The Cowardly Lion and Thomas Jefferson

Jul 04, 2022

Being a Kansas farm girl, I can relate to Dorothy from L. Frank Baum’s classic story, The Wizard of Oz. More than once growing up we dashed into the basement for protection from a nearby tornado. Although our home was never hit, the sights of decimated fields, yards, and streets is familiar. Stripped and gnarled corn stalks, forced prostrate, had stood radiant and tall the day prior. Massive trees sheltering birds, repurposing carbon dioxide into oxygen, and providing much needed shade under Midwestern sweltering skies sprawled across lawns and pastures. Their limbs lay torn apart as if they’d been loosely banded toothpicks.

Farmers, homeowners, and merchants weren’t transported to a magical place where wishes were granted. Instead, they had to think smart, take heart, and choose courage. Just like the clinking man, bungling scarecrow, and loveable lion Dorothy befriended on her journey to Oz.

Along with Tin Man and Scarecrow, the Cowardly Lion joined the scared but determined Kansas lass, and her precious pup, on a perilous journey to obtain their highest desire. For Tin Man, it was a heart. For Scarecrow, it was a brain. For the Cowardly Lion, it was courage.

For the signers of the Declaration of Independence, it was all three.

Most U.S. citizens are familiar with these words penned early in the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

But without the last sentence, this statement would only be a sentiment.

What transformed “We hold these truths…” from an idea to a conviction were these words: “And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”

In a word, courage.

The global transformation these fifty-six signers galvanized was beyond what they could envision, individually or collectively. The impact of this Declaration didn’t remain within the boundaries of the thirteen colonies nor even within what eventually included fifty states plus territories.

Courage seldom knows its cost or its magnitude.

Under another tyrannical power, another man pledged his life, fortune, and sacred honor. He, like Dorothy with her band of three companions and Jefferson with his company of fifty-five co-signers, had a support group. Unlike them, his friends fled in his darkest hour. He still chose courage. Gritty, determined, nothing-left-but-conviction, courage. And he did know the cost. And the magnitude.

When Jesus outlined the first universal calling, the First Great Commandment, he knew it would be ratified by blood. Courage always involves death. Sometimes it’s physical. Far more often, it’s choosing to die to fear and live with conviction.

It’s speaking when you know your silence communicates agreement with beliefs you don’t hold.

It’s writing, liking, sharing, or commenting on a post when you know it’s going to lose you “friends” or “followers.”

It’s confronting a family member or friend when they’re headed for destruction, caring more for their soul than their solace.

It’s refusing to be bullied, whether by an individual or a majority.

It’s using common sense (God’s universal grace) and affirming truth exists. There is right & wrong, good & evil in this world.

Like the Tin Man, we need heart. Like Scarecrow, we need smarts. Like Lion, we need courage. As today we celebrate the freedoms the Declaration of Independence ignited, may we remember it isn’t ideas which set people free. 

The existence of truth frees no one. It’s only the expression of truth, and that is exclusively inked with courage.

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©Stephanie D. Smith, 2022



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