Winston Churchill, who was known as a superb practitioner of the mother tongue, said the following in his inaugural speech as Prime Minister in 1940: “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.”
How well do you think a speech like this would go over in today’s America? Of course, the British didn’t need to be convinced that crunch time had arrived; the only thing that separated them from the Nazi war machine was 22 miles of English Channel, and they realized—too late⎯that they had squandered the previous 20 years in an idealistic fog when they should have been rearming.
Yet the threat that faces our country today is no less immediate or existential than that which faced England in 1940. It is a more insidious kind of threat, like the slick of oil that creeps across the surface of our pristine Gulf, enveloping all while we stand as observers, helpless to contain it.
We need a special kind of leadership, the kind that will--without fear of the effects on personal popularity--tell us what we must deny ourselves now so that we may continue to survive as a people.
Our self-indulgent energy consumption only stokes the dependency on oil that will kill us in the end—environmentally, economically, and strategically.
Sadly, leaders of Churchill’s caliber are all too rare, which is what makes them great. We could use one right now.