December 24, 1941 — Washington, DC
We are a resilient species and have a lot to be grateful for even as our lives have been turned upside down by the deadliest pandemic in the past 100 years. When faced with challenges, I’ve always found it helpful to put things into perspective. For me, this usually involves history.
After reading Erik Larson’s The Splendid and the Vile – which definitely puts today’s challenges into perspective (I highly recommend reading this gem) – the following message from Churchill resonates 79 years later. Please read this with a non-denominational, culturally diverse mindset – as Churchill’s words reflected the time.
A little background; London had been bombed relentlessly for 12 months and Great Britain was on the precipice of collapse to the Nazi onslaught. Resistance was cobbled together by Prime Minister Winston Churchill instilling the “art of being fearless” into the citizenry – all while relentlessly trying to persuade President Franklin Roosevelt to unleash the power of the United States to assist in defeating the Nazis.
It wasn’t until after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor that Churchill went to Washington to meet with President Roosevelt to coordinate plans to defeat this dual-threat to the free world.
Churchill delivered the following message from the White House on Christmas Eve, December 24, 1941.
This is a strange Christmas Eve. Almost the whole world is locked in a deadly struggle, and with the most terrible weapons which science can devise, the nations advance upon each other. Ill would it be for us this Christmastide if we were not sure that no greed for the land or wealth of any other people, no vulgar ambition, no morbid lust for material gain at the expense of others, had led us to the field. Where, in the midst of war, raging and roaring over all the lands and seas, creeping nearer to our hearts and homes, here, amid all the tumult, we have tonight the space of the spirit in each cottage home and in every generous heart. Therefore we may cast aside for this night at least the cares and dangers which beset us and make for the children an evening of happiness in a world of storm. Here, then, for one night only, each home throughout the English-speaking world should be a brightly-lighted island of happiness and peace.
Let the children have their night of fun and laughter. Let the gifts of Father Christmas delight their play. Let us grown-ups share to the full in their unstinted pleasures before we turn again to the stern tasks and formidable years that lie before us, resolved that, by our sacrifice and daring, these same children shall not be robbed of their inheritance or denied their right in a free and decent world.
And so, in God’s mercy, a happy Christmas to you all.
Please enjoy this challenging holiday season in whatever safe way you can. As we approach New Year’s, let’s think of resolutions in terms of kindness regardless of political affiliation and in Churchill’s words, sacrifice and daring to ensure our children shall not be robbed of their inheritance or denied their right to live in a free and decent world.
And so, Happy and safe holidays to all.