Several years ago, I was asked to speak to a Cub Scout troop about the subject of knights and chivalry. At that time I was president of the Southern California chapter of an international living history group dedicated to the Middle Ages — the days of jousting, castles and armor.
I came to the meeting with a helmet and a piece of chain mail for the kids to handle, and gave a presentation on chivalry which was appropriate to the attention span of my audience — about five minutes, as I recall. I explained the knightly virtues, talked about King Arthur and the Round Table, and urged the kids to consider the importance of chivalry today. Finally, I challenged them to behave in such a way that they could become the knights in shining armor of the modern world.
Judging from the response, I must have hit a nerve. Dozens of parents approached me after the presentation and thanked me for giving such an inspirational talk. Several of them asked me for the text of the speech, and said they wanted to share it with friends and co-workers.
Since that night I have continued to explore and expand the concept of “chivalry today” — a modern application of the virtuous principles which make up the code of chivalry. There are some very worthy, meaningful elements embodied in this code, and a growing number of people, young and old, are coming to appreciate the relevance and importance of this concept — something which was once viewed as a cross between a Sunday school lesson and a fairy tale.
By promoting the knightly virtues through an ongoing series of presentations to younger audiences, I hope to introduce tomorrow’s doctors, executives, politicians and athletes to the code of chivalry. I want to put chivalry into a new, dynamic light for children who recognize the word only from arcane references in their video games and bedtime stories.
Chivalry has an important place in the modern world, and it can provide answers to the difficult questions which arise in our lives when ethics, desires, egos, commitments and expectations all come into conflict — and those conflicts arise in the classroom as well as the boardroom, on the playground as well as on the highway. Chivalry reminds us that today, anybody can be a hero, inside everybody is a champion, and anyone — no matter what their age or gender — is capable of being a knight in shining armor.