We have been looking at the importance of right attitude and examples from history. (See previous blog post on attitude here.)
We continue this by looking at the attitude of Winston Churchill, taking over as British Prime Minister on 10 May 1940, a full 8 months after the outbreak of World War 2 in Europe. In his first speech to the British Parliament on 13 May 1940, he had to bluntly say, “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.” while at the same time defiantly saying he believed in “victory, however long and hard the road may be”.
On 4 June 1940 he had to speak again to the House of Commons, but with the harsh reality of military disaster with the fall of France and a possibly imminent invasion of Nazi Germany. The last paragraph of this famous speech ends with the following lines:
Even though large tracts of Europe and many old and famous states have fallen or may fall into the grip of the Gestapo and all the odious apparatus of Nazi rule, we shall not flag or fail. 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, and if, which I do not for a moment believe, this island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God’s good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.
With the hindsight of history we have the luxury of knowing that the Allies were ultimately victorious, but at the time this was far from certain. It is said that as the House of Commons thundered in an uproar at his stirring rhetoric, Churchill muttered in a whispered aside to a colleague, “And we’ll fight them with the butt ends of broken beer bottles because that’s bloody well all we’ve got!”
Such was the importance of Churchill’s defiant attitude to the victory of the allies in World War 2 that it has since proved an inspiration to literally millions of people.
One such person who really needed the right attitude was Rudy Gullaini who was described as Person of the Year by Time Magazine in 2001. In an article written by Eric Pooley, the opening paragraph grasps the enormity of the situation that is still a vivid memory for many people:
“Sixteen hours had passed since the Twin Towers crumbled and fell, and people kept telling Rudy Giuliani to get some rest. The indomitable mayor of New York City had spent the day and night holding his town together. He arrived at the World Trade Center just after the second plane hit, watched human beings drop from the sky and — when the south tower imploded — nearly got trapped inside his makeshift command center near the site. Then he led a battered platoon of city officials, reporters and civilians north through the blizzard of ash and smoke, and a detective jimmied open the door to a firehouse so the mayor could revive his government there. Giuliani took to the airwaves to calm and reassure his people, made a few hundred rapid-fire decisions about the security and rescue operations, toured hospitals to comfort the families of the missing and made four more visits to the apocalyptic attack scene.”
What Giuliani did that night powerfully illustrates the importance of right attitude and how it can be nurtured. He apparently returned home at 2.30am. Since he couldn’t sleep, he watched the day’s events again on TV while doing what?
To help nurture the right attitude he chose to read the latest biography of Winston Churchill! The journalist Pooley writes, “There is a bright magic at work when one great leader reaches into the past and finds another waiting to guide him,”
Developing this right attitude had a powerful impact once again on millions of people. Pooley writes in that article:
With the President out of sight for most of that day, Giuliani became the voice of America. Every time he spoke, millions of people felt a little better. His words were full of grief and iron, inspiring New York to inspire the nation. “Tomorrow New York is going to be here,” he said. “And we’re going to rebuild, and we’re going to be stronger than we were before…I want the people of New York to be an example to the rest of the country, and the rest of the world, that terrorism can’t stop us.”
If the right attitude can work so powerfully for Churchill and Giuliani what can it do for our much quieter and ordinary lives that have their own set of challenges that may not be so dramatic, but that matter so much to us?
It would be great to have your thoughts and comments below.
(My friend Dinesh Chavda gives a powerful personal story in the comments section of part 1 of The Importance of Right Attitude).