Plato's philosophical devotion to the concept of fortitude girds today's historical understanding of the cardinal virtue.
By: LPR Chairman, Bob Schaffer
In all our searching for virtuous leaders there is scarce mention anymore of the one foundational virtue upon which so many others stand: Fortitude.
Plato regarded it as a core element of perfect wisdom. He characterized fortitude as “the principle of not flying danger, but meeting it.”
Webster’s defines fortitude as “strength or firmness of mind that enables a person to encounter danger with coolness and courage or to bear pain or adversity without murmuring, depression, or despondency.”
Some say these uncertain times of global economic weakness present unique burdens for champions who see themselves as defenders of capitalism, economic freedom, rugged individualism, authentic liberty and human dignity. Answered in the context of fortitude, such burdens are rather cheerfully embraced as valuable leadership opportunities.
William Faulkner issued one of the best statements I’ve read about fortitude in remarks delivered in 1950 at a state dinner in Stockholm, Sweden where he received the Nobel Prize for literature.
Though he spoke of the duties of serious writers, his observations were no less directed toward anyone obliged to inspire whether by the pen, the podium or personal example. One must, “teach himself that the basest of all things is to be afraid; and, teaching himself that, forget it forever,” Faulkner said.
Faulkner called for focus on “the old verities and truths of the heart” which include “love and honor and pity and pride and compassion and sacrifice.” Fortitude is a function of experience and entails subjecting oneself to ongoing personal tests of increased difficulty.
Fortitude is proven by those who experience and survive depths of despair, who turn agony into hope and who overcome doubt by summoning courage.
Such leaders are in high demand today. At LPR, we work to prepare men and women who possess the rare virtue of fortitude for the noble calling of civic leadership – to become foundational leaders upon which others stand.
Bob Schaffer is the Chairman of the Colorado State Board of Education. He is a former US Congressman and Colorado State Senator. He is also the Chairman of the Leadership Program of the Rockies. His monthly columns appear in the organization's newsletters. For more information and to subscribe, please visit www.leadershipprogram.org
More information about Schaffer at www.BobSchaffer.org