An 88 year-old veteran, mill supervisor, father and farmer was buried in a small town churchyard in North Carolina today.
His daughter is a close friend of mine and so I stood at that service for the 21-gun salute that blasted as the church's flag flew at half-mast to honor Martin Luther King, Jr., and as Barack Obama was inaugurated for his second term as the nation's first black president.
The church was full of people and those who spoke talked about William Summers' toughness, hard work, generosity, and exceptional willingness to help friends, family, church, and country.
I watched the uniformed elderly men of the VFW who stood at the gravesite to honor Summers, watched one gloved hand shake as the old soldier held the prolonged salute, and thought about how many different ways there are to be gutsy, to follow conscience, to do the best one can day after day for a long time.
From Martin Luther King, Jr.
"Courage is an inner resolution to go forward despite obstacles;
Cowardice is submissive surrender to circumstances."
And from King's speech on courage in Selma March 8 1965: text is below the video. The courage speech is third on this video at 1:31. What King says about a man's courage is equally true for a woman.
"Deep down in our non-violent creed is the conviction there are some things so dear, some things so precious, some things so eternally true, that they're worth dying for. And if a man happens to be 36-years-old, as I happen to be, some great truth stands before the door of his life–some great opportunity to stand up for that which is right.