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Garrison Keillor marks an important milestone that reminds us of times when public leaders were intelligent and eloquent:
It was on this day in 1940 that Winston Churchill gave his first speech as prime minister to the House of Commons. He had taken over the job three days earlier. The speech Churchill gave is considered one of his greatest.
He said: “I would say to the House, as I said to those who have joined this government: ‘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. You ask, what is our policy? I can say: It is to wage war, by sea, land, and air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us; to wage war against a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark, lamentable catalogue of human crime. That is our policy. You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: It is victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival. Let that be realized; no survival for the British Empire, no survival for all that the British Empire has stood for, no survival for the urge and impulse of the ages, that mankind will move forward towards its goal. But I take up my task with buoyancy and hope. I feel sure that our cause will not be suffered to fail among men. At this time I feel entitled to claim the aid of all, and I say, ‘Come then, let us go forward together with our united strength.’”
Churchill was a good writer as well as a good speaker. He wrote more than 40 books — histories, biographies, memoirs, and even a novel. He is the only British prime minister who has received the Nobel Prize in literature.