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Voices of Courage

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Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes it sits in quiet dignity. Sometimes it speaks truth to power. Sometimes it mans the barricades. Sometimes it grimaces in pain. And sometimes it bows its head in prayer.

Courage is all around us: in the streets of Tunis, Cairo and Tripoli where oppressed people take a stand for freedom; in a hospital room in Houston where a wounded congresswoman struggles to reclaim the life an assassin tried to take from her; in Wisconsin where working men and women insist that the contract they made as public servants be honored; and in the White House where an idealistic young president works tirelessly to keep his promise of hope and change.

Courage can be found in the offices and conference rooms of Washington, as well as on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan. Courage is on display in every emergency room and in every military medical unit. Courage walks a cop's beat and drives a fire truck. Courage works in the corner office or in a cubicle. One can find courage on Main Street, and sometimes on Wall Street. Courage teaches in our classrooms and holds meetings in Pentagon conference rooms. Courage drives a city cab; courage plows a hardscrabble field. Courage beats in the heart of a young mother up all night with her feverish child; courage animates the dreams of young athletes, artists, and actors everywhere. Courage fills the pages of the entrepreneur's business plan, and courage bolsters the spirits of the job-seeker showing up for yet another interview.

Courage doesn't always roar... it whispers, it prays, it asks politely, it asserts firmly, it suggests gently, it demands insistently, it cajoles, it stakes its claim. And yes, courage sometimes does roar.

With courage on such abundant display lately, I was curious to see what book publishers had to offer in the way of courage. I'm happy to report that I found three terrific volumes: Courage Doesn't Always Roar by Mary Anne Radmacher, The Courage Companion by Nina Lesowitz and Mary Beth Sammons, and Courage Goes to Work by Bill Treasurer.

Courage Doesn't Always Roar is an inspirational gift book, filled with pages awash with color and animated with words in the author's own hand. It is a feast for the senses as well as the heart. My eyes drank in Mary Anne Radmacher's images and poetry. Sometimes I found myself feeling the urge to tear out a particular page and tape it to my bathroom mirror so I would see it every day... or tuck it into my wallet to re-read when I need words of hope and, yes, courage. I love these words: "Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, 'I will try again tomorrow.'" Ahhh, indeed... words of courage.

The Courage Companion is marvelous book of inspiration and instruction, with stories of real-life people living lives of courage, as well as a variety of tips, tools, and reminders on "how to live life with true power" (the book's subtitle). The foreword by Larry Wilcox, president of Amnesty International, speaks to the book's substance and spirit. Chapters include: "Courage to Speak Out," "Courage to Build Bridges," "Courage to Face Adversity," "Courage to Begin Again," "Courage to Fight," "Courage to Make a Difference," and "Courage to Just Try It." I love the stories of ordinary people living lives of extraordinary courage. Wherever I dip into Nina Lesowitz's and Mary Beth Sammons's book for a story, I feel humbled and inspired to live my own life more courageously.

Courage Goes to Work: How to Build Backbone, Boost Performance, and Get Results is a terrific book for anyone who's sick and tired of working in the Land of Business as Usual. In reading it, I am reminded that courage can wear a pinstripe suit or a uniform or a hard hat. Unfortunately, the world of work is where we sometimes feel we have to check our courage at the door -- afraid to make waves, fearful of what others will think, concerned for our job security and financial well-being. Author Bill Treasurer reminds us that a paycheck is not a good trade for our soul. I especially love Bill's "Three Buckets of Courage: Try, Trust and Tell." "Try" is the courage of action and pioneering first attempts; "Trust" is the courage of relying on the actions of others; and "Tell" is the courage of voice and truth-telling.

These three marvelous books do what many great books are designed to do -- remind us what we already knew, but forgot. After reading this trio, I felt a bit like the Cowardly Lion standing in front of the great and powerful Wizard of Oz... reminded that I already have what I need, deep in my heart -- courage.