Quotes for the times
Oscar awards contender Darkest Hour should guarantee a trophy for Best Actor for Gary Oldman. Indeed, it’s his remarkable performance as Winston Churchill that can contend for honors. Oldman/Churchill’s ringing oratory proves most enjoyable. It should also provide historical inspiration for any generation facing challenges and long-term struggle.We’ve long associated Churchill with the phrase “blood, sweat and tears,” but in the first of three classic speeches he delivered before the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, on May 13, 1940, it was actually a variation that he used to rally a nation with his resolve even as Europe had largely fallen to Nazi troops.
He had just replaced Neville Chamberlain, whose apparent policy of appeasement led to the turnover. Churchill saw Hitler as a menace not only to his country but the rest of the world. Thus, he uttered: “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 long months of struggle and of suffering.”He had previously employed similar phrases, such as “Their sweat, their tears, their blood” and “new structures of national life erected upon blood, sweat, and tears.” These have since been appreciated as a paraphrase of Guiseppi Garibaldi’s rallying cry to revolutionary forces in Rome nearly a century earlier, in 1849: “I offer hunger, thirst, forced marches, battle, and death.” Churchill had once considered writing Garibaldi’s biography. In 1897, Theodore Roosevelt had spoken of his nation’s previous triumphs “because of the blood and sweat and tears, the labor and the anguish,” so that other scholars have referred to Churchill’s favored phrase as a direct quotation from Roosevelt, a military historian whose speeches Churchill must have read.At any rate, in that first speech as PM, Churchill vowed “to wage war against a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark and lamentable catalogue of human crime.”Three weeks later, he gained Parliament’s (and his country’s) approval of his determination to resist Hitler when he followed up with more “fighting” words: “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…!”