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Having the courage to speak up


Someone has said that courage is the ability to act in spite of fear, not the absence of fear. Once, I taught an adult public speaking class. One of the class members was a war veteran who led men into battle where life and death was determined by his ability. He had a great outgoing personality, comfortable with people from various strata of society. The first night he appeared in my class, he entered the room looking pale. As he introduced himself to the other members of the class he was able only to get his first name out before he passed out from fear. After this tough specimen of a man revived, he sat for the remainder of the class in silence. The day following the incident in this first class, this man called my office with determination to withdraw from the class. We met a day or two later in my office. He was open, calm, and easy to express his embarrassment as a result of having passed out trying to speak to the room filled with strangers. I led him through several possibilities that would allow him to save face in withdrawing from the class. Finally, he said, “There is no way I can live with myself if I drop this class.” He admitted to being more afraid to stand in front of a group of strangers making a speech than going into combat where it could mean death if he made the wrong decision. The decision was made; he would stay in the class. He made me promise that I would not go easy on him. After four weeks, this man turned into one of the most articulate and calm public speakers I have ever coached. What made the difference? He was a man of enormous courage. Fear never left this man when he would stand to speak, but he learned to use the fear to his advantage. Courage is not the absence of fear but the ability to act in spite of fear.

As a public speaker for more than 46 years, I confess to having fear when I stand before a group to make a public presentation, often, on issues deemed to be controversial. Being a person who truly believes in less government, I am dismayed that it is necessary for our government to be involved in personal matters of citizens’ lives. I wish that our culture were on the moral high ground in relation to marriage defined throughout the centuries as a union between one man and one woman. However, activist judges are making rulings from the bench different from the will of the people. We now need an amendment to our United States Constitution insuring the will of the people to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman.