Study Guide

Winston Churchill in Four Freedoms Speech

By President Franklin D. Roosevelt

Winston Churchill

Prime Time

You might know Winston Churchill as the perennial winner of the "Historical Figure Who Most Closely Resembles a Bulldog" competition. Or you might know him as a dude who notoriously loved to drink whiskey and made really cutting remarks to everyone who wasn't as brilliant as he was (which was, to be honest, basically everyone).

But you probably know the guy as the man who held the United Kingdom's hand through World War II. And those Brits definitely needed someone's hand to hold—it's hard to Keep Calm and Carry On unless you know someone has your back.

Notoriously energetic, brave, and spunky, Winston Churchill took on the leadership of Great Britain at a time when public opinion about its chances of success in the war were low. By stubbornly maintaining his confidence in British resistance against the Axis powers and strategically looking to foreign allies for support, he kept Britain going during one of its most harrowing times.

Often depicted with a stubby cigar protruding from the corner of his mouth and a look of incredulity on his face, Winston Churchill was arguably Great Britain's boldest prime minister. He also happened to be its sassiest.

Not Your Average Bulldog

Churchill was appointed prime minister on May 10th, 1940, after his predecessor, Neville Chamberlain, resigned due to his failure of dealing with the war. At the time, Germany was invading France, adding one more notch to its belt of conquered countries and leaving Britain with one less ally.

Despair and panic colored sentiment, and a victory against the German forces seemed uncertain for Great Britain. Though Churchill recognized the shakiness of the situation, he spoke with confidence—and pretty unparalleled eloquence—about his country's strength and wherewithal to confront the enemy.

During the war, Churchill would serve up killer speech after killer speech to reinvigorate and encourage the British war effort. Among his many famous public addresses is his first speech as prime minister, which he delivered to the House of Commons just three days into his new leadership role. In what is referred to as the "Blood, Toil, Tears, and Sweat" speech, Churchill vowed to offer all he could, in the most honest terms, to oppose the Axis powers and the tyranny they would bring. (Source)

What can we say? Dude could command an audience.

From Churchill to Capitol Hill

Churchill wasn't just fancy talk, however. He was also a shrewd and tireless diplomat. Knowing that Britain could hold its own for only a limited amount of time before Germany blitzed it to smithereens, he looked to other countries for some much needed help. He also knew that if Britain fell, then a domino effect would likely occur, and the rest of the world would fall to the Axis as well.

And that was a thought that left pretty much everyone's blood running colder than a Westeros-style winter.

It was his coordination with the United States in particular that helped to sustain Britain through harsh months of battle. Churchill worked with FDR, his best bud, to acquire additional war equipment and much needed sustenance for his country, which arrived in abundance following the passing of America's Lend-Lease policy in the spring of 1941.

After Japanese forces bombed Pearl Harbor, the United States and Great Britain became tighter than ever. Eventually teaming up with the USSR, the three nations walloped the Axis powers and ended World War II.

So, yeah, there's a reason this grumpy old dude with a perma-cigar and a penchant for destroying portraits that made him look unflattering is still remembered as one of the most important British politicians and orators of all time.