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One of the most anticipated events during Reunion Weekend is the annual awards presentation. This year’s event followed MBC President Pamela Fox’s remarks about the momentum and future plans of the college on Saturday morning. Alumnae/i from all classes gathered to congratulate award recipients.award winners

Emily Smith Medallion

Named in honor of distinguished MBC alumna Emily McKelden Smith, this award was created by the MBC Board of Trustees to recognize alumnae/i who have made outstanding contributions to the college, their churches, communities, and beyond.

An accomplished professional and avid volunteer for a long list of organizations, Claire Lewis “Yum” Arnold ’69 is chairwoman of the Campaign Cabinet, offering expert guidance for Ever Ahead: The Campaign for Mary Baldwin College. She also served on the MBC Board of Trustees for 19 years and was the chairwoman for five years. Arnold is chief executive officer and co-founder of Leapfrog Services Inc., a remote information technology management and solutions company. Her professional experience includes growing NCC L.P., a local consumer goods distribution company, into one of Georgia’s five largest privately held companies, as well as serving as marketing manager for Coca-Cola USA. Arnold engages with her local community in many ways, volunteering her services to enhance higher education, increase conservation efforts in Georgia, and much more. She has been honored with numerous awards, including the Atlanta Rotary Club’s Armin Maier Community Service Award in 2009 and induction into the YWCA of Greater Atlanta Academy of Women Achievers.

Jane Townes ’69 has been the model of a life-long learner — a philosophy Mary Baldwin College continues to promote among its students. After graduating from MBC, Townes earned a master of arts from the College of William and Mary and a doctorate in history from Middle Tennessee State University. Today, she is a public historian and managing partner of Townes Building Partnership. She has participated in far-ranging civic activities, including leadership on the local library board and the Community Development Center board, an organization serving developmentally delayed children, special needs adults, and at-risk families across multiple counties. Throughout her professional career and community involvement, she has remained active at Mary Baldwin. She served on the Alumnae/i Association Board of Directors for nine years and served two terms on the Advisory Board of Visitors, in addition to many other volunteer activities. Among her accomplishments are earning a Middle Tennessee State University Provost’s PhD Dissertation Fellowship and the Shelbyville/Bedford County Chamber of Commerce Outstanding Leadership Award.

Emily Wirsing Kelly Leadership Award

Artist and former Alumnae/i Association Board of Directors President Emily Wirsing Kelly ’63 passed away in 1985. Her husband, Timothy Kelly, established a leadership award and a student scholarship in her memory through the Kelly Foundation. The Emily Wirsing Kelly Leadership Award recognizes alumnae/i who have demonstrated outstanding service and excellence in leadership on behalf of Mary Baldwin College.

Cynthia Luck Haw ’79 has devoted her life to working with young people, serving at various points as a teacher, mentor, and advocate. She taught elementary school for several years, earning recognition for her ability to connect with her students, and was named Outstanding Young Educator of the Year at the Johnson Street School. She is on the Board of Advisors for Elijah House Academy and is an active member of her church, where she taught Sunday school for 10 years, served as deacon, and assisted with youth mission trips. Despite her many commitments, Haw continues to make time for Mary Baldwin. She was a member of the Board of Trustees for 10 years, served terms on both the Alumnae/i Association Board and Advisory Board of Visitors, and has assisted with notable fundraising initiatives, including a matching gift challenge to encourage Reunion giving to the annual fund in 2009.

Community Service Award

A passion for service comes naturally to Michelle “Chelle” Jackson ’89, who was both an enlisted and a commissioned officer in the United States Army before earning a master’s degree in computer information systems and beginning a career as a paralegal. She actively searches for ways to make a difference in her community — identifying vital services and mobilizing efforts to enact them. She has been a Sunday school teacher for children ages 6 and under and a mentor for teenagers at her church for the past 15 years. She helped organize activities for feeding the homeless and recently launched a support group within her church for veterans and active duty officers returning home called Healing Our Warriors. The group offers spiritual and emotional support to help members of the military transition back to civilian life. Outside of church, Jackson is a member of The Black Doll Affair, a philanthropic organization devoted to empowering black girls to develop positive self-images.

Community of Faith Awards

No matter where she and her family have made their home, Anne Warren Hoskins ’64 has always sought out a church where she could foster and share her faith. While living in North Carolina, South Carolina, Maine, and Virginia, Hoskins formed an extensive church community and has made countless contributions to each congregation. Through the years, she has taught Sunday school, directed vacation Bible school, and served on the vestry and church council. She is currently treasurer for St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Lynchburg, Virginia. Outside of church, she has been a loyal volunteer for Junior League for 39 years — advocating for community engagement and improvement. She is also a member of the Hillside Garden Club and has worked with many other volunteer groups over the years, from the historical society and hospital auxiliary boards to the Parent Teacher Association.

Phyllis Short Marcom ’64 has shared her faith in unique and varied ways, within her own church and beyond. Her contributions to her community often have an educational focus, and Marcom does not hesitate to offer her leadership skills and knowledge to help others. She taught high school English, wrote Sunday school curriculum, greeted newcomers to her neighborhood as a Welcome Wagon hostess, and worked as an assistant manager of a Christian bookstore. She was elected president of the Virginia Baptist Minister’s Wives and served as secretary for both the hospital auxiliary and Junior Women’s Club. Aside from teaching Sunday school and vacation Bible school, she led women’s Bible study groups and served as president of the Women’s Missionary Union at three churches. When she’s not organizing or participating in a church activity, Marcom teaches English as a Second Language classes, volunteers at the Moss Free Clinic, tutors refugees, and prepares meals for a respite house.

Career Achievement Award

Ingrid Erickson Vax ’89 has distinguished herself in the marketing industry over the last 20 years by putting her heart into her work. Her motto is to leave situations better than how she found them — giving back and making an impact — and nothing makes a difference like fully investing yourself in what you do. Today, Vax is director of business development and agency relations at Spurrier Media Group, a strategic media planning agency, and she has contributed to campaigns such as marketing national outreach programs for the Department of Veterans Affairs. Her work has reached a wide audience, communicating services for the homeless, senior citizens, children, and more. She serves on the Board of Directors of the Washington DC Ad Club, an organization for advertising professionals in that area, and she is co-chair of the Events Committee. Prior to joining Spurrier, Ingrid worked in a variety of marketing and advertising roles at organizations including Volvo, Challenger Center for Space Science Education, Qorvis Communications, and Sallie Mae.

Look for more images of Reunion Weekend coming soon on the MBC Flickr page!

Last week, the Nu Sigma Chapter of Alpha Phi Sigma, the national Criminal Justice Honor Society, inducted 10 new members and two honorary faculty members, Dan Stuhlsatz and John Wells, during its second induction ceremony. Inductees were Gabriella Perry, Paige Reed, Todd Mattox Raven Jackson (not pictured), Melanie Vargas, Maria Neff, Dominique Munn (not pictured), Caitlin Novak, Kayla Cable, and Jaelynn Bennett. They joined chapter officers KaWanda Temple, president; Krystal Jones, vice president; Charity Martin, secretary; and Evenlyn Foster, treasurer.


Associate Professor of Sociology Dan Stuhlsatz presents the third in a series of faculty essays about Mary Baldwin’s 2013–14 theme, Courage. The writings, which appear in The Cupola Now this semester, are intended to deepen understanding of the theme throughout the campus community. The four contributing faculty members represent each School of Excellence.stuhlsatz headshot

Stuhlsatz’s research includes work on educational attainment, race, religion, and environmental issues. His areas of interest include social movements, environmental sociology, community service, social inequality, sociology of education, sociology of religion, and mountaineering.

The annual college theme is chosen to unite the Mary Baldwin community around a central idea that fosters civic and global engagement. The theme gives definition to the academic year and a way to link together the work of students, faculty, and staff from all disciplines and programs.

Courage is Everywhere

When I teach about social movements, I am often amazed at the remarkable courage of those who join and lead efforts to “change the world.” One focus of the course is on “nonviolent” movements. Gandhi was one of the most influential theorists and practitioners of nonviolence. For this reason, I usually show the first 30 minutes or so of the film documenting his life. This covers Gandhi’s early work in South Africa.

One scene comes to mind. Imagine yourself at the front of a group of protesters marching down a dusty road on a hot day toward a mine. Your purpose?  To oppose “pass laws” intended to control the movements of “colored people.”  In front of you, ranks of policeman on horses appear, slowly moving toward you, in formation. Their leader shouts orders; they stop and draw their weapons. And then they charge, their horses spurred to a full run. Their purpose is clear: your physical destruction. Your response?  All of you lie down. When the horses arrive, their masters cannot force them to trample you, and for some time their hooves are frantically pounding in front of your face on the ground — before the horses, and their mounts, retreat to where they came from.

We all recognize the remarkable courage in this scene. When we consider a life such as Gandhi’s, courage can seem a rare, exceptional gift, something that is beyond the reach of most of us. However, sociological analysis would indicate otherwise. If courage is the will to act in the face of fear and uncertainty, then history tells us that courage is a characteristic of every generation. In addition, the dynamics of group formation tell us that courage is an elemental property of social life. It is there among us, in us, in every social relationship and in every enduring group.

Consider history. Every decade of the long nightmare of segregation produced its compliment of brave souls who violated the laws and customs mandating separate facilities, or who married and formed families across racial lines. Some of these actions were formally documented, but I think that we can assume that most such actions were lost to memory, as is most of history. It was only when the historical circumstances were “right” that a few of these acts of courage in a particular generation became the collective courage of a nonviolent movement that changed history.

Consider the process of creating and maintaining groups, the “atoms” of social life. There are two steps to this. The first is the ability to understand others and to create, with them, a world filled with meaning. We can see the courage in others, because we can appreciate, to a remarkable extent, how the world looks through their eyes. In the second step, we use this understanding to create the rules and boundaries of group life, the norms that enable us to work together, to live together, and to create together. The group formation process is simple, yet profound: we constantly sanction each other. We approve, or disapprove, of everyone, all the time, subtly, openly. We judge, blame, thank, frown, smile, confront, suggest, advise, oppose, support, caution, encourage, warn — every day. In this way, we create the content and boundaries of every group.

For each of us, this means that social life is a constant negotiation for a respectable self-identity — that is, a self-identity approved by others. There is an elemental courage in the presentation of our selves to each other everyday. Courage is required to deal with those who choose to disapprove of us, and perhaps to stigmatize us, reducing our identity to a few characteristics that they happen to find objectionable. There’s a basic vulnerability to everyday social life that requires an element of courage if we are to elicit and maintain the respect of others. At least some respect from at least some others is essential to our survival.

This elemental courage can develop further in at least two ways. One is the capacity to respect ourselves, to honestly observe and understand ourselves — warts and all — in a constructive, rather than in a denigrating, manner. Another is the capacity to extend empathy and respect to those that we have chosen to disapprove of.

Another part of the film “Gandhi” depicts these elements of courage. This scene takes place in a community that Gandhi has established in which everyone has relatively equal social status. For example, everyone is expected to take their turn at “raking and covering the latrine,” a task traditionally relegated to the “untouchables” of Gandhi’s native India. Gandhi’s wife, Kasturbai, refuses this task. His response is sudden anger and in his rage he attempts to expel her from the community. Then, as suddenly as his anger emerged, he steps back and sees himself, “warts and all,” as a source of pain and oppression. He finds the courage to do so constructively, and to apologize. In response, she reconsiders and chooses to rake and cover the latrine. I think that their coming together, through self-awareness, is one of the greatest acts of mutual courage depicted in the film. This kind of courage is the foundation from which we gain the capacity to become part of the more dramatic events that characterize nonviolent movements.

The ubiquity of courage does not lessen the legacy of such remarkable “change-makers” as Mahatma Gandhi or Martin Luther King, Jr. It enables us to perform courage with them. It helps us to appreciate that we must stand up for ourselves, understand ourselves, and develop empathy for ourselves and others (all others, everyday) if we are to create the kind of mutual respect that can truly “change the world.”

Members of Mary Baldwin College’s business honor society have welcomed alumna Mary Beth Smyth ’47 to their ranks. At the Sigma Beta Delta induction ceremony this month, Smyth joined eight students to become members of the organization. Smyth and her late husband, H. Gordon Smyth, have given generously to the college over the years. The Smyth Leadership Lecture series has drawn to campus luminaries such as Benazir Bhutto, Venus Williams, Cokie Roberts, and Geraldine Ferraro. The Smyth Business Program brings regional and national business leaders to campus for public lectures and classroom visits. Most recently, the couple gave $1 million to establish the H. Gordon and Mary Beth Smyth Chair in Business Administration, now held by Assistant Professor of Business Administration Joe Sprangel.

MBC Sigma Beta Delta Induction Ceremony 03/14/2014 MBC Sigma Beta Delta Induction Ceremony 03/14/2014
MBC Sigma Beta Delta Induction Ceremony 03/14/2014 MBC Sigma Beta Delta Induction Ceremony 03/14/2014

Associate Professor of Psychology Heather Macalister presents the second in a series of faculty essays about Mary Baldwin’s 2013–14 theme, Courage. The writings, which appear in The Cupola Now this semester, are intended to deepen understanding of the theme throughout the campus community. The four contributing faculty members represent each School of Excellence.

heather_macalisterMacalister is a life-span developmental psychologist with an interest in women’s psychosocial development in adolescence, young adulthood, and midlife. At Mary Baldwin she is co-head of the psychology department and teaches the developmental psychology sequence (Child Psych, Adolescent Psych, and Adulthood) as well as Psychology of Women and Introductory Psychology.

The annual college theme is chosen to unite the Mary Baldwin community around a central idea that fosters civic and global engagement. The theme gives definition to the academic year and a way to link together the work of students, faculty, and staff from all disciplines and programs.

The Courage to Fail

“If you’re afraid of failing, you won’t get very far.” – Steve Jobs

The word “courage” brings to mind images of lions and heroes and faraway battlefields.  But it’s also an everyday construct, for ordinary people under ordinary circumstances. It requires a certain bravery to live a full life, to strive for self-actualization.

Asked how her day at school went, my 7-year-old daughter told me yesterday, “Good. It was easy. I finished all my math, language, and science early.” Not pleased, I responded, “Oh, it sounds like you need more challenge.  If the work’s too easy, you can’t learn from it and you can’t progress.  The way to tell if the work is the right level for you is if you’re making a few mistakes.  If you don’t make any mistakes, it’s too easy.  If you can’t get through it because you’re making so many mistakes, it’s too challenging.  If you make a few mistakes, you’re at the right level — it’s important to make mistakes so you can learn.”

Many of us have not been encouraged to make mistakes.  Mistakes equal failure.  Most of us want to avoid failure.  Some of us downright fear it.  A failure is a setback. When we fail, we watch others surge ahead from our spot down in the dust. Millennial Generation youth, in particular, have been encouraged to toe the line and keep up with their ever-achieving peers.  For all their virtues, achievement and compliance among them, Millennials (born between 1982 and 2002) have been described by generational experts Howe and Strauss (2003) as risk-averse — and as a result, sorely lacking in creativity. The worry for a generation seen as thinking largely inside the box is an absence of visionary leadership.

Social psychologist Teresa Amabile’s (1996) landmark research on creativity suggests that the courage to take risks comes from having self-chosen tasks or self-defined problem — in other words, intrinsically motivated work. Such work may be hard to find (or unpleasant) for Millennials educated under “No Child Left Behind” and its emphasis on choosing the right multiple-choice answer. It should be noted, though, that popular child psychologist Eda LeShan presaged Amabile’s findings back in 1968: “Despite the fact that every discovery, every invention, every work of art has been created out of the inner courage, the capacity to accept the possibility of failure, we seem to be forcing our children into a position where failure is intolerable and to be avoided at all costs” (p. 336).

Biology equips us with something akin to courage at adolescence, or maybe something akin to stupidity.  Thanks to changes in neurotransmitter receptors in the limbic system of the brain caused by pubertal hormone shifts, we require ever-riskier experiences to give us the same dopamine payoff.  At younger ages, stealing from the cookie jar right before dinner was an adequate thrill.  But at adolescence, especially with a mixed-gender peer audience, only something far more dangerous will give us sufficient neurochemical reward.  And tragically, the brain’s so-called “area of sober second thought” is asleep at the wheel: the prefrontal cortex’s capacity for making good decisions doesn’t finish developing until we’re in our late 20s. Some psychologists (e.g., Dahl, 2004) have argued that brain development is set up this way to push us from the nest. Giving up the safety and familiarity of the family of origin requires courage — or at least a hormonal boost.

Once the executive function of the prefrontal cortex is fully mature, we rein in risky behavior by thoughtfully weighing the pros and cons of our potential actions and making more careful decisions before we act. We’re now naturally (biologically, chemically) more risk-averse.  So, Millennial young adults’ motivation to avoid risk of failure is a product of both nurture and nature.

Avoiding failure is easy.  If you don’t try, you can’t fail.  Taking the easy route and choosing non-challenging tasks guarantees a minimal level of success.  Of course — as President Theodore Roosevelt is known for saying something along the lines of — “Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those timid spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.” The daughter I mentioned attends a Montessori school, where children choose their own work.  She usually likes to choose the easy, gray twilight stuff.  So, I need to work on setting her up for failure.  Part of the Homelander Generation, my daughter may be more likely to receive “resilience parenting” than “helicopter parenting” by which she develops the courage to take risks by discovering that failing is critical to both learning and creativity.

Creative, visionary leadership is not risk-averse.  On the contrary, failure is built into success.  Steve Jobs provided an excellent illustration of this, known for his successes that would not have been possible without his failures.  The good news for Millennials?  Those who can find the courage to fail — and develop their creativity by doing so — may find themselves very much in demand.


Amabile, T. (1996). Creativity in context. Boulder, CO: Westview.

Dahl, R. (2004). Adolescent brain development: A period of vulnerabilities and opportunities.  Annals of the New York Academy of Science, 1021, 1-22.

Howe, N., & Strauss, W. (2003). Millennials go to college. U.S.: American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers and LifeCourse Associates.

Jobs, S. (1994, November 14). Interview. Santa Clara Valley Historical Association. NeXT Headquarters, Redwood City, CA.

LeShan, E. (1968). The conspiracy against childhood. NY: Atheneum.

Roosevelt, T. (1910, April 23). The man in the arena: Citizenship in a republic. Address delivered at the Sorbonne, Paris.

More than 60 Mary Baldwin College psychology students attended a screening of the new film Divergent at The Dixie Theater on Tuesday night as part of their study of personalities and how it relates to the popular movie and young adult book series on which the film is based. Associate Professor of Psychology Louise Freeman, who has been conducting research on the books and will teach a course this summer at Louisiana State University about the psychology and neuroscience of the books and film.freeman_lsu

Freeman and Assistant Professor of Psychology Chandra Mason decided to take students in Mason’s personality class to the film, and when The Dixie offered a generous group rate, they opened it up to other psych classes as well.

“The author of the trilogy, Veronica Roth, was a psychology student at Northwestern when she began writing [Divergent], and much of the dystopian world she has constructed is built around psychology theory, particularly Five Factor Personality theory,” Freeman said.

After the movie, Freeman and Mason gave a brief presentation.

“We figured at first we would be lucky to get 20 [students] and were delighted with the numbers we got,” Freeman said. “We had a great evening … we wound up with students from almost every class the department is teaching this year.”

The pair is also working on a paper arguing that Roth’s dystopian Chicago’s “Five Faction” system is based on the leading personality theory in psychology research today.

“It was a great lecture, and I enjoyed seeing how the five factions of Roth’s dystopian world (Erudite, Abnegation, Candor, Amity, and Dauntless) compared to each of ‘the Big Five’ personality traits (Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism),” said student Autumn Bussuvanno ’14. “It was great seeing how relevant personality psychology was to the story of Divergent. Although I had little interest in the series before the lecture, I am really looking forward to watching the next film, and possibly reading the series, to see what else I find. Professor Mason and Dr. Freeman did an amazing job with this event, and I hope that the psychology department has more events like this in the future to get students to think more about psychology beyond the classroom.”

“During the discussion after the movie Dr. Mason provided some brief background on the five factors and you could really see how they fit into the main behavior traits of the different groups,” said student Rachel Cox ’16. “Dauntless, which is the one the movie centers around, definitely shows some adult-like outcomes for people who score high in neuroticism.”

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Virginia Women’s Institute for Leadership senior Carolyn Denny traveled last month to Colorado Springs for the Air Force Academy’s annual National Character and Leadership Symposium (NCLS). One of the nation’s premier symposia in the field of character and leadership development, the NCLS brings together distinguished scholars, military leaders, corporate executives, world-class athletes, and others to explore a character-related theme based on the Academy’s institutional outcomes. It provides the opportunity for Academy personnel, visiting university students and faculty, and community members to experience dynamic speakers and take part in group discussions to enhance their own understanding of the importance and challenges of sound moral character and leadership. Amy Underwood, VWIL’s director of leadership development, accompanied Denny on the trip.

Denny said her favorite speakers of the three-day trip were Major Dan Rooney, founder of the Folds of Honor Foundation, who imparted advice about making a lasting impression; Scott Hines, founder and CEO of Hines Global Education and city councilman of Rancho Mirage, California, who shared a story about inclusivity; and Gen. Janet Wolfenbarger, commander of the Air Force Material Command.

Wolfenbarger was a member of the first class of women to matriculate into the Air Force Academy. In her speech, Denny said, Wolfenbarger explained how she has learned the fundamentals of leadership.

“General Wolfenbarger said, ‘Any day I will take someone without depth and knowledge but with a positive attitude, over someone with depth and knowledge but a negative attitude.’ This was very meaningful to me,” Denny said. “Someone once told me, ‘you are your biggest enemy.’ It is true, and here was one of only 13 four-star generals reiterating that philosophy.”

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A group of 14 from Mary Baldwin College visited Cherident, Haiti, last week for an alternative Spring Break trip, conducting community needs assessment research; providing physical therapy for more than 150 people; and working with that community to create a mural that reflects the history, landscape, and identity of the area. “We gained insights about Haitian culture, and our own,” writes Associate Professor of Communication Bruce Dorries in his regular newspaper column. Read more from Dorries in this Sunday’s  News Leader.

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Rites of Passage — known as “Rites” or “Breakout” around the Mary Baldwin College campus — represent the culminating exercise of the nULL experience in the Virginia Women’s Institute for Leadership and lead to formal recognition of freshmen cadets as full members of the Corps of Cadets. Rites occurs when the young class of freshmen has proven its unity and sisterhood and signals the official end of nULL-ship. During Breakout, nULLs complete intense physical exercises over a period of many hours. It began this year at 3 a.m. and lasted for eight hours.

Breakout ends with a formal ceremony welcoming freshmen cadets as full-fledged members of the corps. During which, they ascend through the ranks to receive congratulations from President Pamela Fox and other dignitaries and take their place within the corps.

Upon completion of Rites, freshmen no longer walk the nULL line, are addressed as “cadet” instead of nULL, and earn the privilege of wearing the VWIL crest on their epaulets.

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Professor of Philosophy and Religion Jim Gilman presents the first in a series of faculty essays about Mary Baldwin’s 2013–14 theme, Courage. The writings, which will appear in The Cupola Now in the coming weeks, are intended to deepen understanding of the theme throughout the campus community. The four contributing faculty members represent each School of Excellence.

The annual college theme is chosen to unite the Mary Baldwin community around a central idea that fosters civic and global engagement. The theme gives definition to the academic year and a way to link together the work of students, faculty, and staff from all disciplines and programs.

Moral Courage

By Jim Gilman

How disciplined are you? How much in control of yourself are you? When you and your mother or spouse are having a verbal disagreement, do you find yourself impulsively snapping back? When someone gossips about you and your friends, do you retaliate and spread rumors in turn about them? These scenarios are unremarkable and familiar; but whether we retaliate or not depends on whether we have moral courage or not. The ancient Greeks counted courage among their four cardinal virtues: cardinal because it is fundamental for being able to practice other virtues, like kindness and generosity. Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle all include it in their pantheon of virtues. Courage is, indeed, a cardinal quality of character, essential to living an extraordinary life, such as was lived, for example, by Socrates, Amos, Buddha, Jesus, Gandhi and King; but such as can also be lived by ordinary people like you and me.

jimgilmanMoral courage consists of two fundamental disciplines — meekness and mercy.  “Meekness” is a word that has pretty much disappeared from our moral discourse; and when it is used it usually means something like a “mild mannered” or “retiring” personality. On the contrary, meekness refers to the fortitude and self-discipline of character that refuses to retaliate even when there is otherwise just cause to do so. The biblical phrase woven into the fabric of our language today, “turn the other cheek,” perhaps best encapsulates meekness. Think of the strength and self-control required for a person to not retaliate when there is good and fair reason to do so. The campaigns of both Gandhi and King included meekness; they both include a step of “self-purification” in which the community examines itself to see if each individual and all collectively possess the courage, in the face of opposition and animosity and violence, to refrain from retaliating in kind. They believed that only if the courage of meekness is practiced can the commitment to human and civil rights succeed.

Meekness is only the initial phase of moral courage, which is followed and completed not by justice but by the practice of mercy. Jesus’ “turn the other cheek” is preceded by his rejection of “an eye for an eye” (retaliatory justice) and is followed the “love your enemies” (mercy). Nothing is courageous if not the strength of character required to love the very enemies who do not merit it, who have no right to claim its generosity.  The strength of non-retaliatory meekness is one thing, the steadfastness of love’s mercy is quite another. Not only did Gandhi and King practice non-retaliation, they also practiced pro-actively compassion and care for the enemy. Some in the civil rights movement, like the black nationalists, were impatient with it; they believed meekness and mercy were not sufficiently powerful to overcome the Leviathan of Jim Crowe injustice. They advocated, instead, retaliatory justice, force for force, violence for violence. But it was the discipline and courage of mercy, not reciprocal violence, which endowed the movement with the passion and power to redeem and reconcile.

The foundation of any just society is not, ironically, the courage to do justice. In an unjust world the only kind of courage that is equal to the task of subverting injustice and sustaining justice is that of meekness and mercy; they alone are endowed with the kind of power that overcomes injustice and establishes a just, benevolent community. So, when you think of “getting even” in your personal life, or “doing what is fair and just in social, political, and global life”, know that whatever the results might be, they will likely not include a harmonious and fair and just outcome. Such outcomes require the moral courage of meekness and mercy.