Friday, February 6, 2009

On Courage

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair made a powerful speech at the National Prayer Breakfast yesterday morning. He made this observation about leadership, courage and faith:

"Courage in leadership is not simply about having the nerve to take difficult decisions or even in doing the right thing since oftentimes God alone knows what the right thing is.

It is to be in our natural state – which is one of nagging doubt, imperfect knowledge, and uncertain prediction – and to be prepared nonetheless to put on the mantle of responsibility and to stand up in full view of the world, to step out when others step back, to assume the loneliness of the final decision-maker, not sure of success but unsure of it.

And it is in that “not knowing” that the courage lies."


David Hutchinson said...

I think Blair is right.

Aristotle had his aurea mediocritas, or Golden Mean. In the case of courage, it obtained between the poles of cowardace and heedlessness. For Aristotle, courage could not exist in the absence of fear, but consisted in the going ahead in spite of the presence of fear.

That's why some people (while gathered around bongs) say Lancelot is a greater hero than Superman. In his heroic deeds Lancelot always risked death, and so likely experienced fear to some extent.

Alison M. Kilmartin said...

While Mr. Blair was quoting an American pastor preaching in the Holy Land, I appreciated the following from his speech:

"While here on earth, we need to make a vital decision ... whether to be mere spectators, or movers and shakers for the Kingdom of God... whether to stay among the curious, or take up a cross. And this means: no standing on the sidelines ... We're either in the game or we're not. I sometimes ask myself the question: If I were to die today, what would my life have stood for... The answer can't be an impulsive one, and we all need to count the cost before we give an answer. Because to be able to say yes to one thing, means to say no to many others. But we must also remember, that the greatest danger is not impulsiveness, but inaction."