Recently, the world lost three very brave men. And while each was noteworthy in his field, only one was a titan. Only one got a page one obit and had his death lead the news. The other two passed quietly, each a mere footnote of history. Yet, as a kid who came of age in the 1960s, I can honestly look back now and say all three were heroes, in large part because during that tumultuous decade each exhibited a brand of courage you don’t see much anymore. Indeed, though the words "hero" and "courage" are now often used freely these days, you’d have to look long and hard to find three people more willing to sacrifice so much on principle. Long before he became a touchstone for young black entertainers, Richard Pryor was a brilliant, terrified, and funny-as-hell observer of American life, a skinny kid from Peoria who was a slave to only one master; the truth. His humor cut to the bone and left no prisoners. Despite his demons, Pryor constantly challenged convention and dared us – black and white – to look at ourselves, not as we wanted to be, but as we really were. The young Richard Pryor didn’t just chisel away at hypocrisy; he took a wrecking ball to it. Eugene McCarthy was an engaging and popular Senator from Minnesota. He also believed the Vietnam War was wrong. And when he began his campaign for president in 1967, he ran almost exclusively on that premise. The only people at that time spewing anti-war rhetoric were hippies and college students, many of whom were of draft age. Until McCarthy, no one from the "establishment" dared call the war immoral. No one had the guts to stand up and say the emperor had no clothes. But Gene McCarthy did, and countless Americans, including many longtime friends and allies, branded him a Communist sympathizer. And finally, just this past week Hugh Thompson, Jr. died. You may not know his name, but at the lowest point of that very same Vietnam War, the execution-style slaughter of innocent civilians in Mai Lai, Thompson and two platoon members helped reclaim the honor and dignity of the American combat soldier. Flying his helicopter over Mai Lai and noticing bodies of dead women and children, Thompson landed to investigate. Realizing what was happening, he ordered his two gunners to shoot any soldier who attempted to kill more civilians. After calling for help, Thompson stood between them and the American foot soldiers as they scrambled to safety. When he first returned home, Hugh Thompson told the U.S. News and World Report he received death threats and found dead animals thrown into his yard. The one constant in the lives of Pryor, McCarthy and Thompson is that they all had options. Each could have taken the easy route and looked the other way. They didn’t have to risk it all, but I’m writing about them because they did. Look, it’s the first full work week of the New Year, and I know many of you have already made your resolutions. I know some have resolved to earn that bonus this year – others to get promoted. But think about this. Think about also resolving to exhibit more courage in the workplace in 2006. When it comes time to choose between what is expedient and what it right, to choose between the safe road and the high road, you might resolve to emulate Richard Pryor, Eugene McCarthy and Hugh Thompson, Jr. If we all exhibit a bit more courage in our day-to-day professional lives, "Symonds says" the cable industry and, in some small way, this entire country will be a better, stronger place for it. Curtis Symonds can be reached at curtissymonds@yahoo.com.

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