Happy Birthday, Mr. Twain

If you happen to go to Google’s homepage today, you’ll notice a picture depicting a scene in which one boy is tricking another boy into painting a fence. The scene is a reference to a book written about a young man named Tom Sawyer.

Google’s doodle is a celebration of what would have been Samuel Clemens’, the book’s author, 176th birthday–many of you may know him by his pen name, Mark Twain.

Since Mr. Twain was such a huge influence on American literature, I decided to scour the web for quotes by him, on Google of course. The following quote caught my attention:

“It is curious that physical courage should be so common in the world and moral courage so rare.”

I put the quote as my status on Google chat this morning, which one of my friends read, and was questioned on how I defined moral courage.

To me, moral courage is having the courage to challenge the status quo, no matter how unpopular your opinion, when you see something that is ethically and morally wrong. These ethics and morals are based on a set of beliefs and principles that are in the pursuit of social justice, human rights and equity for everyone. These ideas are not motivated by avarice nor do they promote enslaving one another, taking away each other’s freedom to live our lives without interference or starting wars for profits.

These ideas are unpopular because they challenge those in power and represent a real threat to that power. Many of us have been conditioned to believe what those in power tell us is the norm, so when someone comes along who is brave enough to challenge the status quo, that person is met with ostracism and resistance and it is often the case he or she is punished directly or indirectly, whether it be through intimidation, coercion or physical harm. Yet, there are those who have the moral courage to speak out when they are aware of an injustice, even if they are in the minority.

Some modern examples of people who I feel have displayed moral courage include, but are not limited to, Nathan Brown, Julian Assange, Bradley Manning and the many human rights defenders around the world.

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