Just to give you something to talk about this morning, the following is a little snippet from Winston Churchill’s famous “we’ll fight on the beaches” speech he delivered to Parliament on June 4th, 1940, in the immediate aftermath of the surprisingly successful evacuation of the British Expeditionary Forces at Dunkirk:
We have found it necessary to take measures of increasing stringency, not only against enemy aliens and suspicious characters of other nationalities, but also against British subjects who may become a danger or a nuisance should the war be transported to the United Kingdom. I know there are a great many people affected by the orders which we have made who are the passionate enemies of Nazi Germany. I am very sorry for them, but we cannot, at the present time and under the present stress, draw all the distinctions which we should like to do. If parachute landings were attempted and fierce fighting attendant upon them followed, these unfortunate people would be far better out of the way, for their own sakes as well as for ours. There is, however, another class, for which I feel not the slightest sympathy. Parliament has given us the powers to put down Fifth Column activities with a strong hand, and we shall use those powers subject to the supervision and correction of the House, without the slightest hesitation until we are satisfied, and more than satisfied, that this malignancy in our midst has been effectively stamped out.
I want to point out that the bulk of this speech discussed the recent military disasters that led up to Dunkirk and the prospect of an imminent invasion of the British homeland. This was not in reaction to the terrifying tactics of the Nazi occupation forces in Paris. By the end of June, the Battle of Britain commenced, and the cities of England were under withering aerial attack.
Note that Churchill wasn’t proud or boastful about the need, as he saw it, to round up suspicious characters and foreigners. Note, also, that the threat we was warning about was as real as a heart attack.
Finally, note that we here in America later had cause to regret that panic had led us to overreact in our treatment of Japanese-Americans. See George Takei of Star Trek fame (who lived in various internment camps as a child) for more on that.
This speech is remembered mainly for its stirring conclusion in which Churchill rallied the British at their direst moment to the challenge of a long war to liberate the world from fascism. He didn’t encourage the British to cower in fear. Would that Republican candidates for the presidency could say something like this:
I have, myself, full confidence that if all do their duty, if nothing is neglected, and if the best arrangements are made, as they are being made, we shall prove ourselves once again able to defend our Island home, to ride out the storm of war, and to outlive the menace of tyranny, if necessary for years, if necessary alone. At any rate, that is what we are going to try to do. That is the resolve of His Majesty’s Government-every man of them. That is the will of Parliament and the nation. The British Empire and the French Republic, linked together in their cause and in their need, will defend to the death their native soil, aiding each other like good comrades to the utmost of their strength.
Again, he didn’t say that no bombs would go off and they’d never have another setback. He said that he had confidence in his people, in the government, in their plans, and in their prospects for success.
That’s how you show leadership in a crisis.