Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: STRESSED - Begins January 18 / Ends January 25 (01/18/18)
- TITLE: Cometh the Hour; Cometh the Man...
By Noel Mitaxa
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If these understating wordsmiths had been entrusted with the original manuscript for Genesis, might they have described Noah’s flood as inclement weather?
Mild themes indeed. Even my seat allocation joined this misinformation part; as I sat down in seat number B9 – but there was nothing benign about the movie’s scenario.
My wife and I had come to see The Darkest Hour, which thrust us into the political tension of World War Two Britain. Its whole professional army of three-hundred thousand soldiers was facing captivity or possible annihilation - trapped by the unrelenting might of the Nazi forces across the English Channel at Dunkirk.
We were treated to a stunning performance by Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill.
In Churchill’s first four weeks as Britain’s Prime Minister, he faced Stress 101 - suspicions within his own party; Stress 202 – King George VI’s anxiety; and Stress 303 - the menace posed by “that Austrian corporal” – Hitler - whose overwhelming Nazi juggernaut was sweeping most of Europe into brutal and sadistic subjugation.
The final layer on this poisonous stress cake was his inability to break through US isolation, despite his personal friendship with President Roosevelt.
Outnumbered and outgunned by the military might arrayed against him, his oratory lifted the morale of the English – speaking from his heart to their heart in simple, direct words that were hammered out on the anvil of being so aware of his soiled reputation; after the failed military campaign against Turkey in World War One and a recent naval disaster in Norway.
As he told the House of Commons in his first speech as Prime Minister, “I have nothing to offer you but blood, toil, tears and sweat!” And later, as the bombing raids that had levelled vast expanses of London finally paused, “This is not the end. It is not the beginning of the end. But it is the end of the beginning!”
He knew his people’s stress, for beneath his irascible, arrogant sense of destiny, he was constantly battling his own internal “black dog” of depression. Yet he continued to put panic to flight, despite his anxiety over placing his own citizens on the front line as he declared in his most rousing and most famous speech, “We shall fight them on the land … in the air … on the seas … on the beaches … on the streets… We shall never surrender!”
Churchill once memorably confided to his darling Clementine, that he “had been born for this hour,” and though he was voted out of office soon after the war ended, he remains an inspiring example of a man who overturned unassailable odds to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
He returned to writing and recording the history – which he said would be kind to him; “because I will write it!”
It was just before he died in 1965 that he gave a valedictory address to a Midlands university. And students remembered every word of that speech: “Never give up! Never give up! Never! Never!”
Among his greatest quotes is one that he embodied so clearly: “Success is not final; failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts!”
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