After writing a depressing column about how tired I am of all the negative energy weighing heavy on our poor planet and her inhabitants, I decided it would be better to close the document, file it away, and start over. But I spent hours on that column and now it’s late and my deadline looms. Therefore, I am filling this space with what one of my trusted sources calls, “Churchill-isms.”
Because the pandemic has kept my affiliate and me from venturing out much, we’ve been watching a series called “The Crown,” about the United Kingdom’s Queen Elizabeth II. The cigar-chomping Winston Churchill is an intriguing character who appears in almost every episode. He was a soldier, a journalist and a politician before he became the UK’s prime minister, a position he held from 1940 to 1945. He died in 1965 at the age of 90. Here are some of his most notable quotes:
• Diplomacy is the art of telling someone to go to hell in such a way that they ask for directions.
• You will never reach your destination if you stop and throw stones at every dog that barks.
• Fear is a reaction. Courage is a decision.
• A nation that forgets its past has no future.
• There is nothing that government can’t give you that it hasn’t taken from you in the first place.
• Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.
• A good speech should be like a woman’s skirt: long enough to cover the subject and short enough to create interest.
• A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; the optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.
• One man with conviction will overwhelm a hundred with only opinions.
• However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.
• You don’t make the poor richer by making the rich poorer.
• Life can either be accepted or changed. If it is not accepted, it must be changed. If it cannot be changed, then it must be accepted.
• We contend that for a nation to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle.
• I’d rather argue against a hundred idiots than to have one agree with me.
• In the course of my life I have often had to eat my words; and I must confess that I have always found it a wholesome diet.
• An appeaser is one who feeds the crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.
• Life is fraught with opportunities to keep your mouth shut.
And probably the most famous quote attributed to Churchill, given as a very brief commencement address: “Never give up, never give up, never give up.” Then he sat down.
That never happened. This is what he did say, as part of a 20-minute speech to his alma matter, the all-boys Harrow School, in 1941, during WWII: “Surely from this period of ten 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 honor and good sense.”
The quote is not, “never give in.” It is, “never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense.” I can go with that.
We’re living through tough times, fighting our own individual and collective battles. Hopefully the lessons we are learning—for what’s the point of it all if we aren’t learning and growing? —hopefully we’re learning and developing our personal convictions of honor and good sense.
In other words, honor each other and use your noggin. (My mother used to say, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” That sums up honor and good sense right there. And over the years my dad would quip, “Nobody said it was going to be easy.” That applies to just about everything.)
Someday we’ll look back at this coronavirus-plus era and tell stories. We’ll cry and we’ll laugh as we “remember when.” But only if we don’t give in (except to convictions of honor and good sense) and instead, give away. Bestow on others some time, talent and goodwill. Offer kindness and compassion and affirmations. Go ahead, give away as much as you can because there is an endless supply. There’s enough for everyone, and more, and that goodness is what will get us to the other side of these surreal circumstances.
You may let The Thunker know what you think at her e-mail address, email@example.com.
© 2020 Sarah Donohoe