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Winston Churchill: “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”

2018-09-18

Actually, according to this blog (which looks authoritative), posted by Richard M. Langworth in 2011, Churchill didn’t say that; there are no references available, or no attribution for that statement was found.  Neither is the statement pictured authentic (according to Mr. Langworth), although it is frequently attributed to Churchill as well as Lincoln.  Churchill did, however, say, “…do not be carried away by success into demanding more than is right or prudent.” (He was speaking before the House of Commons in March of 1919, shortly after the Allies had won the First World War.)  Which is not nearly as inspiring although it may be much more practical.

I heartily recommend, despite the error of attribution (the quote titling this post) that occurs at the end, the movie “Darkest Hour”, a dramatization of Churchill’s election as prime minister and the British strategic miracle of Dunkirk– the rescue of nearly 300,000 men from the beaches at Dunkirk was only made possible by the sacrifice of a much-better equipped pocket of 4,000 soldiers at the nearby port of Calais, who provoked the wrath of Hitler’s panzer tank army.  The movie covers Churchill’s speeches to the Commons, including his famous, “We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds… we shall fight in the fields; we shall fight on the streets… we shall never surrender.”  Much of the latter part of the movie concerns Churchill’s decision not to negotiate with Hitler (although a channel was opened through Mussolini, Neville Chamberlain decided to go along with Churchill and Lord Halifax, the other powerful pacifist, was exiled to Washington after Churchill’s defiant speech.)

This speech is re-enacted at the end of the movie; the quote attributed to him (mistakenly: “Success is not final; failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts”) appears at the very end after a few sentences describing the evacuation of Dunkirk after May 28 1940, and, five years later on May 8 1945, the victory over Germany.  Then the text states, “a few months later he was defeated for re-election.”  So that quote fits in that place well in the movie, although it is disappointing to find out a few minutes later through Google that the statement is apocryphal.  The statement actually fits his life quite well too, since he was in the War Cabinet in the First World War and spent the entire peacetime interval between wars as a back-bencher, a lonely bellicose voice.

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