Thursday, June 17, 2010

Rock Star of a Speech

Title: Blood, Toil, Tears and Sweat
Speech By: Winston Churchill
Date: May 13, 1940
Location: House of Commons
Occasion: First Speech as Prime Minister

Let’s begin by dispelling an urban legend. Despite the claim of a music publicist a generation later, this speech did not provide the inspiration for the name of a rock and roll band.

But it is a rock star of a speech.

It is a short speech, and it is Churchill’s first speech before Parliament, as the nation’s new Prime Minister. Early on, it is heavy on the administrative elements of establishing a new government.  He outlines what has been done to establish the new government, then asks the house “to record its approval of the steps taken and to declare its confidence in the new Government.

With the administrative functions complete he launches into the travails he sees ahead. It would still be more than a year and a half before the United States joined the war, and his nation had already been at war for seven months.

He prepares his government for the difficulties of the struggle ahead - “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.

Then he sets out the task before the nation:
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.

It is a call to action, direct, pointed, unambiguous. It is a wonderful way to inspire an audience. In this case, it inspired all those who longed to be free of the Nazi terror.

Seventy years later, it inspires free people still.

Text Posted:
The Churchill Centre
Length (words): 730

From The Bully Pulpit - Tom


  1. It is a timeless and inspirational speech, of that there can be no doubt.

    Importantly, the lesson to learned is one ignored by our current orator-in-chief.

    The Churchill speech resonates because it is honest and simple. It treats the listens as adults, and, while utilizing rhetoric, it does not rely on vague platitudes and heavily adorned euphemisms.

    In today's National Review, Jim Geraghty references the style of NJ Governor Chris Christie. Geraghty (rightly in my view) applauds Christie for taking an unvarnished - perhaps Churchillian - approach.

  2. Jason - Thanks for your comments. I couldn't agree more. And thanks for sending along a related link. I'll take a look at it, and hope the other readers here will do so as well.


  3. I quite agree, Tom. Great speech. And even if the oration did not beget the name for Blood, Sweat and Tears, they were as good as the speech!

  4. Jim - Thanks for commenting. Did you know Laura Nyro, who wrote one of their greatest hits - "And When I Die," almost wound up as their lead singer? She turned it down though!


  5. Great post. Hopefully, sharp and sincere politicians today will take Mr. Churchill's oratory manner, tenacity and forthrightness to heart. (An aside re: the rock band. Creativity, akin to energy, can neither be created nor destroyed, although it can be transferred. Someone somewhere read this quote and repurposed it for the band's name. Coincidence does not exist :)

    @ Jason. I've been pleasantly surprised by NJ Gov. Christie's style. 180 degrees from his immediate predecessor, which is a good thing. Going to check out the NR link.

    Tom, thank you for another excellent, (impeccably timed), post and commentary.


  6. Lina - thanks for the taking the time to comment, and keep the discussion going!