Monday, February 8, 2010

Winston Churchill – Courageous Optimist

We have finished the edits and design for my new book 8 Attributes of Great Achievers and the publisher has sent the book to the printer. The book will be available for purchase in March. The following is an excerpt from the book:

8 Attributes of Great Achievers
Attribute 1: Responsible
Attribute 2: Creator
Attribute 3: Independent
Attribute 4: Humble
Attribute 5: Honest
Attribute 6: Optimistic
Attribute 7: Vision
Attribute 8: Persistent

Winston Churchill – Courageous Optimist
“On May 10th, 1940, Winston Churchill, then age sixty-six, became Prime Minister of England. This was the time when the powerful German air force was making round-the-clock trips . . . dumping planeload after planeload of bombs on England. No one knew whether the British would be able to hold out for another week or a month.”1 “The outlook was bleak. The Nazis were running over France, Belgium, and Holland. Joseph P. Kennedy, the American ambassador in London, told Washington that Britain was finished.”2

In the mists of the gloom and turmoil and in the face of what seemed to others like impossible odds, Churchill took office with optimism and determination. Churchill wrote of the day he took office, “I felt as though I were walking with destiny that my past life had been but a preparation for this hour for this trial . . . and I was sure I should not fail.”3

“The key to Churchill’s courage was his unbounded optimism. Only an optimist can be courageous, because courage depends on hopefulness that dangers and hazards can be overcome. . . ‘I am one of those,’ he remarked in 1910, ‘who believe that the world is going to get better and better.’ He deprecated negative thinking. In a speech to his officers in the trenches in France in 1916, Churchill exhorted: ‘Laugh a little, and teach your men to laugh. . . If you can’t smile, grin. If you can’t grin, keep out of the way till you can.’”4

On May 13, 1940, Churchill gave his first speech as Prime Minister to the House of Commons. He said, “You ask, What is our aim? I can answer in one word: Victory . . . victory in spite of all the terror, victory however long and hard the road may be . . . with all the strength that God can give us . . . I take up my task with buoyancy and hope, I feel sure that our cause will not be suffered to fail.”5

“The morning after the first night of the Blitz, Churchill drove to ground zero: London’s East End and the docks. An air-raid shelter had taken a direct hit, with dozens killed and more wounded. Church’s car pulled up amid the chaos. ‘It was good of you to come,’ the crowd called out. . . When he called out to the crowd, asking if they were disheartened, they cried back, ‘No!’ Churchill had come . . . to give the people the resolve they would need to face the months and years ahead.”6

“Churchill would not permit contingency planning for failure, knowing it would inevitably leak out and breed pessimism. Just weeks after becoming Prime Minister in 1940, Churchill was advised of a doomsday plan to be implemented in the event of a full-scale German invasion of Britain. The royal family and top members of the government would be evacuated to Canada. Churchill flatly vetoed the proposal adding, ‘We shall make them rue the day they try to invade our island.’”7

“During the last week of October 1940 . . . civilian deaths by bombing exceeded six thousands a month. In one twenty-four-hour period seven hundred aircrafts attacked Britain. . . Churchill’s genius was to find a way to talk about bad news while finding hope in what others might see as defeat. . . In October of 1940 after devastating air raids, Churchill gave a speech about how the cities, ‘would rise from their ruins’ and blitzed homes would be rebuilt . . . When the Nazis sank vital supply ships, Churchill was there to point out that many hundreds of ships got through unscathed.”8

Even during the worst of times, Churchill remained optimistic and confident that they would achieve victory. During a B.B.C. broadcast, Churchill proclaimed: “We are resolved to destroy Hitler and every vestige of the Nazi regime. From this, nothing will turn us—nothing. We will never parley, we will never negotiate with Hitler or any of his gang. We shall fight him by land, we shall fight him by sea, we shall fight him in the air, until, with God’s help, we have rid the earth of his shadow.”9

“Churchill not only saw reasons for hope and confidence in the darkest days of World War II but was able to infuse his unique combination of stoicism and optimism into the very backbone of the nation, the armed services, and his own staff. As Leo Amery, a minister in Churchill’s government put it, ‘No one ever left his cabinet without felling a braver man.’ . . . Great leaders bring out the inner strength that people often do not know they possess.”10

On May 8, 1945, via broadcast, Churchill announced that Germany had signed the act of unconditional surrender. Churchill declared in part, “The German war is therefore at an end. . . From this Island and from our united Empire, [we] maintained the struggle single-handed for a whole year until we were joined by the military might of Soviet Russia, and . . . the United States of America. . . Finally almost the whole world was combined against the evil-doers, who are now prostrate before us. . . We must now devote all our strength and resources to the completion of our task, both at home and abroad. . . Long live the cause of freedom! . . . [We should now] give humble and reverent thanks to Almighty God for our deliverance from the threat of German domination.”11

Churchill’s determination to never give in and his optimism that victory would be achieved enabled his country to fight boldly and courageously through tremendous difficulties and also rallied the support of other countries in the cause until victory was achieved.

Churchill died on January 24, 1965. Over 300,000 people passed by his casket and millions watched the funeral proceedings via television to pay their final respects to the man who helped change the course of history. “Churchill’s actions were pivotal in one of the great and most dramatic turning points of civilization. . . He knew that if he could rally the mind, spirit, and heart of the British people, they would eventually emerge victorious. . . Churchill not only saved Britain from defeat but now in retrospect, he saved democracy as a form of government in the world. Here was truly a single individual whose life made a profound difference to everyone on our planet.”12

1. Sterling W. Sill and Dan McCormick, Lessons from Great Lives (Aylesbury Publishing, 2007) p. 31.
2. Celia Sandys and Jonathan Littman, We Shall Not Fail (New York: Portfolio, 2003) p. 3.
3. Winston Churchill, The Second World War, Volume I, The Gathering Storm (New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1948) p. 601.
4. Steven F. Hayward, Churchill on Leadership (New York: Gramercy Books, 2004) p. 115.
5. Winston Churchill, The Second World War, Volume II, Their Finest Hour (New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1949) p. 24.
6. Celia Sandys and Jonathan Littman, We Shall Not Fail (New York: Portfolio, 2003) p. 174-175.
7. Celia Sandys and Jonathan Littman, We Shall Not Fail (New York: Portfolio, 2003) p. 151.
8. Celia Sandys and Jonathan Littman, We Shall Not Fail (New York: Portfolio, 2003) p. 249, 179-180.
9. Winston Churchill, The Second World War, Volume III, The Grand Alliance (New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1950) p. 332.
10. Celia Sandys and Jonathan Littman, We Shall Not Fail (New York: Portfolio, 2003) p. 173-174.
11. Winston Spencer Churchill, Never Give In! The Best of Winston Churchill’s Speeches (New York, Hyperion, 2003) p. 389-390.
12. Hyrum W. Smith, What Matters Most (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2000) p. 33-37.