On May 10th, 1940, Winston Churchill became the Prime Minister of England. The same day, Germany invaded France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and Belgium. Luxembourg immediately became an occupied territory, and the Netherlands surrendered to Germany within days. The news of French surrender was expected every moment. And in England, wild rumors spread of an imminent Nazi attack on British soil.
Oh June 4th, Churchill appeared before the House of Commons to brief them on the war effort, and his words were broadcast. All over England, people huddled around kitchen radios to hear the new Prime Minister’s long, detailed address to the House of Commons.
Before concluding his remarks, Churchill said a few words for the people listening at home. Churchill’s unwavering confidence, delivered simply and powerfully, stemmed the panic threatening to overcome the British people. In the dark days and months that followed, the people clung to his message as a drowning man would a life vest, and it helped see them through.
Today, Winston Churchill’s message is regarded as one of the most brilliant speeches ever made:
We shall go on to the end.
We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air.
We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be.
We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills.
We shall never surrender.
A message does not have to be beautiful to be powerful!
Food for thought: Winston Churchill was a brilliant man and a capable leader, but his appearance was not polished. Could he have been successful in today’s mass media environment?