Who are today’s most inspiring political leaders? What if you were asked to make a list of the ten who have inspired you most? Ask any two people and you’ll get a wildly varied list.
So, who belongs on the list? Alas, it’s really tough to make a case for anybody currently in politics. Even going back a decade, we find ourselves scratching our heads. Even extending the search across the globe, we find ourselves looking nostalgically back almost a generation.
Humiliated early in his political life, given to stuttering as a boy, ignored as a cabinet member when he warned the world in the strongest terms against Hitler, it is a wonder that Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill, (Nov. 30, 1874-Jan. 24, 1965) had any interest at all in politics.
However, as Britain’s World War II leader, Prime Minister Churchill led the British Empire to its greatest victory against impossible odds – daring to defy the Nazis when the British alone in Europe had not surrendered to the Third Reich.
With wave after wave of Luftwaffe bombers leveling England’s cities and industries, he proclaimed to the British public cowering in bomb shelters: “We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills … we shall never surrender.” And they did not, gazing admiringly into the sky at the wasp-like Spitfire fighters rising to meet the German air force, as Churchill proclaimed of the pilots, “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few." Even when things looked darkest during the war, he thundered over the radio waves: “Let us 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.’”
"Rhetorical power," he wrote in his memoirs, "is neither wholly bestowed, nor wholly acquired, but cultivated." He also possessed incredible wit. Once a female detractor insulted him publicly, saying, “If I were your wife, I would put poison in your tea.” Calmly, he answered: “Madam, if you were my wife, I would drink it.”