It seems fitting that the inaugural profile in persistence be written about Winston Churchill It was after all a Churchill biography that inspired the original post.
Few men have started faster than Winston Spencer Churchill. He was elected to Parliament at the age of 25. By the time he was 29 he had already switched parties, something taboo in British Politics. He wowed everyone on both sides of the aisle with his wit and raw political skill. Before he was 30, Winston Churchill was the most demanded stump speaker in the Labour Party.
Churchill climbed all the way to First Lord of the Admiralty at the age of 37. He was young, he was brash and he was envied by everyone.
Then came one of his biggest mistakes.
Young and arrogant, Churchill devised a plan to open a second front during World War One by taking his navy through a narrow 38 mile Straight, The Dardanelles River. His plan would have his navy invading Turkey and taking control of the water.
His brilliant plan was foiled. While the entire War cabinet signed off on the plan, it as Churchill the took the fall. The failure collapsed the government and when a coalition government was formed, it was Churchill left out.
At the age of 41, the amazing Mr. Churchill was out of power and out of energy. In fact, he was depressed and suicidal. In his own words:
I don’t like standing near the edge of a platform when an express train is passing through. I like to stand back and, if possible, get a pillar between me and the train. I don’t like to stand by the side of a ship and look down into the water. A second’s action would end everything. A few drops of desperation.
But with the tenacity of an English Bulldog, he fought his way back. After taking the fall he resigned from parliament and enlisted in the army. In the war, he once again made a name for himself and stood for election. He climbed all the way the Chancellor of Exchequer before once again falling from power and back into despair.
Unwanted by either party, distrusted by both, the brilliant, brash, young politician began to age and was seen as by the young ambitious men of Great Brittan as a cautionary tale. But he continued to speak.
But he continued to speak.
He was the first to warn of the Nazi threat, even before Hitler was elected. He saw them first as a threat to his beloved empire, and then as a threat to the very idea of freedom.
On November 16, 1934, still while relegated to the backbenches of Parliment, he rose to denounce the threat as he saw it.
For my part, I have come to the conclusion, reluctantly I admit, that we cannot get away. Here we are and we must make the best of it, but do not, I beg you, underrate the risks, the grievous risks we have to run. I hope, I pray, and, on the whole, grasping the larger hope, I believe, that no war will fall upon us; but if in the near future the great war of 1914 is resumed again in Europe, no one can tell where and how it would end or whether sooner or later we should not be dragged into it, dragged into it as the United States was dragged in against their will in 1917. Whatever happens, and whatever we did, it would be a time of frightful danger for us, and, when the war was over, or perhaps while it still raged, we should be brought face to face with the victors, whoever they might be. Indeed, with our wealth and vast possessions, we should be the only prize sufficient to reward their exert-ion and compensate them for their losses.
When Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain returned from Munich with the agreement that he bragged would save Brittan from war, it was Churchill who rightly remarked:
“You were given the choice between war and dishonor. You chose dishonor and you will have war.”
Standing on his principle, relentlessly climbing and calling attention to the security of his nation, left him as the only logical leader when war broke out.
He climbed first, back to the position of his great downfall, First Lord of the Admiralty, and then on May 10, 1940, he succeeded Chamberlain as Prime Minister.
With the power of his oratory, the tenacity of his spirit, and unflagging persistence he mobilized a people against impossible odds to emerge victorious and save Europe from fascism.
It isn’t simply Winston Churchill’s achievement that had him voted History’s Greatest Brittian. It was his ability to rise after his fall that makes him a true profile in persistence.