The quality of courage
Published 7:00 am Thursday, June 4, 2015
The Arthur Ashe Courage Award is presented during the ESPY Awards annually to an individual who has exemplified strength and courage in the face of extreme adversity. The word courage is defined in the dictionary as the quality of ones mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger or pain without fear.
Arthur Ashe was a world number one professional tennis player. During his career, Ashe won three Grand Slam titles ranking him one of best tennis players from the United States. As well as being the only black man to ever win the singles titles at Wimbledon, the U.S. Open or the Australian Open, Ashe was also the first black player selected to the United States Davis Cup Team.
After retiring from tennis, Ashe contracted HIV from a blood transfusion during heart surgery. Soon after contracting the disease, Ashe founded the Arthur Ashe Foundation for the Defeat of AIDS, and tirelessly worked to educate others on HIV and AIDS until his passing in 1993.
The Arthur Ashe Courage Award was first awarded to Jim Valvano in 1993. Valvano, a basketball coach for 19 years, was diagnosed with metastatic cancer in June 1992. Valvano received the award in March 1993, eight weeks before his death. During his famous acceptance speech, it was clear that not even cancer could break the quality of Valvano’s spirit.
“Cancer can take away all of my physical abilities. It cannot touch my mind, it cannot touch my heart, and it cannot touch my soul. And those three things are going to carry on forever,” said Valvano.
In 2003, the Arthur Ashe Courage Award was presented to Pat and Kevin Tillman, brothers who enlisted in the United States Army in June 2002. Pat, who left his NFL career to enlist, was killed in Afghanistan in 2004. Tillman turned down a contract offer of $3.6 million over three years from the Arizona Cardinals to join the Army. Tillman showed America what true courage looked like with his sacrifice.
Valvano and Tillman are just two examples of the many extraordinary people who have won the Arthur Ashe Courage Award over the years. Other recipients have included Nelson Mandela and Pat Summitt, people who embody the definition of courage.
Unfortunately, ESPN does not consult with me on who should receive this honor each year, but if they did I would vote for Lauren Hill to receive the 2015 Arthur Ashe Courage Award.
Hill was a college basketball player who died in April as a result of a brain tumor at the age of 19. Before her passing, Hill helped raise $1.4 million for pediatric cancer research with the non-profit group The Cure Starts Now.
I think people often forget about the first part of the definition of courage, the quality of ones mind or spirit. The quality of someone’s mind should always be taken into consideration before America puts them on a pedestal or looks to them as a hero.