The great poet Robert Frost once said, “Freedom lies in being bold.” If you were to ask a million different people what that quote means to them, you could potentially receive a million different answers. I am personally a tremendous fan of Robert Frost. However, I did not choose that particular quote because I like it. I chose it because I believe it has tremendous application to the life and achievements of Rosa Parks.
I haven’t taken a survey or anything, but I’d like to think that the majority of Americans know of Rosa Parks and are aware of the stand (pun intended) that she took for African American men and women on December 1, 1955. But on that note, if you think that Rosa Parks is just the name of an OutKast song, then I think it may be time for you to turn off Jersey Shore and read a book. Or if you’re feeling tired, I guess Wikipedia will suffice.
To this day, I can recall learning about Rosa Parks as a first grader and being tremendously intrigued. Don’t get too impressed with the first grade version of me though. I wasn’t impressed by her tremendous contribution to the world. No, first grade Sean was impressed by the fact that she was able to become famous by merely sitting on a bus. I remember thinking to myself- “Really? It’s that easy?” In that moment, I instantly had my mind made up. I was going to abandon my dream of becoming a professional athlete and dedicate my life to “professional bus sitting.” I think it’s important to mention that, as of today, I am neither a professional athlete nor a “professional bus sitter.”
It wasn’t until a few years later that I began to fully understand the amazing significance of December 1- the day Rosa Parks refused to get up from her seat in Montgomery,Alabama. In general, when we read about Rosa Parks in books, articles, or on the internet, it’s easy to underscore her role in the Civil Rights movement. Primarily because people fail to realize that her involvement extends far beyond that one day where she decided to stay seated on the bus. As you evaluate that one momentous day, put yourself in her shoes for a moment. Imagine how frightening it must have been to resist a crowd of angry white men and women who, by law, had the right to ask her to get up from her seat. It wasn’t like segregated public transportation was just a fad or trending on Twitter. It was a law. Rosa Parks consciously broke the law that day.
There is no question that Rosa Parks will always be revered as one of the most influential figures in our nation’s history. Her arrest that day inspired African Americans around the country to deny their fears and be bold in fighting for their freedom. After all, “freedom lies in being bold.”
Another one of my favorite quotes comes from Rosa Parks herself. She said, “You must never be fearful about what you are doing when it is right.” I don’t know about you, but that quote gives me goose bumps every time I read it. Often in our daily lives, we are confronted with situations where conformity is encouraged. And conformity seems to always be the easier option. But the easiest option is not always the right one. In fact, I’ve found that the easiest option is the wrong one more often than not. And that is why I get goose bumps every time I read that quote.
It’s inspirational figures like Rosa who provide me with the motivation to wake up at 5 A.M every day so that I can get to school and be the best that I can be for my students. Her action affirms my desire to spend a large part of my weekend carefully planning for classes, so that I can reach my students by providing a safe and enjoyable learning atmosphere for them. So that I can touch the hearts and minds of the 60 kids that I see every day in my classroom. So that one step at a time, one day at a time, I can try and make the world a better place by educating and inspiring kids who have to face the harsh reality of poverty and social injustice on a daily basis.
As a first year Lasallian Volunteer, I’ve quickly learned that poverty and social justice issues can’t be solved by sitting back on our heels. We have to be proactive and intentional in our actions, every moment of every day. We have to dare to be bold.
Yes, Rosa Parks made a significant contribution to the African American community and the Civil Rights movement. But her example should not be limited to the African American community. Her bold action and strong initiative should serve as a model for everyone in our country to be strong and to do what “we know is right,” even in the face of doubt or opposition.
Sean Ruane, 12-13, La Salle High School, Yakima, WA