Speech delivered at the Académie Française on the occasion of the annual virtue prize ceremony.
Paris, Imprimerie Firmin-Didot, 1956.
Each year, many small towns and even a few villages are in the habit of presenting a virtue prize: a young woman, known as meeting the accepted standards of good behavior is crowned with roses, receives the title of "rose-girl" and village elders, holding a glass of champagne, give her a small dowry. Such virtue, for that matter fairly worthy, yet is neither heroic nor effective, and it is not simple self-respect that monsieur de Montyon wished to bring to the public's attention. What is such virtue that we so eagerly desire to honor and reward?
The crowned virtue is bravery. Not the glorious military bravery standing out on battlefields. Heroes of such bravery are revealed within a few months, weeks, days or even hours: it is rewarded with prizes, as resounding and prompt as are its deserving actions. But there is other bravery, which takes over the misfortunes of others; bravery working and begging for unknown orphans or desperate old people. Neither in the exhilaration of the victory nor in the rage of the defeat, but for many years, in silence and darkness. Such is the effective virtue that is rewarded today.