What Would Churchill Do?

“The discoveries of healing science must be the inheritance of all. That is clear. Disease must be attacked, whether it occurs in the poorest or the richest man or woman, simply on the ground that it is the enemy; and it must be attacked just in the same way as the fire brigade will give its full assistance to the humblest cottage as readily as to the most important mansion.”

—Winston Churchill, Speech to the Royal College of Physicians, 2 March 1944


I am a great fan of Winston Churchill. These days, I find myself wondering what would Churchill do were he here, in this moment, leading the UK and the World. Churchill lived an incredible life. One thing that draws me to Churchill is his consistent history of set-backs and failure which ultimately resulted in great triumph. For from 1929 to 1939-the so-called 'Wilderness Years', Churchill was out of government as a result of these failures and personal shortcomings. For much of that time, no one in the country could have imagined Churchill would one day be Prime Minster, until 1940 when it became clear that Churchill was, in fact, the only possible choice to be PM. Churchill was right about many things in his life; he was wrong about many others. Early in his career, he recognized that air superiority would supplant naval superiority. On the other hand, he viewed Mohandas Ghandi with disdain and strongly opposed Indian independence. On the third hand, he was almost from birth a Judeophile and strongly supported the Jewish community, stridently opposed antisemitism and embraced Israel. However, on the single most consequential issue of his lifetime, he was 100% correct: he opposed German nationalism and Naziism from even before World War I. In Britain, he was often a minority of one in this view. Most members of the British government were at least initially ambivalent; the prevailing idea that Hitler could be appeased was widely shared. Churchill never wavered. As arrogant and self-absorbed as Churchill could be, Churchill believed that public service served a greater good. He believed in the idea that there is something greater than the individual and that all individuals were lifted when put in the service of nation doing great things and moving toward the single goal of making the world a better place. He believe in the idea of self-sacrifice. He believed that freedom was not a privilege but an honor which must be won every day. And, though he by no means thought everyone should be equal, he believed that ultimately, unless everyone benefited, no one did. At this moment in world history, leadership on the model of Churchill is notably absent. We have small men (and, they're all men) of small minds and smaller vision at a time when our world so desperately needs leaders in the Churchillian mold.


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