Finest Hour 115, Summer 2002
By MANFRED WEIDHORN
Make Maximum Use of the Time Fate Has Assigned You
In the late discussions about the “Person of the Century” observers noted the staggering list of achievements in different disciplines by this latter-day Renaissance man, Winston Churchill. One achievement, noted only in passing, helped make his record possible, yet was partly a matter of good fortune rather than talent: longevity.
In itself, longevity is nothing to brag about. Quite a few people these days are living into their nineties. What is at issue rather is fame: a concept debased in our media-saturated celebrity culture. Andy Warhol’s remark that everyone will get their fifteen minutes of fame is apposite; many a person much spoken about one day is unknown a year later.
Even among achievers, staying power is rare. Alexander and Caesar, Byron and Mozart—they made lasting impact but were soon gone. Rare is the person who can stay in the public eye for as much as two decades, whether it be an athlete like Babe Ruth or a general-diplomat-politician like Napoleon.
Think, then, of the achievement of Churchill, who was the subject of political cartoons for a period three times as long!
From his first appearance on the world stage as the hero-adventurer escapee from a Boer prison in 1899 to the publication of the last volume of his History of the English Speaking Peoples in 1958, Churchill was a headline maker—a man to be reckoned with in one capacity or another.
Who else comes close? Louis XIV and Queen Victoria, perhaps, but they were monarchs who needed only to be. Churchill had to do.What other doers persisted so long? Picasso, Einstein, a few others. The list soon ends.
Put another way, one of the best things young people can learn from Churchill is to make maximum use of the time which fate has assigned you.
Dr. Weidhorn, of Fair Lawn, New Jersey, is Guterman Professor of English Literature at Yeshiva University, a CC academic adviser, and the preeminent scholar of Winston Churchill’s literary work.