History Keeps Repeating Itself
“But…Will We Listen?”
Our 2020 Vision
Words: “Coach” Gary Micheloni
Have we lost sight of what’s important…the goal? Have we kept our eyes on the ball? Nope. I’m writing this in June. Do things look bad and messed up right now? Yup. Do people screw up and do horrific acts? Sometimes. This makes me want to cry. I need some balance—how about you? Is the world right now the most horrible it’s ever been or is there some progress, some promise? Let’s look around.
Way back when, before most of us were even born, a career politician met with a head of state, with a mission of achieving, for the first time in human history, world peace. A noble goal, right? The two countries, along with the vast majority of journalists around the planet, celebrated wildly that Sept 30, 1938, and with Germany having consumed Austria just six months prior, people really wanted this. So, a treaty was signed. British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain promised, “Peace for our time.” Great—it sounds so good! Could anything possibly go wrong?
Well, it did: less than two years later, July 10, 1940, the Battle of Britain began and Germany attacked Britain by air.
Just a few months prior to that, 400,000 British troops were almost lost at Dunkirk, France, and would have been if it were not for the determined citizens of the UK, who sailed across the English Channel and helped the Navy rescue 350,000 of them. Many saved by British fishermen in their tiny boats, a few at a time. That’s a lot of trips over rough water, but they got it done. There’s a lesson here, isn’t there?
So, things were not going well. The British certainly had not achieved ‘peace for their time’. Something had to be done. King George realized what he needed, and as the Godfather’s ‘Don’ Vito Corleone might have said a ‘wartime consigliere’. The king knew he needed leadership, and he needed it right now.
Have you ever found yourself in that position? You are working on a project, trying to get it done on time and budget, trying to be a nice guy or gal, and somebody just won’t get out of your way. Then this harms your company, kills your budget, and destroys your time frame. Know what I’m talking about? You reach a point when nice for the sake of nice gets thrown out the window. To survive, you assert your right to lead, especially if you’re under fire, and you begin leading from the front, again!
Enter, consigliere (and now, Prime Minister) Winston Churchill. He took over as Prime Minister—from Chamberlain—early May 1940. In a speech before the House of Commons of the UK Parliament, he let them know what was before them, and it wasn’t pretty. No platitudes. No grandiosity. He reminded them that they were in the preliminary stage of one of the greatest battles in history. What did Churchill say? [TEAM, you should literally cut out this speech and paste it over your desk at work. Really!] He said,
“…I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat. We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many months of struggle and suffering.
You ask, what is our policy? I say it is to wage war by land, sea, and air. War with all our might and with all the strength God has given us, and to wage war against a monstrous tyranny never surpassed in the dark and lamentable catalog of human crime. That is our policy.
Churchill was not one to mince words. A straight-shooter (now there’s another lesson here for us), he termed the fiasco at Dunkirk “a colossal military disaster…” He continued:
“You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word. It is a victory. Victory at all costs — Victory in spite of all terrors — Victory, however long and hard the road may be, for without victory there is no survival.
“Let that be realized. No survival for the British Empire, no survival for all that the British Empire has stood for, no survival for the urge, the impulse of the ages, that mankind shall move forward toward his goal.
“…Come then, let us go forward together with our united strength.”
These last several months for our country have some similarities, don’t they? The battles continue, as strategies change and evolve. Hysterical people along with powerful bureaucrats seem to have their way. That was the case in 1938. They got their way then, but what happened in 1940? It’s another story, completely.
Eighty years ago (I’m writing this column in June), Churchill addressed the House of Commons, and shared with his people the reality that he foresaw on the horizon:
I expect that the Battle of Britain is about to begin. Upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilization. Upon it depends our own British life and the long continuity of our institutions and our Empire. The whole fury and might of the enemy must very soon be turned on us. Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this Island or lose the war. If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be free and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands. But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science. Let us, therefore, brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, “This was their finest hour.”
That battle raged for 113 days. (Much longer than the lockdowns many have endured here in the USA). Parents sent their children to live safely in temporary foster homes far from the carnage of London. Britain lost over 1,400 aircrews. Additionally, some 43,000 civilians were killed and 139,000 wounded. In the midst of it, August 20, 1940, knowing that his country had to win, at all costs, whatever the cost, no matter the sacrifice…and…would win—somehow, some way…he foresaw victory.
In the midst of it, having watched the out-numbered and seriously out-gunned RAF keep at bay the vaunted German Luftwaffe until both sides either knew—or realized—who would ultimately win this air battle…Churchill inspired his people to the greatness of their destiny which lay before them
The air Battle of Britain was then only half over when Churchill shared this vision with his nation. Somehow, he sensed, he foresaw, victory in all of this: the debt of gratitude they allowed to those who waged the battle in the skies. He said,
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, unweakened by their constant challenge and mortal danger, are turning the tide of world war by their prowess and their devotion.
“Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”
All hearts go out to the fighter pilots, whose brilliant actions we see with our own eyes day after day, but we must never forget that all the time, night after night, month after month, our bomber squadrons travel far into Germany, find their targets in the darkness by the highest navigational skill, aim their attacks, often under the heaviest fire, often at a serious loss, with deliberate, careful precision, and inflict shattering blows upon the whole of the technical and war-making structure of the Nazi power.
October 31, 1940, that air war ended. A huge team effort.
‘Coach Gary’s’ thoughts:
“I don’t know about you, but as bad as our 2020 has been for me, I surely wouldn’t trade it for their 1940!”
No doubt, 2020 has been a tough year for all of us and looks like it might continue. We often hear people telling others to ‘hang in there’, ‘we’ll get through this’, things like that. In fact, ‘Coach Gary’ has himself said precisely that on several occasions. But why do we say such things, and respond so positively when we hear them ourselves? It’s because we’ve also witnessed these things.
I love history and the lessons it teaches us because, as the old saying goes, if you don’t remember the past you are condemned to repeat it. That reference was regarding the bad elements of history. But it also applies in the other direction: remember the good that you’ve done, the struggles you’ve overcome, the brilliance of your strategies, the fullness of your friendships, and the depth of your faith. These things will transport you over the rough patches, down the dark roads, past the sketchy people who would seek to get in your way.
Too many people are worried about things they can’t control, yet turn their backs on those they can. Said another way: take the high road or the low road. As for me and my house, we’ll take the road less traveled. May this become our ‘finest hour’.
COACH GARY’S TAKEAWAY:
Whatever your situation, ready yourself, your community, family, and company and get set to take off. Go lead! Because we’ll get through this—all of it. Of course, we will!
Copyright 2020 Gary Micheloni