Ordinary Courage: The Strength of MLK Jr.

Jennifer Wolfe essays

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I’m sitting in my study on an overcast Monday morning. The sun came up a while ago, but went unnoticed by me as I busily wrote in my new journal, sketching out writing goals along with ideas, hopes and worries. I’m trying to move forward, you see.

As today’s American parents, we grew up in the shadow of words shared by visionaries—men like Martin Luther King, Jr., who taught us to approach each day with courage. We trust our children will be safe and return to us as they leave the house each day. We agonize over how to handle their failures and successes in order to nurture them into compassionate, confident human beings. We work hard and try to make good choices to steer our children in the right direction.

Daily, we ask our children to do their best. We ask them to go to school, follow the rules, and face down peer pressure. We believe they will handle puberty, relationships, and their sexuality with maturity. We expect they will work with all teachers, complete projects and assignments with above-average scores, and show their inner warriors on sports teams. They will go to college, graduate and have a career.

And the dreamers—the writers, the musicians, the artists that enhance and elevate our thinking through their imaginations. We are in awe of those spirits who have the audacity to believe that someone else will listen to them, read their words, or look at their dreams as they lay them before us in all their unprotected glory.

As I walked Capitol Mall in 2012 for the first time in my life, images from history books swirled through my mind. I became lost in the stories, the events, and the courage of so many men and women who had stood precisely in my location. Their stories are not all famous, and many have gone unknown amidst the pomp and circumstance of our nation. As I gazed up at the MLK Memorial and read the inscriptions of hope, I realized that they are all there with me, really. Their desires to live and die for their convictions.  Their courage in the face of unknown consequences. Their belief of living in the present, and their audacity to hope that somehow, their very existence in this world could bring change and move us forward as a country and a people.

Turning to today’s news, I realize I haven’t missed much. The rituals continue, the reporters recall each move of everyone-who-is-anyone in Washington. The people along the parade route cheer, wave, and smile as they catch a glimpse of the President as he drives by. This time, they vow, we were not going to miss it. We will do whatever it takes to be a part of history.

What I think they’re missing is that they already are. Kids, parents, and dreamers who line the Mall today are not only the past, but also the future. FDR, JFK, MLK and Obama are simply the embodiment of the collective courage of America. They are one of billions who walk out their door each day and face extraordinary, everyday courage. It is what we have in common, and what will move us forward as a country.

Have courage. Do what Martin Luther King Jr. asked, and remember, “There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must take it because conscience tells him it is right.”

Have courage. Make history. Move forward.

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About the Author

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a mom and middle school teacher, loves nothing more than watching kids be brave, courageous and navigate the world, Combining love, health and hope with a colossal amount of emotionally-charged inquisitiveness, Jennifer attempts to simultaneously slow down and speed up time by trusting fate and the global community to teach us life’s lessons. Jennifer reflects on life’s lessons on her blog, .

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January 2015 – live & learn
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