Courage Boys features stories to inspire and leave you feeling hopeful. Making a difference is not only possible, but something we’re all capable of accomplishing. These are the stories of ordinary people making the decision to be extraordinary with bravery, resilience and principle. This is Courage Boys.
A Man of the People
A young poet sat by a Paris window, watching the people below, and asking himself the dangerous questions for the time in which he lived. And then he wrote them.
He was a French celebrity at a time when wealth determined freedom. He had a bright future as one of France's greatest writers. The political landscape of France was changing, and the young man was put to use by the then-president Napoleon Bonaparte. One day, he was sent out among the people to plead the king's case to an angry group of poor protesters. He reasoned that France's president should instead be a king. But the people shouted him down.
The poet found he had no sway with the common man, and it affected his work. Around this time, he quit working on his novel. It seemed that he couldn't answer the question that he himself posed on page one, now a decade earlier.
The famous poet couldn't conjure enough passion for the oppressed. Napoleon Bonaparte continued to gain strength, and our poet, the now official state poet, became a celebrity endorser of sorts. One day he made his request of his powerful friend. He asked for a free press.
The request was rejected, and the poet realized something was wrong. That to speak would condemn him, but to remain silent would damn him.
He split from Napoleon Bonaparte and joined the people against the monarchy. Shortly after, Bonaparte led a coup d'etat and became the all-powerful king of France, known as Napolean III.
Overnight, the poet became an enemy of France and fled for his life. During his exile, his family fell apart, his daughter drowned, another ran away, his son was losing his sanity, and his wife left him.
Now, two decades had past since he started his novel, and the poet returned to that old manuscript. He returned to the question on page one that he had written as a bourgeoisie, looking down at the people.
Is that which is said of a man as important as the man's actual deeds? This time, the answers flowed. His empathy for both the rich and the poor, sinner and the saint, poured itself into the page.
A year later, the huge manuscript was finished, the poet, Victor Hugo, called it "Les Miserables."
The critics hated it, but it stirred the people. It was officially banned in France, yet everyone fought for their own secret copy. Publishers were scared of it. But Hugo urged them on, writing, "Certain men, certain castes rise in revolt against this book. I understand that. Mirrors, those revealers of truth are hated. That does not prevent them from being of use."
Napolean III died, and after nearly 20 years in exile, Victor Hugo returned to France. There he lived the rest of his days as a national icon. Hugo's funeral was one of the largest in French history. Over 2 million people lined the streets. He asked in his will to be buried in a pauper's coffin. And he was, in a little wooden box in the pantheon.
And so, courage, boys. For the wretched of this earth, there is a flame that never dies. Even the darkest night will end, and the sun will rise.