Courage is a forgotten virtue. Too often courage is shoved aside and replaced with bluster, anger, and abuse. Just ask the actor Robert De Niro. Outside the courthouse during Donald Trump’s criminal trial, De Niro expressed his fears about what another Trump presidency would bring to America.

De Niro was met with the maelstrom of an angry mob. The nasty words hurled at him were false displays of strength and sadly lacking in courage. Yet these insults were amplified by the news cycle and the tirades trending on social media. We are seeing a lot of mob action in the political arena and are bound to see a lot more of this sort of mob spectacle in the coming year.  

The irony is Robert De Niro and Donald Trump are approximately the same age and both are from New York City. There is, however, a significant difference between the two men. Trump, who hails from wealth and privilege, has conned the white working class. De Niro is a working-class kid who is too savvy to be duped by a con man. Make no mistake, Robert De Niro is one of us. (Trump pretends to be one of us.)

Seeing Robert De Niro take a courageous stand when so many other talented creative professionals are too afraid to speak the truth might make us shudder. So, let’s take a look at the heart of courage.

Courage is the ability to do something even when we’re afraid, or there is great danger present. Courage always means we are at great risk to do the brave and noble act that can save a life or spare someone from harm.

A courageous act might be as simple as a child who is afraid of speaking up in class and raises her hand for the first time. Courageous acts can be as harrowing as the mother who arrives at the scene where an active shooter is still at large and does everything in her power to save her child.

Courage is very evident among first responders, who have jobs that demand bravery: firefighters, EMTs, police officers—the first to go in and the last to leave the scene until everyone has been brought to safety. While first responders have jobs to ensure public safety, many of us might also be called at a moment’s notice to act with courage.

Consider this: Robert De Niro has fame, wealth, and creative success on multiple levels. He didn’t have to put himself into a situation where he was inevitably bound to draw heat. We don’t have to ask why. It’s evident that he could not live with himself unless he stood up for what was right.

Courage is a rare confluence of the heart, mind, body and soul. A bit of pluck is needed to do the right thing when we might be cursed, reviled or physically harmed. Courage is often the act of one brave soul versus a raging mob whose participants fuel each other in a feeding frenzy of hate and anger. Mobs find safety in numbers because fundamentally mobs are made up of cowards.

Being courageous can be a lonely pursuit. Instead of following the lemmings going over the cliff, the courageous person stands tall above the crowd and does the right thing.

What will any of us do when we are called to be brave in the face of danger? We can speak up like De Niro and take heat for a couple of days, or we can skulk off to the sidelines and crawl into our shells that will never give us the long-lasting protection we crave.

Courage is often quiet but demonstrative. We can easily spot courage because it makes us cringe to see a brave soul getting a public hazing and going up in flames. On the other hand, only the brave go down in history as shining examples of true strength and integrity. These stories of courage are the only stories that, in the long run, we will hold in our hearts and pass on to our children.  




Patricia Vaccarino

Patricia Vaccarino is an accomplished writer who has written award-winning film scripts, press materials, articles, essays, speeches, web content, marketing collateral, and ten books.

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