How did apartheid come to an end in South Africa? How was German Nazism resisted in the early days of Hitler’s power? How has racial segregation been challenged in America? Through “moral courage” — the willingness to speak truth to power and risk backlash for a greater good.
As Robert F. Kennedy told students at the University of Cape Town: “Few are willing to brave the disapproval of their fellows, the censure of their colleagues, the wrath of their society. Moral courage is a rarer commodity than bravery in battle or great intelligence. Yet is it the one essential, vital quality for those who seek to change a world that yields most painfully to change.”
Those words are even more true today. The dream of diversity is increasingly twisted by the politics of identity, which puts us in boxes that we’re afraid to bust open. This is why Irshad Manji has founded the Moral Courage Project.
According to Irshad, “Our era promotes conformity on various fronts. Either you’re a liberal or you’re a conservative. Either you’re a consumer or you’re a loser. Either you swallow the orthodoxy of your ethnic, ideological and professional tribe or you’re deemed a traitor. The pressure to identify with your ‘own’ reduces pluralism to group-think. That’s dishonest diversity.”
As innovator and instructor of the course, “Public Leadership and Moral Courage,” Irshad teaches that meaningful diversity embraces different ideas and not just identities. Her message to students: “When you exercise your unique voice, your community grows from talent that would otherwise be lost to self-censorship. Dare to develop individuality; it expands community.”
Housed at New York University’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, the MCP is growing into a global leadership program to help students engage in difficult dialogues about culture, power, justice, responsibility, citizenship and other contentious issues.
But the MCP reaches beyond the academy. It hosts this interactive website, which serves as a hub for students around the world. Here, you can learn and engage about how to defy dogma. Surf the site. Download our podcasts with the celebrated novelist Salman Rushdie and renowned journalist Christiane Amanpour. Above all, join the conversation.
Copyright © 2012 The Moral Courage Project