Cheryl Hughes: Don’t Sit Down and Don’t Shut Up
There’s a wonderful scene in the Netflix series, “The Crown,” where Prime Minister Winston Churchill is in the bathtub, listening to his new secretary, who is on the other side of the door in the hallway, read to him the briefings for the day from Parliament. He interrupts her to ask, “What did they tell you about me?” When she hesitates, he encourages her to tell him the truth.
“They say you can be difficult to work with,” she says, with some trepidation.
“Did they call me a monster?” he asks.
“Yes,” she replies.
“They’re right,” he says, “you need to be a monster to defeat Hitler!”
When my girls were young, and we talked about WWII and Adolph Hitler, I said to them, “If it weren’t for Winston Churchill and General George Patton, the whole world would be speaking German. (No offense to modern day Germany, which is peaceful, and a million degrees removed from the monstrosities of Hitler and his Third Reich.)
I’m convinced these two men were created for that time in history. They were forged in the fires of adversity. Both came from affluent families, but each had personal obstacles to overcome. They both had learning difficulties and struggled with academics. Churchill had a poor academic record in his boarding school, so his father decided he should go into the army. It took him three tries to pass the entrance exam to the Royal Military College (Brittanica.com).
At age eleven, Patton could not read nor write, but he could quote entire volumes of poetry, as well as passages of history, from memory. His aunt would read to him daily, and his brain would file away the information. It wasn’t until 1985 that Patton’s biographer, Martin Blumenson, realized Patton had been dyslexic. Patton was a prolific writer. He documented everything and kept personal diaries. The evidence was in the transposition of letters and numbers in his documents (warfarehistorynetwork.com).
Like Churchill, Patton at first struggled with military school. He failed his first academic year at West Point and had to repeat the year. In his second year, he rose to West Point’s second highest rank, Corporal Adjutant. “Because of their effort to overcome difficulty in reading and writing dyslexics can be driven by a compulsion to succeed” (warfarehistorynetwork.com).
In 1896, Churchill’s regiment went to India, where he was both a soldier and a writer. It was while he was in India that he decided to educate himself. He had never gotten over his poor academic showing at boarding school. He became a voracious reader, and the dispatches he filed as a journalist attracted a wide readership in Britain and would launch a career as a writer that he would pursue for the rest of his life, winning the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1953 (Britannica.com).
Patton’s grit would be forged on the battlefield, Churchill’s in the political arena. Both men would square off against Adolph Hitler on their own ground, on their own terms. Patton and his army would thwart every military offensive the Third Reich threw at them. Churchill would rally the citizens of Britain to hold their position, despite the blitzkrieg of bombs dropped on their cities, night after night.
Churchill told the British citizens, “…We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.”
Patton said, “May God have mercy on my enemies because I won’t.”
Years ago, I read a passage from a book by Oswald Chambers. He said, “The inscrutable obstacles are there for everyone. There is no need to wish they weren’t. The peril be lest you sit down and are of no more account.”
Churchill and Patton won because they wouldn’t sit down and shut up. Thank God, they wouldn’t!