Courage is an underutilized value in today's world. In my opinion, many people are guided more by fear than courage, thinking about what could happen or might happen in a negative way versus what should happen in a positive way. For me and at my company, "courage" is a core value by which we live and operate. Thankfully we have many role models of people who have and had courage that we can emulate.
The first Day of Courage is taking place on Monday, Feb. 4, which would have been Rosa Parks' 100th birthday. Rosa had courage in excess although she probably didn't realize it until the support for her rose up from multitudes of individuals. You see, Rosa sat down and by doing that contributed to the discourse of the civil rights debate. Her courage, or some might say defiance, changed the way of life for so many! This all happened on December 1, 1955 when while riding on a bus in Montgomery, Ala., Rosa was ordered to give up her seat to a man when the "white" section of the bus was filled to capacity. She refused and stayed seated. Her refusal lead to her being arrested for civil disobedience and to the beginning of what would end up being a 381-day bus boycott. She has been referred to by the U.S. Congress as the first lady of the civil rights movement. She had courage.
There are many examples of historical figures who had courage but we have also have current examples in philanthropy where courage has paved the way for change and progress. The Emmy- and Golden Globe-winning actor Michael J. Fox had courage when he disclosed he had Parkinson's disease, then used that courage to start the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's research, in 1998. To date, this Foundation, which was established in 2000, has provided more than $313 million to research in the hopes of changing the course of the disease and ultimately finding a cure. Michael J. Fox has courage.
Katie Couric showed true courage when she took up the colorectal cancer issue, and later cancer overall, due to the death of her husband, Jay, in 1998 from this disease. In year 2000, she co-founded the National Colorectal Cancer Research Alliance with the Entertainment Industry Foundation, raising more than $36 million to date. Additional through her public leadership and many other well-known individuals, the Stand Up 2 Cancer effort was launched. Katie Courage has courage.
Forty years ago Gloria Steinem and Marlo Thomas, as well as Letty Cottin Pogrebin and Patricia Carbine, changed the course of the women's movement through founding the Ms. Foundation for Women Through their efforts and courage, things for women have begun to change including passage in 2009 of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. A more common and often overlooked change, because we believe it has always been there is the standard practice of listing the option of "Ms" to most forms and used as a common salutation for women. Yet in 1973 this term was largely unheard of and seemed strange. To date the Ms. Foundation for Women is the largest women-focused nonprofit foundation and there's more work to be done. These four women and many since have had courage.
Finally, former NBA star, activist and philanthropist, Earvin "Magic" Johnson had lived a life of courage -- first disclaiming he was HIV-positive in 1991, then stating he would advocate for resources to be dedicated by initially establishing the Magic Johnson Foundation and later diversifying its mission to include other goals. Currently he is launching the Aspire cable network, which will highlight the many awe-inspiring and positive contributions of African-Americans to the American culture and way of life. Whether playing on or working off the court, Magic Johnson has demonstrated courage.
The Henry Ford located in Dearborn, Mich. has the actual bus on which Rosa sat and expressed her courage through defiance. Here are some things you can do in association with the museum:
• Go to The Henry Ford and sit on the same bus where Rosa Parks made history
• Connect via the Internet to the live streaming of the events taking place on February 4th
• Express what you will be doing to be courageous and then download a Badge of Courage from the Museum's Facebook page
• Share information about this day with everyone you know
Here are five additional ideas for you to be courageous on February 4th or any day of the year. By doing any of these, you will be Making A Difference (M.A.D.)!
1. In honor of Rosa, give up your seat on the train or bus to someone else and tell them, "I'm making a difference like Rosa did all those years ago!"
2. Do a random act of kindness for someone else- - let someone cut in front of you in line at the grocery store, coffee shop or even in traffic and say if only to yourself, "This one's in honor of Rosa's courage!"
3. Take time and have courage to write to your local politicians about an issue that is important to you
4. Give back. Have courage to make a donation of your financial resources or time to a nonprofit organization or a friend or neighbor in need; you will be amazed at what having a little bit of courage to do something for someone else does for your life.
5. Take responsibility for your actions like Rosa; sometimes standing behind what you have done takes the greatest amount of courage and leads to the greatest possible outcomes.
BONUS TIP: Have the courage to be yourself and follow your dreams! So many people focus on what the negative outcomes or results that they miss the opportunities to see the possibility of the positive happening!
Rosa Parks had courage and so can you, especially in the area of philanthropy. There are so many examples of people who stood up, or in Rosa's situation sat down, to be M.A.D.! Do something today and every day to be M.A.D.
Follow Lisa M. Dietlin on Twitter: www.twitter.com/lisadietlin