“We become brave by doing brave acts” – Aristotle in the Nicomachean Ethics
On this day:
On 2 August 1943, Lt. John F. Kennedy Jr. thought to himself “So this is how it feels to die.” Lt. Kennedy and his crew were on a PT boat in the Blackett Strait in the Solomon Islands when a Japanese destroyer sunk them. The men lost the craft and were soon forced away from the wreckage due to ignited gasoline in the water. Information became available as the gasoline dispersed. Two crew members had perished with eleven remaining and no chance of immediate rescue.
With some clinging to floating debris, a four-hour swim began. The strong swimmers towed the non-swimmers. Lt. John F. Kennedy, with the strap of a lifejacket in his mouth, tugged another badly burned man. Lt. Kennedy then swam out again in the hopes of flagging down a PT boat. It was a trip which Lt. Kennedy barely made it back from due to strong currents.
Lt. Kennedy, being unsuccessful in the previous attempt, led his men to another islet. Shark infested waters surrounded the men. Lt. Kennedy continued to venture into the waters in search for help.
Four days later, two Solomon Islanders found the stranded sailors. Lt. Kennedy carved a message onto a coconut “NAURO ISL NATIVE KNOWS POSIT HE CAN PILOT 11 ALIVE NEED SMALL BOAT KENNEDY.” This coconut remained on his desk as President as a reminder of the tragedy and the loss of two men.
A quote Aesop – “Saying you’ll do something may take one kind of courage, but actually doing it requires a different type. Real bravery lies in deeds, not words.”
I was a paramedic for years. I started IV’s on children regularly. As many of us know, the anticipation is worse than the actual IV. I have a stubborn habit of honesty. I have learned that respect of a child and others, requires it. In my experience children respond well to honesty. Honesty, coupled with competence, emboldened these young children. An otherwise scared child would look upon you with confidence and would stoically surrender their arm to the needle. Tears would often start flowing, murmurs of disapproval would flow. A mother would hold their child, and the staff the arm. An IV is never pleasant. However, the arm would more often than not remain still, a quick insertion of the IV would follow, and the tears would dry up.
At this time I was fond of explaining to the children what courage was. I would tell them; “courage is not a lack of fear.” Courage is accepting the fear but taking action and doing the right thing in spite of that fear. A seldom taught lesson I suppose. It’s a shame really. If the only example is that of cowardice then what are we to expect.
In a recent personal statement I wrote: “I have faced my fears with practiced courage.” I was a shy child, nervous, still am really. However, I have spent a lifetime facing challenges and changing my circumstances. Development occurs while uneasy. I have recently changed paths once again. My friend and I were discussing change. The following is a portion of my response “I have a great love/hate relationship with change and transformation . . . Transitions manifest in so many ways: physically, geographically, intellectually, emotionally, and of course spiritually. We live in a world of give and take. Ideal is always distant. Although the stresses of transition always affect me, I am happy to pursue them so that progress may be made.”
Many know the diminishment of courage in America. A social justice warrior social media stance is not courage. Standing up for this or that group as the winds blow, especially when it is the popular thing to do is simply virtue signaling. Swaying with the pressures of society and media do little. Being a pliable tool at the ballot box is simply that. Being a tool of those who understand how to control society.
President Kennedy, at the time a Lieutenant, fought fear and won. He saved his men, he looked death in the eye, he saved himself, he was victorious in a daunting situation, is an example of who we must be. Courage starts with an idea, an identity. America’s identity is courage. This identity has been sidelined and forgotten by many. It is returning to the forefront though.
Also on this day in 1776, the Continental Congress began signing an engrossed copy of the Declaration of Independence. These men were essentially signing their death warrants. They did this because of a love of liberty, justice, truth, and God. They did this because certain truths are self-evident. They did this because all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights such as life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. They did this knowing that governments are a servant of man and man is a servant of God.
The U.S. Constitution followed about a decade later with further clarifications that governments are instituted by the people in order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.
The culture of America is standing up for right from wrong. Facing fears for the betterment of society. Educating ourselves so that we may understand properly. Taking lessons from the past rather than forgetting the past and making the same mistakes.
The development of courage occurs through stories, thoughts, actions, and example. When a child overcomes the fear of the dark, when another willingly takes an IV, courage is developed. These small steps coupled with the culture of courage and the truth of America leads to a nation of leaders. Leaders seek truth. The truth is constant. Truth dwells inside and stirs the spirit of those who have found it. Let us remover and develop courage. Let us, as a nation, be American’s again.