Whether they lived 200 years ago or still walk the earth today, men and women of courage and conviction have been used by God in mighty ways all over the world. Here is a (non-exhaustive) list of some who have inspired and encouraged me. I’ll definitely be adding to this list as time goes on.
Robert E. Lee, Commanding General of the Confederacy. A devout Christian, Lee was a man of principle, kindness, and intelligence. He was respected not only by his men and superiors, but also by his opponents in the American North.
“The truth is this: the march of Providence is so slow and our desires so impatient; the work of progress is so immense and our means of aiding it so feeble; the life of humanity is so long, that of the individual so brief, that we often see only the ebb of the advancing wave and are thus discouraged. It is history that teaches us to hope.”
Margaret Houston, the wife of Sam Houston. Margaret married the first president of the Republic of Texas when she was only twenty years old; he was forty-six. They had eight children together and a long, happy marriage; Margaret’s greatest joy was in leading her husband to Christ.
“My duties are many and arduous, but blessed be God! He gives me strength for my day. They are often wearisome to spirit and body, but I would not have them otherwise than they are for me, for God has ordained that they should be so and He knows what is best for me.”
Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain of the 20th Maine. He led the desperate and now-famous charge down Little Round Top during the Battle of Gettysburg. What is less well-known is that Chamberlain later became a general and was present during Lee’s surrender at Appomattox. His example of kindness and generosity to the defeated Confederates won him the admiration of many as a Christian leader.
“Who shall tell what is past and what survives? For there are things born but lately in the years, which belong to the eternities.”
Victoria Ka’iulani, Princess of Hawaii. While only a young woman, Ka’iulani fought the unconstitutional annexation of her country to the United States. Graceful, eloquent, and a strong Christian, the princess didn’t hesitate to approach the powerful or speak to the media, in spite of her shyness. Hawaii was annexed to the United States despite her best efforts, and she died a few years later at the age of twenty-three.
Today, I, a poor weak girl with not one of my people with me and all these ‘Hawaiian’ statesmen against me, have strength to stand up for the rights of my people. Even now I can hear their wail in my heart and it gives me strength and courage and I am strong – strong in the faith of God, strong in the knowledge that I am right, strong in the strength of seventy million people who in this free land will hear my cry and will refuse to let their flag cover dishonor to mine!”
Sir Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of Great Britain during World War II. Although he could be downright cantakerous, Churchill was definitely the man for his time. He bolstered the spirits of his countrymen with rousing speeches of defiance against Adolf Hitler and worked tirelessly to achieve victory during the harrowing Battle of Britain.
“We shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end…we shall fight with growing confidence…we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.”
Raoul Wallenberg, Holocaust hero. The son of a privileged Swedish family, Wallenberg risked his life to save an estimated 100,000 Hungarian Jews during World War II. Armed with only his wits and a formidable organization made up mostly of Jews he’d already rescued, Wallenberg did battle with Adolf Eichmann and triumphed. He was arrested by invading Soviets on January 17, 1945, and was never heard from again.
“For me there’s no choice. I’ve taken on this assignment and I’d never be able to go back to Stockholm without knowing inside myself I’d done all a man could do to save as many Jews as possible.”
Ronald Reagan, President of the United States. Reagan believed in America and her exceptionalism, and while his administration wasn’t perfect, it did usher in an era of freedom and prosperity. Reagan’s willingness to condemn evil and his unflinching resolve against Communism brought about the downfall of the Soviet Union. His childlike faith in God gave him a strong moral compass, making him undoubtedly one of the greatest presidents to ever bless this nation.
Whatever else history may say about me when I’m gone, I hope it will record that I appealed to your best hopes, not your worst fears; to your confidence rather than your doubts. My dream is that you will travel the road ahead with liberty’s lamp guiding your steps and opportunity’s arm steadying your way.