Saturday, September 4, 2010


August 20th was the 70th anniversary of one of Winston Churchill’s most famous speeches, The Few. His words inspired his countrymen to fight on at a critical point during the Battle of Britain.

This the paragraph that is most remembered:
.... The gratitude of every home in our Island, in our Empire, and indeed throughout the world, except in the abodes of the guilty, goes out to the British airmen who, undaunted by odds, unwearied in their constant challenge and mortal danger, are turning the tide of the world war by their prowess and by their devotion. Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few....
I think he is too generous. It is always a few who propel change, who inspire others, who see things as they can be, and who work to make it happen--and pay a terrible price. Most like to do nothing and find excuses to justify their nothing.

Churchill understood that doing nothing, of letting things stand as they are, has a profound affect on the future and the history we leave behind. Nothing is an act in itself. Too many waiting for the few can allow the intolerable.

So his speech was not really about the “few.” It was about the "many" who need to see that the few could not, should not, must not proceed alone. He emphasized this by announcing, for the first time, that the Americans would begrudgingly establish a strategic alliance with the United Kingdom and position bases on the island. They would not join the fight, but at least they will begin to present themselves as allies.

So, for me, I find inspiration later in his speech. He exhorts his listeners:
....The right to guide the course of world history is the noblest prize of victory. We are still toiling up the hill; we have not yet reached the crest-line of it; we cannot survey the landscape or even imagine what its condition will be when that longed-for morning comes. The task which lies before us immediately is at once more practical, more simple and more stern. I hope - indeed I pray - that we shall not be found unworthy of our victory if after toil and tribulation it is granted to us. For the rest, we have to gain the victory. That is our task.
There is, however, one direction in which we can see a little more clearly ahead. We have to think not only for ourselves but for the lasting security of the cause and principles for which we are fighting....  
To make a history that guards justice and higher principle is not a selfish endeavor. It is a desperately lonely one in search of friends and allies. Unfortunately, too many friends and allies have narrow perspectives and limited objectives.

1 comment:

  1. What you say in this post is very true. But even if the battle can be lonely at times, could you really imagine living a life in which you didn't struggle for justice and higher principles? For all of the suffering and career-limitations that walking the noble path entails, it may be that it is only the Few that have lives that are not empty at their core. Ganbatte!


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