Making History: Catalysts for Change
Photo of Winston Churchill Courtesy of Library of Congress.
It takes more than a practiced charm to use words to transform a nation:
It takes commitment, integrity, and authority.
Winston Churchill demonstrated these qualities during some of the darkest days of World War II. In 1940, when much of Europe had fallen under German and Italian forces, and England seemed the last stand, he delivered a series of speeches that became a great inspiration to the British people and Britain’s embattled forces.
Prior to the war, Churchill wasn’t a particularly popular figure. Beginning
in 1932, he had been among the first to recognize the growing threat of a
re-armed Germany and of Hitler’s belligerence. But Churchill’s warnings had gone largely unheeded.
When he became prime minister in 1940, Churchill knew he needed to inspire British citizens to steel themselves for the difficult period ahead. While most leaders would try to find something good to share, he ignored the political risks and was blunt. He emphasized the true dangers of the situation.
“Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties,” said Churchill, addressing the nation, “and so bear ourselves, that if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, ‘This was their finest hour.’” Churchill spoke with authority, integrity, and vision, and it made the
difference between victory and defeat for England.
“Churchill put the day’s challenge in the context of history,” says Randy Franz, SPU associate professor of management. “And he made it clear that the outcome depended on everyone.” Churchill’s commitment to the big picture and his ability to communicate the reality of the situation inspired people to withstand the hardships of war.
Martin Luther King Jr.
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