Friday, January 25, 2008

The Churchill Series - Jan. 25, 2008

(One of a series of weekday posts on the life of Winston S. Churchill.)

It was true of Churchill as it is of all of us: To achieve, we first must be taught.

With that in mind, I've looked for a way to use Churchill’s life to express something we share: A deep appreciation for good classroom teachers.

Today, thanks to an essay in The Churchill Centre’s Finest Hour, I found a way to do that.

The essayist is Robert Courts. At the time of Finest Hour publication (Summer, 2002) Courts was age 23 and training to be a barrister. Here’s part of what he said in “Take Your Place In Life's Fighting Line: What Churchill Should Mean to People My Age:”

My earliest contact with Churchill must have been 1980s World War II documentaries. I remember, through the veil of time, a gruff, defiant, vaguely angry man growling streams of liquid words that struck me more powerfully than anything I had ever heard.

In school I wrote an admiring essay about Churchill and a kindly teacher lent me his copy of William Manchester’s The Last Lion.

My class was later presented with a copy of Churchill’s own paean to youth, My Early Life—for no other reason, I think, than because my teacher wanted us to read it. We certainly didn’t study it in any formal way. But reading that book at the age of fourteen set me off. …

Churchill shows better than anyone, historical or contemporary, that if you want something badly enough, you can get it. He wanted to join the Army: it took him three tries and a near-fatal accident en route, but he made it. …

His lesson — focus and succeed — can be applied to whatever path one takes in life: military, politics, writing, law, business, teaching. How admirably stands the example of Churchill against those of all the micro-celebrities who tower over today’s society.

(In) My Early Life, there is much sound advice for those on the beginning of (life’s) road: “Don’t take No for an answer. Never submit to failure. You will make all kinds of mistakes, but as long as you are generous and true, and also fierce, you cannot hurt the world or even seriously distress her.” It is advice, both reassuring and inspiring, that I have tried to follow.

Courts' essay is wonderful for reminding us how much we owe good classroom teachers.

Churchill never forgot that. Throughout his life he paid tribute to his teachers, never more profoundly then when he used language and history in the cause of freedom.

Thank your teachers, stay warm and have a nice weekend.



bill anderson said...

I liked the first of the Last Lion series, but the second had a theme that was over-the-top. Manchester wrote at the beginning that he was going to demonstrate a certain theme. He wrote and wrote, and in the end proved nothing. He then repeated himself at the end as though that proved his thesis correct.

JWM said...

Dear Bill,

I too have some concerns about the second volume.

For Churchill in the 30' I think nothing tops Martin Gilbert's Prophet of Truth.