to present an unpopular comment. Our church bulletin put a quote about born and unborn from President Trump which I found very offensive, in terms of the president’s general morals and lack of good character. I will be honest and say that I am not reporting this item from another person (which we do) but that this is my own comment. My speculation is that I will become more unpopular than usual. (They don’t have much time for my Thomas Merton prayers or comments, or even for my Pope Francis comments, for that matter. To be continued after the March meeting.
    Sally McClean

    1. Sally,
      I look forward to your follow up.
      Is there anyway I could see the comment about Trump that you mention? I’d like to see what is offensive about it.
      Thanks for your comment. Keep on speaking out.

  2. Thank you for a very interesting blog! To answer at least one of your questions, “Yes, I could but….”
    I think every single day, at least one unknown person somewhere has the moral courage to do the right thing. Most of them will never be famous, but often without thinking they choose what is right if their action makes a real difference — that difference may be very small and only perceived by them or later in the context of history by many. So, the answer to your question is, “Yes, I could if I truly believed that what I did or said had an impact for the better.” I thank my parents and a childhood without social media for teaching me to stand up for what is right (instead of hiding behind an avatar and letting Captain America save the day).

  3. This is a question that I have asked myself on numerous occasions throughout my life. I believe that I have done this a few times,but I don’t think that the consequences of my actions rise to the great personal peril of those whom you mentioned. The jury is out.

    1. Medium Bob,
      I’m sure you know that what for one person is a catastrophe isn’t for another. Some would rather die than lose a fortune or their reputation while others would give up anything/everything to live one more day. Further, one person can survive traumatic amputation while another dies from an infected toe nail.

      It’s like that saying, “Your blues ain’t like my blues.” I would add mine ain’t like yours.

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