This is a time of great extremes – there are people who cower in the corner instead of speaking up, while others shine a great light with their bravery in standing up for justice. When despair grips us, it’s helpful to remember people who spoke (and speak) the truth and took courageous action, regardless of the consequences. These often ordinary people acted because their conscience compels them.
The other day, I was feeling low after so many elected officials chose to ignore the truth right in front of them and not even demand a fair trial. The explanations had to do with self-interest. I needed to remember people who acted for the common good, even when it was dangerous.
I asked this question on Twitter because I wanted to fill the airwaves with tales of hope:
Can we make a list of people in history who have stood up or spoken out for right even when it was not easy? I’ll start: Rosa Parks (although she actually sat, it took courage.) Who else? Let’s flood Twitter with tales of #Courage.
I love my Twitter followers – they responded en masse. These are only a few of the examples of people who were mentioned. Keep this list handy when you are feeling down or discouraged. (I added the Twitter handles to give acknowledgment and thanks to those who commented. There are many more. You can also add additional people in the comments below.)
Ruby Bridges @TravelingUS wrote: “Rabbi Jill, Ruby is my cousin.” (note: I was so grateful to learn that the great children’s psychologist Robert Coles interviewed Ruby in this video. It is a profound teaching from a 6 year old: https://vimeo.com/24297811 )
Marta Brown Werner This is my mother. Born in Mexico in 1906, a refugee to the US in 1914, and she and her mother, Concepcion Morales de Brown, were social activists. http://collguides.lib.uiowa.edu/?IWA0361 From Maggie @WashburneMaggie
Hannah Szenes; She was one of 37 Jewish SOE recruits from Mandate Palestine parachuted by the British into Yugoslavia during WWII to assist anti-Nazi forces and ultimately in the rescue of Hungarian Jews. Imprisoned and tortured, but refused to reveal details of her mission. From Judith @JayPako
David Hogg, Greta Thunberg, and all the other teens who stand up for what is right in the face of a barrage of criticism from extraordinarily powerful adults. From Abby @ablets
Harvey Milk! Dyan Sohn @DyanSohn
John Lewis @GirlNYC
Elijah Cummings @Tiredof2020
Claudette Colvin, a 15-year-old teenager, who was arrested and handcuffed by two Montgomery, Alabama police officers for not getting up and giving her seat to a white woman — nine months before Rosa Parks did. Because Ms. Colvin was a teenager and pregnant, the NAACP with which she filed a complaint felt that it was more suitable for Rosa Parks to go onto a Montgomery bus instead of her and provoke the same type of confrontation Ms. Colvin had. Ms. Colvin is still alive and in her 80s. From Theuresa Maven @theuresamaven
Colin Kaepernick, started a movement, and will never play NFL football again. But we salute him! RevWendy @SoulBlossom_Wen
My grandmother rented a room in her boarding house in 1916 to a Jewish immigrant when no one else would rent to him. She made his bride’s wedding dress as a gift later. I know because his widow brought her family to my father’s funeral to meet us. @Ca_Metzger
Those who put country first, incl: Bill Taylor, Marie Yovanovitch, Fiona Hill, and Alexander Vindman: “Dad, this is proof that you made the right decision 40 years ago,” he said. “Do not worry. I will be fine for telling the truth.” (AV) @ciaolimoncello
Chiune Sugihara, a Japanese diplomat who helped 6,000 Jews escape Europe. pat blake @EePat
The White Rose. Muhammad Ali, who opposed the war in Vietnam. The Dixie Chicks, who opposed Bush and his war against Iraq. John McCain, who refused to leave the Hanoi Hilton without fellow prisoners of war, and who refused to let Mitch McConnell gut the affordable care act. John McAndrew @phidippides26
Rep Adam Schiff @stablegeniusinc
Shirley Chisholm. Barbara Jordan. Michelle Obama. @leapie454
Barbara Jordan’s voice and command of the English language still gives me chills. kate rook @katerook3
Sen. Abraham Ribicoff, Sen. J. William Fulbright Chuck Lauria @Demochas
@MittRomney Tales of #Courage Mikki *Head On A Pike* Crow
Susan B Anthony @oceanlover4life
John Lewis. Mitt Romney today. Doug Jones today. Maria Yovanovitch. Amb.Taylor. Kent. And all our civil servants who testified. Dr. Vicki Weissler @docvicki
James Reeb, Viola Lizzo – Unitarian activists killed during voter registration drive, 1965. send the flying monkeys @LaurenUpstart
When the US refused asylum to Jewish people escaping the Nazis, Haiti gave them Asylum. I suppose that is one of the things Haiti was never forgiven for. #courage Webly Alfred @WeblyAlfred
My father, And his uncles, who fought with the Maquis in France during World War Two.moxie chacha @ChachaMoxie
Gloria Steinem, Bella Abzug, Cicely Tyson, Nancy Pelosi, Margaret Sanger, Betty Friedan, Shirley Chisholm, Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Sandra Day O’Connor, Madeleine Albright, Hilary Clinton, Malala Yousafzai, Sandra Sotomayer, Sojourner Truth Jody Diamond @jody_diamond3
All the indigenous elders and allies standing up for clean water and protection of sacred sites. moxie chacha @ChachaMoxie
This was what I needed this morning! I am late on the train but will still add my beloved relative, Sister Margaret Ellen Traxler. From Margaret Hageman @MargaretHagem11
Joseph Nye Welch who said “Have you no decency “ to Joseph McCarthy during his infamous hearings. https://youtu.be/8llS0ZkLVGA AZcatladyresists @EstherAnnePaul1
Colonel Alexander Vinmand and Ambassador Yovanovitch Tracey In Rankin @InRankin
Ellen DeGeneres for coming out when she did. She lost her show, but I wonder how many young lives she saved when she stood up. #ellenshow Lynn @Fairhopian1
Nat Turner. Ruby Bates. Fred Hampton. Angela Davis. Assatta Shakur. Billie Holiday. Paul Robeson. Queen Nzinga. Henry Box Brown. Sojourner Truth. Crazy Horse. Sitting Bull. carmen melody @carmen_sipotai
Paul Robeson, “ his history of supporting civil rights causes and pro-Soviet policies brought scrutiny from the FBI…Due to his decision not to recant his public advocacy, he was denied a passport by the U.S. State Department, and his income, consequently, plummeted.” Elizabeth Miller @DoorbellQn
1. Helmuth Hübener spread the word about Nazi atrocities in Germany. 2. Thomas Paine 3. Margaret Sanger 4. Harriet Beecher Stowe 5. Harvey Milk 6. Medgar Evers 7. Actress Gena Davis–Advocate 4 women in film industry. 8. Emile Zola 9. James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner Steamboater @Steamboater
Irena Sendler, a Polish Catholic social worker who organized a rescue network to save 2,500 Jewish children from certain death in the Warsaw ghetto. Carol LaBorie @CarolLaborie
Barbara Lee, on Sept 14, 2001, cast the lone vote against the Joint Resolution of Authorization for Use of Military Force. An incredibly courageous and prescient vote. I’m so proud that @BarbaraLee speaks for me. Dr. Ellen L. Simms, she/her @eswillwalker
Corrie ten Boom and her family were amazing. Betsie, her sister died in Ravensbruck pamela@estherpld2804
Be like Jaap. #Courage #DontBeABystander https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-xpm-2006-07-03-0607030001-story.html @CausticBitchNC
Thank you for this thread, Rabbi Jill! On a rather bleak day in our history, it warms my heart to see so many heroes. Carol Dodd @Carollistens2
To see more responses, you can find them here: https://twitter.com/RabbiJill/status/1225151785674821632
Thank you to everyone who contributed names. You made the world a better place by invoking the memory of brave souls who can serve as role models.
In the comments, please add more people who should be remembered for their courage.
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