Winston Churchill was one of the great leaders of the twentieth century. Even today his speeches to the British people steeling them for war with the Nazis can send shivers up the spine: ”We shall not flag nor fail. We shall go on to the end. . . . We shall fight on the beaches . . . we shall fight in the fields and in the streets . . . we shall never surrender.” ”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.’…”

Churchill was a man of great vision and determination, and from his story we can learn at least two things about vision:

  1. Staking out a visionary path is not always a matter of clear cut choices. At the same time Churchill was steeling the resolve the the British with his speeches, many in the governing circles were convinced Hitler could not be beaten and were urging him to abandon the war, surrender Europe to the Nazis, and maintain Britain as a small enclave of freedom.
  2. Staking out a visionary path often begins with wild and crazy ideas. A former officer of the Home Office, commented: ”Once a week or oftener Mr. Churchill came into the office bringing with him some adventurous or impossible projects; but after half an hour’s discussion something was evolved which was still adventurous, but not impossible.”

Source: Information reported in New York Times review of Roy Jenkins book Churchill, November 11, 2001.