Of all the sins, the sin of Pride is considered the worst and perhaps the most difficult one to get rid of.
June 29, 2012
After putting some great names through the Perseverance filter, the name that kept persevering was Sir Winston Churchill.
As much for what he had to overcome as what he went on to accomplish.
He was born two months premature, to a brilliant but brittle father, who hated him on sight and a socialite American mother, Jenny Jerome, who ignored him throughout his life.
He certainly didn't get off to a flying start with his early schooling. Crumbling under his father's unrelenting pressure to be a "Churchill," young Winston was a mediocre student at a small private school, where his tantrums got him caned. Although a glimpse of his oratorical skills was evident when he memorized 1,200 lines of poetry and won a school prize even though he couldn't pronounce his S's.
His father tried to make a man out of him, sending him to military school at Sandhurst. And he was admitted to the Cavalry Class only because he was able to provide his own horse.
As a correspondent during the Boer War, he made a daring escape when he was taken prisoner, and emerged as a bit of a hero. Since he didn't have the grades for Oxford, he chose politics; he was good at it and he would switch parties until he found someone who agreed with him.
He blew his one decent job as Admiral of the Navy. During the first few months of World War I, his Dardanelles Straits strategy cost over 200,000 Allied casualties and his job. But if Churchill was anything (as we have noted) he was persistent. He returned to the Conservative Party again and was appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer under Baldwin. When the party collapsed, he was now an ex-Exchequer.
Going broke when the American stock market collapsed didn't stop him. Nor did a speech impediment, enough vices to render anyone else incapable of thought, a father he never could please, or being virtually "banished" to the family home in Chartwell and sentenced to a lifetime of growing artichokes.
In fact it was this very period, when he held no political office, which was one of the most important periods in Winston Churchill's career. Documented by his own words in "The Gathering Storm" and in William Manchester's "The Last Lion," he railed against the policy of appeasement towards Nazi Germany, led by Neville Chamberlain. For almost a decade, Churchill, even though his ideas were considered by most to be delusional, continued to warn against the encroaching tyranny of Hitler - telling Britain to shore up its defenses and prepare for war.
After Chamberlain's Munich Agreement was signed, giving Hitler virtually everything he wanted, Churchill said to parliament, "One pound was demanded at the pistol's point. When it was given, two pounds were demanded at the pistol's point. Finally, the dictator consented to take one pound, 17 shillings and sixpence, and the rest in promises of good will for the future."
When Hitler, ignoring the treaty, marched into Czechoslovakia, he had according to Churchill's words, broken every tie of good faith with the British and French who tried so hard to believe in him.
When Churchill proved to be right all along, the British public remembered the jaunty little man, with the omnipresent cigar, who had counseled them all with utterances like, "If a dog makes a dash for my trousers, I shoot him down before he can bite."
And proved he wasn't so delusional after all.
He became Prime Minister on May 13, 1940, at the age of 65, uttering those famous words to his cabinet; "I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat."
Armed with a new set of dentures that enhanced his distinctive public speaking style, he mobilized the English Language, as Edward R. Murrow said, and sent it to battle.
And the rest, as they say, was history. A life well spent, I think, you?