Most people have heard of Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill (November 30th, 1874 - January 24th, 1965) - but for all of my having heard of him and having vague notions that he was "involved somehow" with World War II - I'd never really looked into who he was and what role he actually played. Between being born noble, and well-educated - not to mention having a first career in the military followed by the rest of his life's work in politics - there's far more to read about his life than is contained in this one book. But - since this book came recommended and was placed into my hands - I worked my way through all 1000 pages of it.
Despite a speech impediment and struggling in schools - sometimes quite a lot - Churchill did not let much of anything stop him. He addressed his speech impediment by studying speeches and practicing that now famous almost singing style of oration that leaves some of his speeches among the most famous in the English language. (you can listen to his "We shall fight on the beaches" speech here.) Though he sometimes had to take critical exams over, and over - he instead made a life-long commitment to learning and self-education and not only went on to write - but write so much and so well that he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1953 for his - depending on what you call a book and how to count the numerous books he wrote that ended up being multi-volume. According the video by Peter Harrington of London - who collects, buys, sells and trades first editions - this particular collection of Churchill's works includes 20 books and are reviewed in the video above - though other sources count 33 or even 43 books in a total of up to 72 or 73 volumes. I supposed - considering Churchill's own ability to write scores upon scores of words - a thorough look at his life would not be some quick read.
Churchill was also an avid painter and in stressful periods would take a break and get away to some scenic spot - and throw himself into painting scene upon scene - sometimes up to one painting per day - painting for long hours at a time - and would within days of this stress-treatment of his vastly improve his outlook, sense of well-being, purpose - and even his health. He seems to have - in both his painting and his writing - experienced the beneficial nature of flow-states. He started painting in 1915 - during a trying season. He was at what was to be his home for the rest of his life, Chartwells, and sitting watching his sister-in-law, Lady Gwendoline, watercolor painting. Lady Gwendoline - noticing his interest and fascination in what she was doing - offered him a paint-set and encouraged him to try painting himself. So began Churchill's painting career - which included watercolors, oils and even tempura paintings. Over the course of the next four-plus decades Churchill completed over 500 paintings and became by all rights an accomplished artist. You can view some of his paintings at the Kemper Art Museum at Washington University in St. Louis - though there are other museums showing his work.
Of course what Churchill is really known for is his leadership as Prime Minister of Great Britain during World War 2 - and participation with other allied powers working together to stop Hitler and bring a successful end to the war. Churchill's leadership was essentially equally political and military and though he rarely wore a uniform during the war - he had a military education - a fascinating military career that included him returning home from the Boer War in 1900 at the ripe age of 25 already a national hero and moved into politics from his military work.
While all of my previous "cool person alert" posts have focused on individuals who notably contributed to Christianity through their faith - Churchill's life interested me because behind this enormous mark he left on the world which would undoubtedly be vastly different without him - stands a complex man who at crucial moments in history seems to have been able to see clearly what he believed was the right thing to do and pursued acting in accordance with that belief in order to see the right result come to fruition. This combined with his tendency to address stress and perceived inadequacy with creativity and self-teaching makes his an exemplary life that inspires me personally - and based on that I wanted to share just a bit of what moved me as I learned more about his life.