Churchill and the need for transatlantic leadership

Winston Churchill on the HMS Prince of Wales off Newfoundland

From David Gergen, CNN:  In Europe and especially in the U.S., the public is disgusted with politics because their leaders squabble like kids in a sandbox. Churchill lived in a day when there were bitter fights too. But upon taking the reins, he immediately formed a coalition government.

We must not let our arguments over the past dominate the present, Churchill said, or we will lose the future. There in the war cabinet room, one sees chairs reserved for Labor as well as Conservative ministers — coming together, they could stop Hitler. Isn’t that a lesson for us today, too?

Finally, Churchill understood the importance of a leader raising a banner, setting clear goals and marching out in front — especially in a crisis. None of his advisers would have ever said he "leads from behind;" that was inconceivable. Nor would he, as the European Central Bank has just done, have ever said that his approach to a problem was one of "constructive ambiguity." Who can take confidence in that?

Churchill had his flaws — he was human. But his leadership turned Britain’s darkest hour into its finest hour. Can our American and European leaders please schedule their next meeting in his war rooms?

David Gergen is a senior political analyst for CNN and has been an adviser to four presidents. He is a professor of public service and director of the Center for Public Leadership at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. Follow him on Twitter.  (photo: PBS)

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