Tapestry of Faith: Virtue Ethics: An Ethical Development Program for High School Youth

Taking It Home

Part of Virtue Ethics

I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It's when you know you're licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. — Atticus Finch, in Harper Lee's novel To Kill a Mockingbird

IN TODAY'S WORKSHOP... we talked about the virtue of courage. We heard a wisdom tale from Japan about a courageous farmer. We explored ethical dilemmas and songs people have used in different times and circumstances to bolster their courage.


Have you seen the bumper sticker or tee shirts with this saying?

Lord, help me be the person my dog thinks I am.

Sometimes we act courageously because we do not want to disappoint those we love. Sometimes, we care especially about emulating the good qualities of people we admire and respect. Is there someone in your life whose example helps you stand strong and act with courage? Who are your heroes? You may have a famous hero, like Rosa Parks, and you may also have heroes who are your relatives, or even fictional characters. Tell someone about one of your heroes who sets an example for courageous behavior.

"Dude, You Have No Qur'an!"

In today's Internet age, a small act of courage captured on camera can inspire millions of people. On YouTube, watch this footage of an everyday hero standing up for religious diversity. Jacob Isom stopped a Qur'an burning in Texas by grabbing the kerosene-soaked holy book off a lit grill. (Notice that the majority of people protesting the burning are UUs, though Isom is not identified as such.)

Profiles in Courage in Books and Movies

Courage comes with many different faces. Profiles in Courage (New York: HarperCollins, 1956) is the title of a popular book by President John F. Kennedy. The quote for this workshop comes from the movie To Kill a Mockingbird (1962, directed by Robert Mulligan) based on the novel by Alabama author Harper Lee. In the story, a young girl learns about courage and justice from the example of her father.

Here are other movies demonstrating courageous acts:

  • Stand and Deliver (PG, 1988, directed by Ramon Menendez) is a true, but less obvious story about courage. A stubborn and dedicated teacher struggles to inspire his Latino students to achieve academic excellence, overcoming obstacles such as parental objections, pregnancies, and threats and humiliations from officials.
  • 12 Angry Men (1957, directed by Sidney Lumet) is a classic film about the courage of one person to stand alone against the majority.
  • Stranger Than Fiction (PG13, 2006, directed by Marc Forster) is an odd, wonderful film about a meek man learning who faces death with courage.
  • More movies: Horton Hears a Who (also a book), The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, It's a Wonderful Life, In and Out, Erin Brockovich, Rabbit Proof Fence, Temple Grandin, Gorillas in the Mist, Babe, Silkwood, A Raisin in the Sun, Hairspray, Philadelphia, and Rudy.
  • Documentaries about real life heroes include as Who Are the DeBolts (and Where Did They Get 19 Kids)?, The Times of Harvey Milk, and The Education of Shelby Knox. Do you have a favorite movie about courage?

Youth Courage Awards

Openly gay screenwriter, director, and producer Colin Higgins (Harold and Maude, Nine to Five) established the Colin Higgins Foundation in 1986 to support causes he believed in. Colin died from complications due to AIDS in 1988. To honor his memory, the foundation started giving Youth Courage Awards for bravery in the face of discrimination, intolerance, and bigotry based on sexual orientation and/or gender. Meet the 2011 honorees here.

The Cowardly Lion

If you have read or seen the 1939 film version of The Wizard of Oz, you know that the Cowardly Lion goes to Oz to request courage. Watch the movie again and note the times he acts with courage. Of course, his cowardliness is funny, too. Here is a link to one of his funnier moments, on a website for Best Speeches in Film. You can play the clip to listen to it, too.

The Strange Familiar

On YouTube, listen to "Courage Is... " by The Strange Familiar. You can see by the comments that this song has inspired many people. ABC Family aired the song in a 2008 episode of The Secret Life of the American Teenager.