Courage defined by Mandela, Churchill, Ali, and Angelou


Courage is a powerful, yet abstract word. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines it as:

“Mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.”

while the Oxford dictionary explains it as:

“The ability to do something that frightens one.”

I thought it would be interesting to look at courage as defined by some of history’s fearless heroes.


Nelson Mandela

spent 27 years in prison due to racist apartheid policies, and yet did not seek revenge when he was eventually released. Instead he became president of South Africa and helped end apartheid. He treated everyone fairly and became an advocate for peace around the world.

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”

Winston Churchill

was the prime minister of The United Kingdom during World War II. His incredible moral courage inspired British citizens and soldiers to persevere on to victory. He is often called the greatest statesman of modern times. 

"Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen."

Muhammad Ali

was one of the greatest heavy weight boxers in the history of the sport. More than that, he was an outspoken advocate for religious freedom and racial justice. He helped lift the status of African American athletes everywhere and indeed changed the meaning of what it means to be a athlete by standing firmly by his morals not only in the boxing ring but in every arena of life. 

“He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.”

Maya Angelou

was an award winning poet and author who was known for her contributions to the civil rights and women’s rights movements. She was never afraid to be brutally honest (even in the seven autobiographies she wrote), a trait that gave her writing a deep and inspirational quality. She stated:

“One isn't necessarily born with courage, but one is born with potential. Without courage, we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency. We can't be kind, true, merciful, generous, or honest.”
By: Susanna Olson

Leave a comment


This Congressman Chose To Fight


When he arrived, the men in charge tried to convince him to serve as a commander general. In this position he would remain safe from the harm of musket balls. Joseph Warren refused. He was a doctor, not a general. Despite his friend’s pleas, he insisted that a more experienced soldier be placed in charge. He would fight as an ordinary soldier. 

Continue Reading →

Sybil Ludington: The Female Night Rider


...All night long she rode furiously through the countryside, sounding the alarm and rallying the men. A friendly man stopped her and asked if she would like him to accompany her on her dangerous mission. She refused, sending him the opposite direction so that he could help spread the word farther. All in all, Sybil road 40 miles, more than double the amount Paul Revere rode on his famous night ride. She did not weary. She did not give up...

Continue Reading →

How Clara Barton (Founder of the American Red Cross) overcame her paralyzing fear of people.

Clara was terrified. She silently scanned the room full of students in front of her, wondering what to say. She was only 16 years old; some of her students were older and much larger than herself. She couldn’t do this. She just couldn’t.

You see, Clara Barton was a terribly shy girl...

Continue Reading →