Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Churchill Series – Oct. 17, 2008

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

You may know of John “Jock” Colville. He was one of Churchill’s Private Secretaries during WW II, except for a time when he served with distinction as an RAF pilot. Colville again served as Private Secretary during Churchill’s second premiership. He remained a close friend and advisor to both Winston and Clementine for the rest to their lives.

In the course of his service Colville had a chance to learn not only about Churchill "close up" but also President Roosevelt. In FDR's case, the learning didn't have much to do with face-to-face contact, but with Colvilles work studying the communications between Churchill and Roosevelt, and often preparing and discussing draft responses on Churchill's behalf to Roosevelt.

Winston Churchill and His Inner Circle Colville uses a philosophical metaphor to tell us something of assessment of the two men:

In nature most of the impurities cleave to the lower ground. The hilltops are bare of undergrowth; the tall trees stretch above the creepers.

Human beings obey another law. The higher they climb, the grosser the temptations they meet. Few who reach the summit can be acquitted of vanity or conceit, whatever other vices they are strong enough to resist.

I make a distinction between the two. Vanity is an infection suffered by those who care too much what others think of them. Conceit is self-satisfaction, the mark of people sufficiently sure of themselves to hold the opinion of others as of little account except insofar as it favors or impedes their progress.

Both vanity and conceit are defects, but neither need be destructive of personal charm or of zeal to serve the community. They are seldom fatal infections and they do not necessarily strangle virtues. They are more exasperating in some than in others.

Roosevelt was vain; Churchill was conceited. (pgs. 132-133)
I hope you all have a nice weekend and are back for Monday’s post.