Remembering Churchill…

There is a new book out by Erik Larson that chronicles the war years of Winston Churchill, The Splendid and the Vile.

In it Larson shows how Churchill taught the British people ‘the art of being fearless.’

SimonClimbs

Simon Climbs…

In Churchill’s words,

“Fear is a reaction. Courage is a decision.”

As an optimist I wanted to know more about this great statesman who opened his first wartime radio broadcast with a reminder that it was Trinity Sunday thus wholeheartedly “identifying the British cause with Christianity against the Godless Nazi evil.” (John Ramsden-Page 30, Churchill: A Man Who Believed)

The British people had a lot to be worried about, as an Island there were only a few short miles between them and German occupied France.

Churchill was not afraid to upset anyone, or make enemies, or hold unpopular views.  He was a no nonsense leader who laid out the facts to his commanders in chief and the man in the street.

He didn’t honey-coat the situation, he walked the bombed sites, spoke to the people and lifted them up,

“It’s not enough that we do our best, sometimes we have to do what’s required,” he said.

He forbade one of his commanders to refer to the European countries Hitler had invaded as,

“His (Hitler’s) European Fortress.”

He said the English people would be frightened by the mental image it would conjure.

This is important.

Image and perception can make or break a situation.

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Daughts believing she can fly

He was trusted.

At the height of the pandemic social media ran amok.  Politicians and others used  public forums irresponsibly causing America to fragment.

Conspiracy theories abounded, fingers were pointed, sides were taken, opinions were aired and we all became confused, angry, frightened and divided.

Talk about an easy target.

Talk about loss of respect as a world leader.

Talk about an unhinged nation.

Our emotions were running rampant and Churchill’s words could have been describing what America was going through,

“To build may have to be the slow and laborious task of years.  To destroy can be the thoughtless act of a single day.”

We were rushing waters spilled from a dam tumbling headlong into demonstrations, violence and unrest;

without a universally trusted leader to calm the waters and quell the fear, our country was rent asunder.

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Into the Rio Grand

Thank God we weren’t in the middle of a World War as Churchill was at the end of 1939.

Against all odds Churchill prevailed by teaching the British people how to be fearless.

He wanted them to “Carry On.”

On the eve of the Blitz he announced,

“Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties and so bear ourselves that if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last a thousand years, men will still say, ‘this was their finest hour.’”

Last year was not ours.  

Churchill was careful how he chose his words to encourage the people of Britain.

Instead of telling everyone to “stay put”, a term that suggested they had been placed in a particular position, he told them to “stand firm” wherever they found themselves.

He used the word foe rather than enemy because it had a more powerful ring to it.

He emboldened the bomb-torn Britain to victory with his use of repetition that incited triumph.

“What is our aim?  Victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of terror, victory however long and hard the road may be, for without victory there is no survival.”

He embraced the importance of a national stance with propaganda to influence the population towards support of the war effort.

His words still hold true today.

“Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.”

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My Mum and me

He encouraged the people to foster hostility towards the foe.

He broadcast concrete ways in which everyone could be a part of the war effort by,

rolling bandages,

knitting socks,

smiling brightly,

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Paris’ smile

planting victory gardens,

driving ambulances,

manning barrage balloons, 

making black-out curtains to curtail the nightly bombing raids.

He proved that individuals can and do make a difference.

We can still find Churchill’s strength in his wise observations made more than 80 years ago,

“Your greatest fears are created by your imagination; don’t give in to them.”

He was a man ahead of his time.

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Son Ian making a difference

He believed in himself and had the capacity to make the British people believe in themselves.

“He saw God as the God with a special care for the values of the British people.” (Archbishop Fisher of Canterbury).

We are all worms,” he said with theological correctness, “but I do believe that I am a glow-worm.”

And as a member of the Western World I am thankful that he believed that too…

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