May 17, 2006
There were two moments in the twentieth century when two men said and did the right things, took the right actions, and I would not be exaggerating to say they saved us all to live another day. There have been innumerable men and women who have done the right thing knowingly or unknowingly that have made our world better for it. But these two men and these two events I believe dramatically allowed us, without being too melodramatic, to continue to live.
The second man and event was John Kennedy and his advisors defusing the Cuban Missile Crisis. It took the accumulative wisdom of many men and a Russian dictator who had a clear vision of where his bombast had led him and backed off. How close they came to unleashing nuclear war that was frightenly imminent? If everyone had not stepped back for that one moment and saw the clear vision of what the next minutes would reap, it would have been disaster. But they did and we can celebrate the courage and wisdom of all who had the control and the power that day to blow all of us to hell and back for taking one more breath and doing the right thing.
The first man and the events he precluded with his courage and brilliant rhetoric twenty-three years earlier was Winston Churchill when he was the only man in a position to keep Hitler and Germany from conquering all of Europe and turning their attention to the United States who was ill-prepared militarily and politically to hold them off at that time. The time was 1940 and France had surrendered leaving Hitler poised to invade England who stood with no allies except America who had handcuffed Roosevelt from offering any assistance except offering used military supplies, too old, too few and not quick enough. Time and circumstances would bring America into the war, but not until December of 1941. So for a year and a half England was the last barrier against Hitler and his hordes. It is the stuff of what if novelist and historians to how long it would have taken Germany to turn toward America and test our military unpreparedness.
But Churchill like a bulldog refused to allow his country to capitulate and roused them with his brilliant rhetoric and his gallant RAF and held off the Germans and decimated their air force so badly that Hitler decided to send his troops into Russia instead. A move that proved England and Americas salvation. When France surrended in June 1940 Churchill went before his house of commons and delivered this speech that inspired his country to stand and fight until the end. Thank God they did.
What General Weygand called the Battle of France is over. 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."