Yesterday we wrote about the death of a murderous tyrant and the quiet bravery of those who lived under it. Yesterday was also the anniversary of the death of another kind of leader—one who was so conspicuously brave and who stood so steadfastly for freedom that he could be said to have saved the entire world. That man is Winston Churchill—and on January 24th, 1965 he died, having lived 90 years, a life which spanned the last recorded cavalry charge and ended well into the nuclear age. He would become Britain’s prime minister after a long and frustrating career in politics, having been, like Seneca, essentially exiled from public life for many years. In those dark days, the world appeared to be tearing itself apart. War was not simply at his doorstep, it had erupted around the world and threatened to extinguish everything he believed in.
What did Churchill do then, when he was faced with this? Did he make compromises? Did he look at the odds, declare them impossible, and look to protect only himself and his family? No, he did not. Like a Stoic, he offered his “blood, toil, tears, and sweat” to the struggle, no matter how long and difficult it might be. And then he put forth a call to action that we might wish more politicians, leaders and individuals would seek to hold themselves and their countrymen to. More importantly, it’s a standard we try—with great difficulty—to apply to our own behavior.
“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.’”
Let us think of that today and tomorrow and every day. That no matter what happens, no matter where life takes us, as we do our duties and bear our responsibilities, let us strive to do them in such a way that lets us honestly say, “This was my finest hour.”
Because you never know how many you have left. So you might as well make this your best.
P.S. This email was sent on January 25th, 2018. Sign up today for the Daily Stoic’s email and get our popular free 7-day course on Stoicism.