I want to recommend to readers a collection of speeches delivered more than half a century ago that still serve as a reminder that the freedoms we take for granted today were once very much in peril.
These speeches were written in some of the darkest hours mankind has faced, and through their eloquence, passion and courage they express not only the horrors of totalitarianism and terrorism but also the power of inspiration and determination in battling these forces.
The book I refer to is Never Give In! The Best of Winston Churchill's Speeches, compiled by that wartime hero's grandson, Winston S. Churchill. Once I picked up this book I couldn't put it down. It brought personal memories of that time to mind, but for those for whom World War II is just history, it brings that history to life. As the editor's preface states: "Winston Churchill's rendezvous with destiny came on 10 May 1940, with his appointment as prime minister in Britain's hour of crisis. On that day Hitler launched his blitzkrieg against France, Belgium and the Low Countries, which was to smash all in its path. It was then that Winston Churchill, already 65 years of age and, as he put it, `qualified to draw old-age pension,' deployed the power of his oratory. After years during which the British nation heard words of appeasement and surrender, suddenly a new note was sounded. In a broadcast to the nation on 19 May 1940, he declared: `I speak to you for the first time as prime minister in a solemn hour in the life of our country, of our empire, of our allies, and, above all, of the cause of freedom.' "
This is instructive reading for those who face big challenges. If you have shied away from resolving situations that look imposing or even improbable, read his words and I guarantee you will be uplifted. If you are one of those people who think the world owes you something, read his words on sacrifice and toil.
Louis Gerstner, former chief executive officer of IBM, said there are four kinds of people in the world, those who make things happen, those who watch things happen, those who have things happen to them and those who don't have a clue about what's happening. Churchill is the textbook study of a man who made things happen, who had the vision, the courage, the skills and the determination to achieve great ends.
One of my favorite speeches was written for the students of his alma mater, Harrow School. I wish I could reprint the entire speech, but because I cannot I will provide a few excerpts that illustrate why it is such a classic. At the time, October 1941, German bombers were bombarding Great Britain almost daily and Hitler was on the verge of invading the islands.
As Churchill speaks to the students for the second time in 10 months, he talks about what had been learned during the war. "But for everyone, surely, what we have gone through in this period-I am addressing myself to the school-surely from this period of 10 months this is the lesson: Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never-in nothing, great or small, large or petty-never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.
"We stood all alone a year ago, and to many countries it seemed that our account was closed, we were finished. All this tradition of ours, our songs, our school history, this part of the history of this country, were gone and finished and liquidated. Very different is the mood today. Britain, other nations thought, had drawn a sponge across her slate. But instead our country stood in the gap. There was no flinching and no thought of giving in; and by what seemed almost a miracle to those outside these islands, though we ourselves never doubted it, we now find ourselves in a position where I say that we can be sure that we have only to persevere to conquer."
I wish more people in the healthcare industry could adopt some of the spirit of Winston Churchill in confronting the huge obstacles to progress on things such as improving quality of care, ensuring financial stability and meeting the demands placed upon us by society. Courage, determination and perseverance are only a few of the attributes he brought to meeting much bigger challenges not all that long ago.
You make it happen,
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Lauer is the author of two books, Reach for the Stars and Soar with the Eagles, and is an experienced guest lecturer available for public speaking engagements. For more information, go to chucklauer.com.