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Moral Courage

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Moral courage can be defined as "the quality of mind and spirit that enables one to face up to ethical challenges firmly and confidently," (Kidder, 2001). It means having the courage and will to practice the core values of being honest, fair, respectful, responsible and compassionate. Moral courage has to be a conscious and aware of the risks involved in the choice one is making.    

Charles Mac Mathias was a U.S. Republican in the Senate and the House for eight years (Washington Post, 2010). Prior to that, he had been in the Navy, a Maryland assistant attorney general, and a city attorney at his birth place, Frederick. It was at Frederick that he had begun being out spoken co civil rights issues. In the 1960,s when black and white segregation was popular, he was one of those who actively participated in desegregating the local opera house. He voted for the ratifying of the 14 amendment of the U.S. Constitution. As a member of the house Mathias always collided with his fellow Republicans because his moderate character towards the Democrats on several such issues like discrimination in housing, improving people’s welfare, supporting civil rights for all. He pushed for regulations that would limit campaign finances, setting an example by rejecting any campaign contributions in excess of $100. He also pressed for a reduction of troops in the Vietnam War.

By taking his firm stands Mathias lost several chances of becoming a chairman of the Republican Party. He risked the prestige that would have accompanied the chairmanship. He risked the popularity and a chance for recognition by standing against his fellow Republicans. He also lost the chance of gaining monetary wealth from the chairmanship and from the campaign donations that he rejected. These decisions were a moral issue. The stands he made on the various issues were of a moral concern. He believed that segregation of blacks and whites was wrong. The decision to make a stand on the issue was difficult. He had risked facing ridicule from his fellow white population and stood by the moral decision to take an active role in desegregating the local opera house.

Deontological theories include the nonconsequential evaluation and Kant’s Divine Command Theory. Deontological theorists believe that in ethical reasoning decisions are made based on one’s duty and rights for others but not on the consequences of the actions. Kant’s theory is based on first doing what is right because God has declared it right and then because one has the duty to act. They believe that one should not make a decision on an act out of the consequences. In applying these theories to Charles Mathias, his actions were nonconsequential. He acted out of duty to do the right thing and to pass legislatures that were for the common good.

Confucius had five virtues that he believed a man should try to adhere to, gravity, and generosity of soul, earnestness, and kindness without being egoistic. Benjamin Franklin had thirteen of them, temperance, silence, order, resolution, frugality, industry, sincerity, justice moderation, cleanliness, tranquility chastity. According to Augustine the Christian virtues are based on humility. Charles Mathias humility, frugality and non egoistic character were clear in his lifestyle. According to Washington Post (2010), Mathias was” the gregarious, easygoing guy in the rumpled suit who loved a crab feast on his beloved Chesapeake Bay as much as he did the study of American history or his old rattletrap car.” His resolution and being just was shown in the way he stood up and defended the laws that he believed were right even when it was against the stand of the Republican Party. His generosity of the soul and humility was in his friendly demeanor as he was considered to be a friend to many.

In moral theory identification, the observer identified directly and one on one with the individual as the observer tries to imitate and relate with the individual. Mathias always fought for what was just. Mathias may have identified himself with the black Americans as he was a strong defender of the black American civil rights movements, an act that led him to constant collision with Richard Nixon’s administration. 

Utilitarianism is the theory that one performs an act from the utility for the act to provide happiness. It is a form of consequentialism. Mathias behavior is against utilitarianism in that he would have received more ‘utility’ as a supporter of all the Republican bills regardless if they were right or wrong.

Charles Mathias can be called a modern political role model. He risked increased popularity, monetary gains, ridicule, and a more glamorous political career for his stand to choose what he believed to be right. His support on the civil rights movement was recommended. It was the moral thing to do. Most of his fellow white republican members did not have the courage to stand up and support the civil movement but he did. He pushed for the reduction of the troops in the Vietnam war and made his stand against President Nixon’s bombing campaigns at Lao. He also had the means to be frugal but he chose to be moderate and to live a humble life. His life is an example for everyone, to make a strong stand in what one believes in. He is an example of moral courage as he was firm, just and lived what he preached.

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