Parks: A Portrait in Courage

Winston Churchill, the British prime minister during World War II, aptly noted that "courage is rightly esteemed the first of human qualities . . . because it is the quality which guarantees all others."

It seems appropriate to invoke Churchill's words as I watch the flags at the Loudoun County Courthouse flying at half-staff in honor of Rosa Parks.

When she took a seat on a Montgomery, Ala., bus in a row marked "Whites Only," after a long day at work 50 years ago, Parks showed a style of courage that is not always noted in our history books but is intrinsically no different from the courage demonstrated by the brave men who landed at Omaha Beach in 1944. The quiet but steely-eyed courage Parks displayed that afternoon in 1955 guaranteed her the ability to advance those classically American virtues of justice, equal opportunity and self-determination.

I don't think that Parks meant to change the world that afternoon, but her simple courage gave her the ability to do so. The extraordinary respect afforded her by the joint resolution of Congress that allowed her body to lie in honor in the Capitol Rotunda is quite appropriate and should serve as a reminder of the unanticipated societal good that can flow from the exercise of individual courage.

J. Randall Minchew