The e-book generation lucks out. Winston Churchill is going digital and global. More than 40 volumes of his prose are being downloaded so that they can be read throughout the world.
The man who said, "History will be kind to me, for I intend to write it," won't have to depend on the kindness of readers. Nor on their ignorance, either.
A few years ago, a poll of Englishmen revealed that a quarter of them said they thought Churchill was a myth, not a man. Those with a little knowledge of history resented it when President Obama returned the bust of Churchill that Tony Blair, then the prime minister, sent to President George W. Bush to inspire him in the wake of the events of 9/11. Bush put it in a place of prominence.
Obama obviously does not share the admiration held not only by George W. but by John F. Kennedy, who, on conferring honorary American citizenship to Churchill at the White House in 1963, praised him as a defender of freedom, wartime leader, orator, historian and statesman. JFK recalled the tribute of Edward R. Murrow: "He mobilized the English language and sent it into battle."
Arthur Klebanoff, head of RosettaBooks, which is making Churchill's e-books available, observed how unusual it is for a world leader to be a fine writer, as well. Churchill "didn't just win the Nobel Prize for Literature," he says, "he won it for a good reason." That sets him apart from other winners, including a certain president who won the Nobel Peace Prize before he had been in office two years, not so much for making peace as for just being Barack Obama.
In an age of impatience, it's worth noting that Winston Churchill's rise to power was not meteoric. When, in May 1940 and Britain stood alone against Adolph Hitler and the Nazis, he addressed parliament promising only "blood, toil, tears and sweat," he was already 65 years old. He had been prime minister for only three days, a prophet in the wilderness whose repeated warnings about Hitler had been ignored by everyone else.
Churchill is a model for both young and old for how he overcame personal obstacles and persevered. His vulnerabilities growing up offer the generations of digital shorthanders lessons in how language and perception, style and insight, foresight and tenacity are key to leadership.
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