Courage is a virtue difficult to cultivate, especially among self-interested citizens oriented toward the pursuit of their own happiness. At the extreme, why shouldn’t I prefer the preservation of myself to the preservation of my nation? If there is both a natural and cultural tendency to cowardice, how is courage to be cultivated?Although courage usually grows only through repeated acts in the face of fear and danger, inspiring speeches can rally groups of men on the eve of battle. These selections—excerpted from The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara (1928–1988), an account of the Battle of Gettysburg during the Civil War and General George S. Patton’s Speech to the Third Army—exemplify two such inspiriting speeches, in some ways similar, in some ways different.
Watch editors Amy A. Kass and Leon R. Kass converse with guest host Eliot A. Cohen (Johns Hopkins SAIS) about Michael Shaara’s “Chamberlain” and George S. Patton’s Speech to the Third Army. For discussion guides and more, visit whatsoproudlywehail.org/curriculum/the-meaning-of-america/courage-and-self-sacrifice andwhatsoproudlywehail.org/curriculum/the-meaning-of-america/courage-and-self-sacrifice-part-2.