7th February 2020 – PROFILES IN COURAGE – A peek into the past
By itself, the word “profile” refers to a SIDE VIEW of something, be it that of a person or an animal or of any object for that matter!
In 1956, the then-Senator John F Kennedy seized on that word and created a phrase out of it when he wrote a book which he titled “Profiles in Courage.” It won him the Pulitzer Prize, an award for achievements in literary work — literature in Kennedy’s case.
As Kennedy meant it, a “profile in courage” is a side view of ACTS OF BRAVERY displayed by courageous people in the face of opposition or ridicule or even of threats to their own personal safety.
C-a-s-e i-n p-o-i-n-t
Didn’t we see a PROFILE IN COURAGE being displayed when Senator MITT ROMNEY of Utah voted just yesterday to impeach President Trump for “Abuse of Power?” Let me quote a part of his speech which he literally choked up when he uttered it:
“As a senator-juror, I swore an oath before God to exercise impartial justice. I am profoundly religious. My faith is at the heart of who I am. I take an oath before God as enormously consequential. I knew from the outset that being tasked with judging the president, the leader of my own party, would be the most difficult decision I have ever faced. I was not wrong.
“So the verdict is ours to render under our Constitution. The people will judge us for how well and faithfully we fulfill our duty. The grave question the Constitution asks senators to answer is whether the president committed an act so extreme and egregious that it rises to the level of a high crime and misdemeanor. YES, HE DID”
See, being the only Republican in the US Senate who so voted, and therefore faced with the possibility of being ostracized by his own party members, that was indeed a Profile in Courage.
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Didn’t we see a PROFILE IN COURAGE being displayed when LORD MANSFIELD sitting in an English Court in 1772 ruled in Somerset v Stewart that the slavery of a black man (James Somerset), bought and brought back from Jamaica by his English master, was wrong when faced with those HAUNTING WORDS, “Am I not a man and a Brother,” words that were answered by these HIGH-MINDED WORDS, “Let justice be done whatever the consequence.”
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Didn’t we see a PROFILE IN COURAGE being displayed when Chief Justice EARL WARREN sitting in the US Supreme Court ruled in 1954 in the case of BROWN V BOARD OF EDUCATION that “separate-but-equal” education was not in fact, equal at all? The phrase “separate-but-equal” was used in a previous case (Plessy v Ferguson) that racially segregated public facilities were LEGAL, so long as the facilities for blacks and whites were EQUAL.
On the facts, Ms. Brown lived near to a school which was, to all intents and purposes, meant for white children. Being black, she was not allowed to be registered as a student on the basis that she could go to an all-black school, though some distance away. Such an exclusion, it was argued, should not be legally wrong so long as the facilities in that black school were equal to that of the white school.
But wherein lies the profile in courage? The court ruled that “separate-but-equal” was nothing but man-made “legal nonsense” pure and simple. Ms. Brown was therefore allowed to register in what’s supposed to be an all-white school.
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Didn’t we see a PROFILE IN COURAGE being displayed when DATO LEE SWEE SENG ruled that the conversion of 3 Hindu Indian children to Islam at the UNILATERAL DECISION of their dad who decided to become a Muslim and to take them along with him into his new faith, SHOULD BE QUASHED?
How so? Because their mom should have a say in the matter too AND the children themselves (12, 11, and 11-months old) must be mature enough to understand the import of what they were doing. It’s different if they had been born into a Muslim family in the first place.
But why was Dato Lee’s ruling a “profile in courage”?
Well, it’s a profile in courage because he has placed a sensible and rational principle over his own professional advancement. Being a Judicial Commissioner, at the end of his 2 years in that position, with Malaysia being a “Muslim nation,” he just might not be appointed a HIGH COURT JUDGE. If so, his subsequent progress to being a COURT OF APPEAL judge would be in tatters and so would a potential elevation to being a SUPREME COURT JUDGE, the hopes and dreams of not a few high-minded law students when they enter law school.
With that, I will end with this.
P-r-o-f-i-l-e-s i-n C-o-u-r-a-g-e? Not hard to see it, is it, in an American Mormon politician in the person of Sen. Mitt Romney or an American Chief Justice, namely EARL WARREN or an august English Judge in LORD MANSFIELD. But we really don’t have to go far afield to see courage being displayed, do we? We have one in our very own Dato Lee Swee Seng.
A big KUDOS to all the above?!? A resounding YES it has to be!